Chi­nese sup­port for Plan S ‘ma­jor blow’ to op­po­nents

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - [email protected]­ere­d­u­ca­

Chi­nese en­dorse­ment of Europe’s Plan S open-ac­cess ini­tia­tive rep­re­sents a ma­jor and un­ex­pected blow to publishers that have crit­i­cised the scheme, ac­cord­ing to its back­ers.

China’s Na­tional Sci­ence Li­brary, its Na­tional Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Li­brary and the Nat­u­ral Sci­ence Foun­da­tion of China all made a pledge of sup­port for the ini­tia­tive dur­ing an aca­demic con­fer­ence in Berlin ear­lier this month. Un­der Plan S, Euro­pean fun­ders will re­quire their sci­en­tists to make their papers freely and im­me­di­ately avail­able from 2020 on­wards.

While it was un­clear whether China would sim­ply adopt Plan S or draw up its own open-ac­cess poli­cies, the move is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause it chal­lenges the im­age of Plan S as be­ing purely a re­gional ini­tia­tive.

Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties at­tach huge sig­nif­i­cance to pub­li­ca­tion in pres­ti­gious sub­scrip­tion jour­nals – of­fer­ing sci­en­tists awards of up to $165,000 (£131,000) for papers in

Na­ture and Sci­ence, ac­cord­ing to one re­port – so the coun­try had been re­garded as con­sti­tut­ing a ma­jor bul­wark against mak­ing open ac­cess a global move­ment.

How­ever, po­si­tion papers pub­lished by the three Chi­nese bod­ies say that they sup­port the vi­sion of Plan S “to trans­form, as soon as pos­si­ble, re­search papers from pub­licly funded projects into im­me­di­ate open ac­cess af­ter pub­li­ca­tion”. The or­gan­i­sa­tions say that they “sup­port a wide range of flex­i­ble and in­clu­sive mea­sures to achieve this goal”.

Robert-Jan Smits, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s open-ac­cess en­voy, told Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion that he “did not ex­pect [China’s sup­port] would come so quickly”.

“The an­nounce­ment…also came as an enor­mous sur­prise for the big publishers, who had al­ways said that Plan S would re­main a ‘re­gional’ ini­tia­tive, doomed to fail no­tably be­cause their new growth mar­ket China would never sup­port it,” he said.

“Like many oth­ers, I was un­der the im­pres­sion that China was ad­dicted to the sub­scrip­tion model and that it would take a lot of time be­fore they would go open ac­cess… It’s there­fore an enor­mous boost for the open-ac­cess move­ment and for Plan S.”

A key ar­gu­ment ad­vanced by op­po­nents of Plan S is that it would limit aca­demic col­lab­o­ra­tion and op­por­tu­ni­ties for schol­ars if ma­jor parts of the world, such as China, did not sign up to it. This was a key plank of an open let­ter pub­lished last month and signed by more than 1,500 peo­ple.

Mean­while, ma­jor publishers in­clud­ing Springer Na­ture, the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Sci­ence and El­se­vier have stuck by state­ments warn­ing against the re­moval of choice for re­searchers and ar­gu­ing that Plan S will not sup­port high-qual­ity peer re­view.

But Lenny Teytel­man, co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Pro­to­cols open-ac­cess repos­i­tory, said that publishers “are in se­vere panic mode, do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to push back”, in­clud­ing “flex­ing their enor­mous mus­cles to spread mis­in­for­ma­tion about…Plan S”.

“That ‘Europe will suf­fer as the US and China con­tinue to pub­lish in the es­tab­lished sub­scrip­tion jour­nals’ was a key part of the [op­po­si­tion] to Plan S,” he said, adding that he was there­fore “sur­prised and ex­cited” to learn of China’s sup­port.

“Chi­nese fund­ing agen­cies [have] not yet join[ed] Plan S as mem­bers, so the de­tails will be im­por­tant,” Dr Teytel­man noted.

Nev­er­the­less, Mr Smits said that the state­ments of sup­port in­di­cated that “the tip­ping point may be nearby”. There were cur­rently 20 fun­ders of­fer­ing sup­port for Plan S, in­clud­ing China and Zam­bia, the first African coun­try, he con­firmed.

“I am cur­rently in touch with four other main [in­ter­na­tional] fun­ders, and I am con­vinced that at least two of them will sign up to Plan S in the next weeks,” he said.

Free to fly China has en­dorsed Europe’s Plan S open-ac­cess ini­tia­tive

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