Reports & Publications

Wednesday 07 October 2020

cOAlition S and the Rights Retention Strategy - response from ALPSP

The ALPSP Copyright Committee has made a written response regarding the recent cOAlition S announcement about implementation of its Rights Retention Strategy

To: Johan Rooryck and Robert Kiley, cOAlition S

7 October 2020

Dear Johan and Robert

cOAlition S and the Rights Retention Strategy

I am writing to you on behalf of the ALPSP Copyright Committee regarding the recent cOAlition S announcement about implementation of its Rights Retention Strategy.

As I am sure you are aware, ALPSP is an international membership trade body, based in the UK, that supports and represents not-for-profit organisations and institutions that publish scholarly and professional content.  With nearly 300 members in 30 countries, membership also includes those that work with these publishers and societies.  Its mission is to connect, inform, develop and represent the international scholarly and professional publishing community.

Members of ALPSP strive to support the progress of science by producing, validating, broadly disseminating and curating the highest quality peer-reviewed research outputs in their content.  These outputs often result from research grants, yet they require significant investment to turn ‘raw’ research findings into the final validated output.   Publishers and learned societies have a history of working together to strengthen scholarly communication and promote both open science and open access.

Firstly, I wish to state categorically that the ALPSP Copyright Committee and all its members are totally supportive of the principle of open access and are taking steps towards offering this as a publishing option across their journal portfolio.  The publishers for whom we work demonstrate this support in several ways, including by publication of gold open access articles and entering into transformative agreements with institutions around the world.  That said, from our current understanding of the new strategy, we do have some concerns and questions about its implementation, and the potentially unforeseen consequences.  We wanted to raise these with you in good faith and in the spirit of collaboration.  They are as follows:

  1. Requiring the posting of the Version of Record of an article, or the Accepted Manuscript of an article without an embargo, does not take into account the considerable investment publishers put in to creating and maintaining these versions from the submitted preprint. A very substantial proportion of the costs of publication of an article is incurred in getting it to the Accepted Manuscript stage.  Having no embargo period for these articles, and no Article Publication Charge (APC) to cover the publication costs, does not give publishers any opportunity to recoup those costs,

  2. The implementation of a CC BY licence for the deposit of the Accepted Manuscript poses further risk; the publishers and learned societies who currently offer no or short embargoes can do this because they are able to recoup the costs of publication through sales. To make content available immediately under a CC BY licence would eradicate this revenue.  Whilst cOAlition S may allow the use of a CC BY-ND licence in exceptional circumstances, this is in no way scalable, nor would this help to protect learned societies’ revenues.  This can therefore only have a detrimental impact, particularly on smaller and learned society publishers which rely on this revenue to survive.

  3. By removing the option of publication in hybrid journals, authors will necessarily have fewer choices of where to publish their articles. Whilst we do of course recognize that the intention behind hybrid journals is an eventual transition to a 100% gold open access publication, times for transition will vary between different disciplines and a decision of how and when to “flip” to gold open access must always depend on the speed at which the amount of gold open access content grows.  Whilst there have been public statements made that suggest that cOAlition S may be happy for these hybrid journals to die out, many hybrid journals serve niche subject communities or allow authorship by researchers from across the world; many of these researchers are in countries which may never have the ability to fund APCs and may not have any alternative funding mechanisms yet developed to support gold open access publishing.  In addition, there are some subject areas where funding for gold open access is currently not available, such as humanities and clinical medicine.  A blanket approach risks limiting author choice, and adopts a western-centric position, whereby only the wealthiest countries (and their researchers) are still able to publish.

  4. Many self-published and learned societies are too small to take part in transformative agreement, as operationally they do not have the workflows to support the operational complexity of supporting them. These journals would be further disadvantaged as they would not have any mechanism to retain revenues lost from subscriptions, author pays gold open access and licensing.

  5. We are also concerned that the unintended consequence of the Rights Retention Policy will be an actual slowdown or an undermining of the transition to gold open access as there will be less incentive for researchers and funders to publish under the gold open access model. cOAlition S has said that gold open access is its priority so please confirm what measures it is proposing to incentivize researchers and funders towards a sustainable transition towards gold open access?  Will cOAlition S funders require authors to preference a compliant gold open access route to publication when one is available?

  6. We understand that a letter has been sent to publishers asking them to respond with details of which category they and/or their journals fall into. Failure to respond will lead to inferences being drawn as to the appropriate categories.  From a legal perspective, the absence of a response should not be interpreted as an agreement to a new strategy.  On what basis does cOAlition S consider that it can determine a response from a publisher if it does not respond?  How will it ensure generally that the information recorded is and remains correct?  In addition, we understand that not all publishers which expected to receive the letter have done so.  Will there be regular updates to entries and what was the criteria for the letters being sent originally?

  7. We see from information which you have provided, that publishers are expected to update their copyright forms to reflect the new terms of funding accepted by authors. It appears that a view has been taken that, even where agreements to these copyright forms are not agreed in writing, the funding requirements will take precedence.  Aside from the questionable legal basis for such an assertion, we are very concerned that this will put authors in an extremely difficult position if inadvertently they enter into two agreements which contradict each other on this fundamental point.  How can this best be reconciled?  Have processes been agreed with the various research institutions?

  8. Following on from the above, many articles are co-authored by researchers from multiple countries. In some of those countries, such as Germany, legal cases have been brought which challenge requirements such as those to post versions of an article on a repository.  We are keen to understand whether you have investigated how authors should handle this issue if it transpired that one or more of their co-authors objected to the article being posted?

Please be assured that our intention is to ensure that ALPSP member organizations’ interests are heard,  that the strategy eventually implemented is measured and transparent and that researchers are able to disseminate their research in a timely fashion and in the publication outlet of their choice.  We are sure that these are views we both share and that we agree are particularly important in the current climate, where the livelihood of so many is under such threat.  Following on from the above, there are several areas where we would welcome the opportunity to have discussions with you and work collaboratively in the successful implementation of a sustainable open access strategy.  Please contact us if you would like to continue these discussions.

Yours sincerely,

Wayne Sime
Chief Executive
The Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers
Egale 1, 80 St Albans Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD17 1DL

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