However, critics fear, among other things, that so-called predatory journals will be established that will want to publish as many articles as possible and will not impose strict quality requirements on said articles, with money trumping reputation. Moreover, authors will have to dig deep into their coffers, as a prominent journal may charge up to four thousand euros for the publication of an article.
At present, academics are mainly judged on their publication output and the impact of said output, but universities and granting agencies are seeking to change that. For instance, they feel the courses academics teach should be taken into consideration, as well.
No one knows at this stage what exactly is going to happen and when the changes will come into effect. Young academics, in particular, are concerned about this. They are still told to publish a lot, with all the attendant pressure, but they do not know how they will be assessed starting from 2020, once they will only be allowed to publish in open-access journals.
Changing your plans accordingly
The aforementioned concerns were voiced at a meeting on Plan S held last Thursday by Dutch granting agencies NWO and ZonMW. “Young researchers are vulnerable,” neuroscientist Barbara Braams stated at the meeting. She said that the years immediately after PhD students get their doctorates are crucial, meaning that the assessment system must be transparent. She feels that today’s crop of PhD students do not have enough time to sit out the transition to a different assessment system. “If the assessment criteria are revised during the course of your doctoral research, you don’t have the opportunity to change your plans accordingly,” said Braams.
Pilot studies to be conducted this year will hopefully show how much time will be needed to effect a transition to completely open-access publishing, ZonMW President Jeroen Geurts said at the meeting. However, he is unwilling to postpone the commencement date. The number of articles published in open-access journals has not grown very much in recent years. In the Netherlands, half of all scholarly articles published in 2017 were published in open-access journals, but the European average has been stuck at 25 per cent for years now. And Geurts says it’s time something was done about it.
Countries such as Germany, Switzerland, the USA, Israel and Australia do not support Plan S. But what happens if young researchers are not granted the opportunity to have their articles published in those countries, asked Ineke Sluiter, the Vice-President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. And what will this mean for the Netherlands’ reputation with regard to research?
Like many others attending the meeting, Bas de Bruin, a chemist, feels that it might result in a split in academia. Dutch researchers may not be able to publish in prominent journals such as Nature and Science any longer. Not only will this affect their collaborative partnerships with foreign colleagues, who will still be able to do so, but it will also change the peer-review system. As De Bruin said, “Who wishes to be a reviewer for a journal in which he himself is no longer allowed to publish?”
He said it is quite conceivable that PhD students and postdocs (i.e., the professors of the future) would no longer wish to work in the Netherlands if it meant their articles would not be able to be published by highly regarded journals.
Many attendees expressed concern about the position of young academics. Senior researchers should be a driving force, someone suggested after the meeting. “If they do not insist on being published in prominent journals, but join the Plan S scheme instead, younger academics will follow suit.”
ZonMW President Geurts warned that it would not do to allow the younger generation to be ‘lost’. “Perhaps we must judge academics more on their collaborative efforts and on how they share their data,” he said.
NWO is organising a meeting on new ways of rewarding academics, to be held on 23 May.