Saturday, October 27, 2018

Plan S questions begin to cascade

This article is adapted from my newsletter:
Oct 25, 2018

Plan S questions begin to cascade

By David Wojick, Ph.D.
Synopsis: A meeting between Plan S architects and skeptics produces cascading questions.

The blog by Leonid Schneider has published fragments of an important discussion on Plan S. Schneider is a critic of Plan S so the thrust of his selection is somewhat negative, as well as confusing, but there is still a good bit of useful information. Schneider's headline is itself a bit of a pot boiler: Robert-Jan Smits: scholarly societies “will have to bite the bullet and go Open Access”

Here is the introduction: "The Plan S, developed by EU Commission’s special envoy Robert-Jan Smits and his partners of Science Europe, a lobby organisation of European funders, might become the biggest scholarly publishing revolution in history, or it might fail spectacularly. It all depends on who joins the cOAlitionS and how exactly it will be implemented. I obtained a near-verbatim transcript of a video-conference Smits and Science Europe president Marc Schiltz had on October 19th with Lynn Kamerin and other authors of the Appeal against Plan S, originally published on my site. It appears that Smits and Schiltz see the scientists and their scholarly societies as the reactionary elements blocking the road to the universal Open Access (OA)."

Below are some observations on the discussion and the issues, in no particular order. Plan S is entering that "emerging issues" phase where the questions grow exponentially. Initial basic questions raise multiple answers, each of which in turn raises multiple new questions, and this cascading dendritic growth pattern is repeated multiple times.

The resulting structure is what I have called an Issue Tree. There is a great deal of confusion and complexity to come. The issue tree structure is explained here in my never published textbook and I am happy to discuss it. It is the fundamental logical form of complex issues, which certainly includes Plan S.

Some observations and issues

1. The extent to which Plan S mandates gold OA is a big issue. Gold OA is not specified but no other feasible form seems to meet the 10 Principles. But forcing everyone in the world to pay APCs, while funding just your grantees' APCs, seems unfair.

2. Smits, the apparent leader and spokesperson, is bossy and hard to understand. He criticizes criticism. This is not a good combination of traits when it comes to dealing with the academic community.

3. There apparently is a German law on academic freedom, which specifically includes something like the freedom to choose which journal to publish in. If so then this strongly supports the argument that Plan S seriously attacks academic freedom. It may also mean that Germany cannot adopt the Plan.

4. Smits admits what I said originally, that without much broader support Plan S does not work. (Schneider opens by saying that Plan S may be a spectacular failure. This is certainly possible and it needs to be kept in mind.) At this point there is no sign of such support but these are very early days. A time frame of 5 to 10 years might be realistic. The interim could be chaotic. Smits has talked to the folks at OSTP about US support and OSTP has begun a review of the US Public Access Program.

5. There is mention of gold "mirror journals" published by publishers that try to parallel their existing prestige subscription journals. These are derided but they may well be the outcome of Plan S. As I said originally, the subscription publishers may just create gold OA journals to take the money. That is where hybrids came from.

6. Diamond option confusion. There is a lot of discussion of diamond OA, where the money comes from someplace besides readers or authors. For example, diamond journals funded from society endowment income was discussed here on TSK last year. A big obstacle here is that membership is often based on getting access to the society's journals. And of course commercial publishers do not have endowments so this version at least is not feasible. It sounds like Plan S does not include funding diamond journals.

7. As I predicted earlier, there is now a task force of Plan S funders hard at work developing (negotiating) an implementation plan. The number and complexity of the issues will grow enormously when this comes out. In addition to content, there is also the issue of the scope of consultation. Smits is (as usual?) vague about this.

The above are just a few of the complex issues driving the exponential growth of questions. Keeping in mind the fundamental issue tree structure might help.

Inside Public Access is published bi-weekly. For subscription information:
 We also do confidential research and consulting. 

No comments:

Post a Comment