The countries actually agreed to take this step two years ago, but it was not until today that a vanguard of eleven countries, supported by the European Commission, issued a new statement on the road towards ‘open access’ in science.
The eleven countries hope that many other countries will join them in their so-called ‘cOAlition S’, which includes the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France, among other countries. The capitals in the name stand for ‘open access’ and ‘speed’.
In other words, today’s ‘gear change’ constitutes a more finalised version of plans drawn up earlier. If all goes well, the transition towards open-access publishing will not cost any money; in fact, it should help universities save money. After all, in a world where open access is de rigueur, there will no longer be room for expensive subscriptions, and academics will only pay a one-off publication fee. Afterwards, outsiders (such as the business community) will be able to benefit from their knowledge as well.
The main problem is that many highly reputed journals, such as Science and Nature, are not inclined to provide free access to their articles. This does not stop them from being popular with researchers, as publications in such journals have high impact scores, which will positively affect an academic’s career.
For this reason, European research funders promised today that they will attach less importance to publications in such high-impact journals. They will endeavour to come up with new ways of assessing the quality of scholars’ work. In other words, starting from 2020, researchers will no longer receive funding from European granting agencies if they publish their results in journals that have a paywall.
The eleven coalition countries will be tough on their academics. They will not even allow the results of publicly funded research to be published in hybrid journals. Hybrid journals are journals that have open-access sections as well as traditional paid-access sections. Furthermore, the EU granting agencies have imposed a maximum publication fee.
The Netherlands is a great advocate of open-access publishing. Last year, Dutch universities, universities of applied sciences and science organisations published an Open Science National Plan, which actually took things a step further than the plan announced today, stating that the underlying study data should be freely accessible as well.