The Swedish Bibsam Consortium is taking a leading role in the transition to Open Access and aims to switch from “read-and-publish” agreements to “pure publish” deals after 2024. This next generation of contracts will ensure transparency in pricing, be more cost-effective and have fewer transaction costs than the current, single-paper charging system. Financial transactions will no longer occur between the author and the editor or journal, removing concerns about potential incentives for lax quality control.
The academic world has been demanding Open Access to scholarly articles for nearly two decades and the European Commission continues to prioritise Open Access, for instance within Horizon Europe. The Swedish government stated in 2016 that “all scientific publications resulting from research financed with public funds shall be published in Open Access immediately. All stakeholders within the research system have a responsibility to work towards this goal.”
In Sweden, the Swedish Rectors’ Conference, the Swedish Research Council and the National Library of Sweden, have all signed the OA2020 initiative for the necessary large-scale transformation to Open Access. Furthermore, Coalition S with its bold plan is supported by three Swedish signatories, aiming to accelerate the transition to Open Access. But to break the cycle of the current subscription system, we need to adopt measures to pull funding away from paywalls and redirect toward Open Access.
The average publication output by corresponding authors affiliated with Swedish higher education institutions amounts to around 17,000 articles per year. Assuming, as in a White Paper by the Max Planck Digital Library, that article processing charges (APC) are below €2,000 in a purely Open Access scenario, the total expenditure on APCs would amount to €34 million. This is equivalent on e-resource licences and proves that a flip from a business model based on paying for subscriptions to paying for publishing articles in Open Access is possible.
The Bibsam Consortium requires that any publisher contract renewal must include an Open Access provision. If no acceptable Open Access provision is offered, contract renewal will be limited to one year or even cancelled. This is what happened in the spring of 2018 when our agreement with the largest scholarly publisher, Elsevier, was cancelled. The cancellation was a crucial element in reaching a new agreement allowing unlimited Open Access publishing with continuous reading rights. The Bibsam Consortium has since signed several transformative agreements with other publishers such as Springer Nature, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and SAGE. Based on our commitment to support and enhance pricing transparency, these agreements will be publicly available in the ESAC registry of transformative agreements.
In a study commissioned by the National Library of Sweden, entitled Financing the transition from a subscription-based to an openly available publishing system (2019), it is recommended that research funding organisations and higher education institutions share the financial responsibility for research publications. Subsequently, a high-level group of four vice chancellors and four CEOs of research funders has been formed for national consultation to redirect payment streams. It will meet regularly during 2020 to discuss and develop possible solutions. In one new pilot agreement, this shared responsibility is already a fact. The Swedish Research Council, Formas, Forte and Vinnova fund 50% of the cost of publishing in Springer Nature’s fully Open Access journal portfolio.
But introducing a pay-to-publish model also poses the challenge of how to apply new cost distribution parameters among the consortium participants and at the same time keep costs reasonable compared to current spending. Therefore, an independent consultant has conducted a study about new ways of distributing and reallocating publication costs. It recommends introducing a new cost distribution model consisting of an entrance fee (10%) and 90% weight on publications. The study will form the basis for future strategic discussions within the steering committee of the Bibsam Consortium when making cost distribution future proof for Open Access publishing.
Apart from journal negotiations, libraries also support initiatives for both Open Access infrastructure services and for Open Access content services. It is important to participate in this kind of co-funding to make sure that these initiatives survive and develop into sustainable Open Access services. Bibsam intends to participate in new initiatives that redirect funds currently used to pay subscriptions to make journals Open Access.
As more and more universities and funders are following up and monitoring their Open Access mandates, as well as signing the DORA declaration, we expect to see positive changes in the merit and allocation systems in order to advance Open Science. It is an important development to not use journal-based metrics, such as journal impact factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.
We plan to work with publishers who demonstrate leadership in this important new era of research reporting and with all stakeholders to develop new business models, which will make journals open to users all over the world.
The Swedish library consortium, Bibsam, was formed in 1996 and consists of 85 participating organisations from Swedish higher education institutions, research institutes and governmental agencies. The Consortium is administered by the National Library of Sweden and has a turnover of 46 million euros (2020) which includes 11 transformative agreements. It is governed by a steering committee consisting of seven representatives from participating organisations and headed by a vice-chancellor.
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