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VSNU statement on Plan S: ambitions remain high, transition will require due care

The VSNU endorses the objectives of and has been actively involved in the developments on Open Science as stated in the National Plan Open Science (NPOS). Open Science aims to bring about a fundamental improvement of science by making the scientific process transparent and ensuring that research output is widely available. The social impact of science can in turn be strengthened through greater involvement in and accessibility of scientific output, including articles and research data. 

Universities support Plan S
Open Access is a part of Open Science. The VSNU believes that publicly funded scientific publications should be made available without paywalls and has been committed to this cause for many years. In this way, everyone can acquire, increase and disseminate knowledge, from researchers themselves to small independent scholars, teachers, patients, doctors or scientists from developing countries and transition economies . Science should be readily accessible to all (Open Access) and reusable. Open Access, and hence Plan S, serve as a means to regain control of the publication process and take back ownership of the publications in the scientific community. To this end, the collaborating universities fully support the objectives of Plan S.

Achieving Open Access ambitions
The primary question in this regard is whether Plan S will help bring us closer to realising our Open Access ambitions as a result of publishers making sure that they meet the criteria associated with the routes laid out in the Plan, or meet them more quickly. We believe that the answer is yes. Another question concerns the scope of Plan S: is a critical mass of international partners needed in order to achieve the desired disruptive effect on a global scale and ensure that the Netherlands is not alone? To accomplish this goal, cOAlition S will have to further expand its membership both within Europe and beyond.

Areas for attention in Plan S
In addition to supporting the objectives of Plan S, the VSNU also recognises the concerns among scientists in particular. Before Plan S can make the desired contribution to our Open Access ambitions, these concerns must be properly addressed:

  • Enough time must be allowed for the transition: for instance, an additional round of transformative deals based on the scheduled evaluation in 2023.
  • The quality of the scientific publications is crucial. It must be clear to researchers which journals are reliable, while other initiatives such as platforms and repositories must have a clear and transparent review process. 
  • The independence of science continues to be guaranteed.
  • Publishing is and will remain affordable for all, and costs will be transparent.
  • Scientists have sufficient options for publishing their articles.
  • There is adequate consideration for the position of young or ‘early career’ researchers in particular.
  • Open Science and Open Access are given attention within the system of scholarly recognition and remuneration. This area will require commitment from scientists, but especially from managers and administrators. 

The aforementioned areas for attention underscore the importance of the discussion that NWO has invited us to hold during the consultation meeting on 31 January. 

Launch of pilot project ‘You share, we take care’
Since 2014, the VSNU has actively and successfully promoted the transition to Open Access by negotiating with publishers. We reported a 50% Open Access rate for our institutions’ scientific publications in 2017, although it should be noted that not everything was immediately available as open access. Our transformative contracts with the large publishers are successful because we have now used the available money that we previously spent on licences (subscriptions) to make our own publications open access and have retained reader access for those items which are still behind paywalls. Unfortunately, this ‘closed’ portion is not getting much smaller, so we must continue our efforts to make the journals in which we publish completely Open Access. To this end, VSNU will also launch the pilot project ‘You share, we take care’ on 31 January to inform our researchers of their right to share their publications via our institutions’ repositories within six months. After all, this option is available under the Taverne amendment to the Copyright Act. 

Better quality indicators
In the Netherlands, only around 20% of the annual scientific publications are funded wholly or partly by NWO/ZonMw. The VSNU has already signed DORA (the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment) and NWO will soon follow suit. As a result, we will examine how we can create better quality indicators than those currently in place – such as the ‘journal impact’ factors and the h-index – and give positive attention to researchers who aptly put Open Science into practice. In this regard, we are also interested to know what measures NWO and the partners of cOAlition S are planning to take in order to reduce the emphasis placed on the reputation of journals in their internal assessment procedures. If implemented correctly, Plan S can help to promote our shared Open Access ambitions further. The universities and the VSNU will continue their efforts towards this cause in order to improve science and ensure that research is made openly available to all – permanently and affordably.

This text was pronounced by Prof.dr. Anton Pijpers on behalf of the VSNU at the consultation meeting on the implementation of Plan S.


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