Thursday, October 11, 2018

Plan S coming soon (as of Sept 27, 2018)

The following is adapted from y newsletter -- -- September 27, 2018.

Plan S coming soon

Synopsis: The first wave of Plan S rules is under negotiation and the first big confusion has emerged.
All we have at this point are various statements from Plan S leaders, plus some public discussion, but these provide a modicum of useful information. 

The big news is that the Plan S Coalition hopes to have actual detailed rules out this year, which gives them just 90 days to do it in. Up until now all we have had to go on is just had a list of ten so-called principles, plus some preamble and public statements by leaders. Mind you the principles are pretty rule-like so the basic structure seems clear enough.

Presumable there is a lot of negotiation and debate going on among the 11 funding agencies and other parties to the Coalition. Rules can be a lot harder to write than principles. Unfortunately there seems to be a complete lack of transparency with these negotiations.

Then too, these rules are really just proposals. Looking ahead the big question is whether the many national funding agencies simply promulgate the Coalition proposed version of the rules or whether they each adapt them, change them, add to them, etc.  These are after all different countries, with different customs and systems.

So, for example, a country that does not get the rules it wants in the Coalition negotiations might implement them in its own directives. That these directives will all be finalized in 2019 may also be problematic, especially if there is local opposition. (Local in this case means within that country.)

At this point we have little idea what the outstanding issues are within the Coalition. There seems to be no transparency to their rule making, which is disappointing given that this is the Open community at work.

Regarding the ban on publishing OA in hybrid journals, last time we said we did not see the reason for it. A kind reader has pointed out that the Preamble actually addresses this issue. The reason is that using hybrids supports the subscription model. This makes it clear that Plan S is a full scale attack on the subscription model, which may make it a hard sell in the U.S., at least as long as the Republicans are in charge.

This leads us to the first big confusion. Some OA experts argue that subscription journal articles made immediately available via a repository comply with Plan S.  One Coalition leader seems to support this, saying the Plan S does not distinguish gold OA from Green.

On the other hand, allowing this sort of green compliance supports the subscription model. If hybrid OA articles are ruled out because they support the subscription model, then by that reasoning green OA ought to be ruled out as well. Statements from other leaders seem to support this view.

In addition, the conditions under which a repository deposit might comply may be of a sort that most subscription publishers do not allow. This adds a significant degree of complexity to the case. Since this issue of green OA compliance is now well known it should be interesting to see just how the coming Plan S Coalition rules handle it (if they do).

Also on the hybrid front, there is supposed to be what the Coalition is calling a "transition period," wherein hybrid OA articles are allowed to comply with Plan S. One leader says this is period likely to be 3 or 4 years.

There is some hubris in calling this a transition period, because it assumes that the subscription model will largely disappear by the end of the term. Thus the transition intended is to the end of subscriptions, perhaps where all the subscription journals flip to gold OA, or something like that. As we have said before, the relatively small number of articles that flow from Coalition member funding makes this a questionable scenario.

So all things considered, things are moving along pretty quickly with Plan S, or at least that is what the leaders are saying. That there is zero transparency makes it hard to know what is really going on. We therefore await the first wave of actual proposed rules with great interest.

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