In February 2017, in order to implement the European agreements in the Netherlands, the National Open Science Plan was presented by ten parties including KNAW, NWO/ZonMw and VSNU/UKB. One of the main ambitions of this plan is to achieve 100% open access publication by 2020: i.e. scientific publications (articles, (sections of) books, reports) paid for by the government will be directly accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, for consultation and reuse from 2020 onwards.
The VSNU/UKB is the driving force behind this main ambition, which means that it has the task of initiating joint policies and then ensuring coordination between the key players in the field. Together with the parties which are most closely involved, agreements have been reached for the coming period (2018 - 2020). This is still taking place under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In the coalition agreement and the 2018 Higher Vocational Education Sector Agreement, it is specified that open access and open science are the norm for scientific research.
The Open access roadmap 2018-2020 eZine focuses on the five pillars of the plan. In this version, we provide background information about the progress and developments for each pillar. You can also give your opinion on the next steps to be taken.
Under each pillar an explanation is included with the latest state of affairs on the pillar in question and with a link to recent information. Click on the pillars for more information.
In the previous eZine, we discussed our intention to start working with alternative platforms. At the time, we also interviewed various scientists about the alternative platforms they are creating: ScholarlyHub and SciPost.
During the course of 2018, another movement became visible. It is not only researchers who are setting up new platforms, but also funders. Funders impose conditions on the openness of publications, thus compromising publications on existing platforms. As a result, they have started to become more active in this area.
Alternative publication platforms also play a role in Plan S, as one of the three open access routes. The acceleration sought in Plan S is also considered highly desirable by the VSNU as it continues to move in the direction in which the VSNU has been heading for years: towards 100% open access in 2020. We support every route which contributes to these goals. For this reason, alternative publication platforms have been identified as a focus point in the roadmap. In the coming period, we will also examine from the Netherlands how alternative publication platforms could contribute to this acceleration.
Plan S was launched in September 2018 with the aim of accelerating the transition to open access. The plan, which was initiated by Robert-Jan Smits (senior Open Access adviser at the European Political Strategy Centre of the EU) and Science Europe, consists of ten key principles to bring about this acceleration. In early 2019, stakeholders all over the world were consulted to think about the planned implementation of Plan S. In the Netherlands, NWO/ZonMw took the initiative for a national consultation meeting with the participation of KNAW and VSNU. The VSNU expressed support for Plan S in a statement. In the statement, the VSNU also shares its view that both open access and Plan S serve as a means of bringing control over the publication process and ownership of the publication back to scientists and academics.
The VSNU negotiates with major publishers with which the affiliated institutions have concluded contracts. The methods by which we achieve open access may differ. In 2018, negotiations were conducted with Elsevier. Extending the existing contract with Elsevier by six months gave us more scope to reach agreement, in view of the developments regarding open science and Plan S. Unfortunately, negotiations with the Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing (RSC) ended without an agreement, as it did not prove possible to reach a satisfactory agreement about open access. However, new agreements were concluded with Oxford University Press and Wolters Kluwer in 2018. In addition, new agreements were concluded with Taylor & Francis and Springer Nature. These were also published in the context of increasing transparency.
In the year ahead, negotiations with several other major publishers (Sage, Wolters Kluwer and Wiley) are also on the agenda. You can keep up to date with the developments in these negotiations through the open access news page and newsletters.
The approach consistently applied by universities in the negotiations is to switch to open access, to retain reading rights for articles and to develop a plan for the full transition to open access within realistic financial limits. These conditions apply to all disciplines, even though we realise that there are differences. The VSNU/UKB is not the only party which is negotiating contracts with publishers. This is taking place all over the world in various places and by multiple parties. In recent years, there have been various publications in which these parties have examined – from their own perspective – the conditions which they wish to impose when entering into licensing agreements. The VSNU has listed and clustered several of these conditions.
The aim of this is to establish, at the start of negotiations with the negotiating team, the essential conditions to be met in terms of:
The following publications together cover a wide range of conditions which we wish to consider when negotiating with existing and new publishers.
Although the Netherlands remains one of the pioneers in the open access arena, steps are also being taken outside the Netherlands towards full open access for scientific publications. A tour of some recent interesting developments:
In Africa, there is a significant increase in the number of articles published on an open access basis. Research has shown that the most varied range of open access articles is published in Africa. In other countries facing economic challenges, the open access rate is also growing faster than in many Western countries. Many African universities cannot afford expensive subscriptions, a logical explanation for the high percentage of open access articles.
