Plan S, Principle 4: "it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access" -- how to achieve it?
Recall Plan S, Principle 4:
Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
This raises the question about how to achieve this principle with all scientists being able to publish Open Access.
From the more recently published Guidance on the Implementation of Plan S:
Where article processing charges (APCs) apply, cOAlition S will contribute to establishing a fair and reasonable APC level, including equitable waiver policies, that reflects the costs involved in the quality assurance, editing, and publishing process and how that adds value to the publication.
cOAlition S members will ensure financial support for OA publishing via the prescribed routes to compliance. Grants can be used for financing APCs for Open Access publication in subscription journals (‘hybrid Open Access’) only under transformative agreements. cOAlition S emphasises that the individual cOAlition S members are not obliged to enter into transformative agreements nor to fund APCs that are covered by such agreements.
- Is it possible to have truly equitable waiver policy, with no one disadvantaged? Could it be huge task to be in charge of such policy? Could important policy decisions here be left with corporate publishers?
- Would the venues be vulnerable to reputation damages, and even massive editor resignations, resulting from implementing improper or inadequate policies?
- Would such system consume additional time spent by researchers to prepare their waiver requests?
- Would workload and uncertainty from such system discourage researchers, who will instead continue publish in subscription journals, even if they would prefer Open Access?
- Would it add to cost increase to employ people with expertise to review all APC subsidy/waiver applications, in line with (constantly changing) policies, regulations, laws?
- If researchers with quality submissions are discouraged from these journals, would it negatively affect the quality standards of the journals? Would it subtract from journal's reputation?
- Would it negatively affect the recognition the authors are seeking from publishing, if it could be argued, the paper had less competition in that venue in comparison to ones with no author fees?
- Even if everyone without funding is covered, would it still not disadvantage funded researchers with limited funds who need to support their students?
- Would it make the venues less attractive and reputable, and therefore publications there less visible and respected, hence reducing the value for research funders and their grantees?
On the alternative end, we have no-APC models that do not seem to have any of these concerns:
- The no-APC membership models are viable because their members benefit of added reputation and recognition, while risk to lose these benefits in the event from dropping from the scheme.
- No expensive waiver evaluation, no expensive paywall maintenance, all hosting and preservation expenses can be delegated to free preprint servers or cloud repositories.
- Funded researchers benefit from saving their time costs, hassles and added complexity of APC management.
- Funders get better costs control being part of no-APC membership scheme, where members can directly affect the policy.
- Funders get better value for their money by directly supporting no-APC venues, because the latters have better community appreciation, visibility and reputation, and benefit from fair free competition open to all authors.