Many requests are being received from Asian countries for inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals. By way of illustration, there were 2,048 requests from India and 3,622 from Indonesia until the beginning of 2018. Unfortunately, about half of the applications are still rejected on the basis of the various quality criteria.
University libraries and research funders from China have announced their support for Plan S. This Asian support is regarded as an important endorsement of the plan.
Many individual universities in the United States are demonstrating an active commitment to open access. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has its own open access task force which aims to ensure that knowledge acquired at MIT is available to the whole world.
In the negotiations with the various publishers, Florida State University (FSU) terminated its comprehensive Elsevier subscription after it appeared that, based on an old contract, it was being charged many times more than other public universities.
In April, the University of California published a Declaration of Rights and Principles to Transform Scholarly Communication to strengthen its open access policy which has already been in place for years. However, the various American universities are not jointly involved in the negotiations. This is also because of major differences in legislation in each state. California adopted the most far-reaching US legislation in 2018: state-funded peer-reviewed scientific research must be available on an open access basis at the latest one year after publication.
Most of the open access developments come from Europe. The UK is hot on the heels of the Netherlands in terms of the number of articles which are published on an open access basis. In the UK, several high-quality open access platforms were launched in 2018. Examples include the Megajournal Platform of University College London (UCL) Press and the open access platform of the London School of Economics.
In Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland, as in the Netherlands, joint negotiations take place between universities and publishers. In Sweden, this led to the agreement with Elsevier being terminated, but an open access agreement was concluded with Cambridge University Press which gives Swedish institutions access to all the publisher's hybrid and open access journals. In addition, Swedish researchers can publish their articles in all the open access journals published by Frontiers at reduced rates.
In Finland, however, an agreement has been concluded with Elsevier to extend the existing reading subscription and roll out an open access pilot programme which aims to encourage Finnish researchers to publish their articles in the Elsevier journals on an open access basis.
In the first eZine on open access, it already became apparent in the timeline that a particular milestone had been reached. In 2015, an amendment tabled by Joost Taverne came into force with a view to achieving a change in copyright. This amendment was adopted, giving authors the right to make an article freely available after a reasonable period following the date of initial publication.
It has been somewhat difficult to implement this amendment in practice. For example, in order to facilitate this properly, university repositories had to be modernised. This battle has now been won and the universities have launched a pilot project to monitor the practical implementation of the amendment.
The Dutch universities will give an extra boost to open access from 2019 by making publications in this pilot available six months after publication in cooperation with researchers.
Half of all peer-reviewed articles from Dutch universities will be available on an open access basis in 2017. This represents an increase from 42% of articles in 2016 to 50% in 2017. Recently, the annual results of the measurement of open access publications for 2017 were also made available visually on the VSNU website. There are overviews showing the number of open access publications per publisher and per university. In addition, the link with other countries is revealed in an overview of the Dutch results in comparison with reference countries.
In addition to monitoring the number of open access publications, research is being carried out into the measurements and trends of publishing cultures. Although there is no clear definition of what is actually meant by publishing cultures, the term is often used. It refers to the different types of publications which are common in different scientific fields. The most famous type is an ‘article’ in a renowned journal. However, in other scientific disciplines, publication in the form of a book, an addition to a lexicon or (for example) in an exhibition is an equally valid way of communicating the results of scientific research. An overview of various differences in publishing culture which have an impact on achieving open access is listed at the bottom of the page.
The VSNU’s approach has focused strongly on the publication of articles from the start. For this reason, among other things, a route of negotiation with the major publishers was chosen. However, we do not intend to ignore the other forms of publication or the smaller publishers as a result.
In order to ascertain whether it is desirable to also choose lines of action other than negotiating with the major publishers in order to encourage open access, Utrecht University Library was asked to research the statistical substantiation of the different publishing cultures.
The University Research Key Figures (KUOZ data) form one of the starting points for this research. It is subdivided into publications in the various fields and the primary intended target group: scholarly publications for researchers, professional publications for professionals and popular publications for a wider audience. It also looks at the form of publication, from an article to a publication on a website. The KUOZ data reveals the following picture:
In order to gain a good idea of the degree of open access for the various publication types, additional research is being carried out using data from various other sources.
The following list displays a number of examples of differences in publication culture that affect the transition to open access: