Plan S, initiated by the European Union and Science Europe is attempt to speed up the movement to open access of all publicly-funded research by proposing that all research must be published first in an Open Access format. The Plan proposes that scholarly publications recover all their costs from Author Processing Charges (APC) or similar, unspecified funding models, which European granting agencies would include in their awards. It would prohibit researchers funded by most European granting agencies from publishing in subscription-based journals and “hybrid journals” which make content available first to subscribers and then Open Access after an embargo period. In essence, it will prevent historians and other humanists funded in Europe from publishing in North American journals, including some of the top journals in their field, and will prevent many North Americans from publishing in Europe.
February 28, 2019
Coalition S Science
Europe Rue de la Science,
14 1040 Brussels, Belgium
Dear members of Coalition S:
The Canadian Historical Association wishes to raise our concerns and objections to Plan S as it is currently conceived. We join many other scholarly organizations in the Humanities and Social Sciences in pointing out that the model proposed under Plan S focuses on scientific journals and is incompatible with the scholarly practice and funding models in the Humanities. Moreover, the plan will create an unwelcome and unnecessary divide between scholarship funded and published in Europe from scholarship in North America and elsewhere in the world. Instead, we urge you to consider ways to achieve the desirable goal of Open Access while not creating gaping new and unnecessary divides between Europe and America, rich and poor, funded and unfunded research.
The Canadian Historical Association represents professional historians in Canada. We publish an Open (green) Access scholarly journal that has a print as well as an on-line edition. We join with the American Historical Association, The Royal Historical Society, the Canadian Association of Learned Journals and many other organizations in affirming that we support the principle goal of Plan S: that scholarship should be open access, but we reject the narrow path Plan S has chosen to achieve that goal.
The model of having authors pay to have their articles published via APCs is incompatible with the current scholarly ecosystem in History. It is entirely incompatible with the publication of monographs and collections of essays common in the Humanities.
In your plan, funding agencies will build the cost of APCs into their grants. This may work well in disciplines where all research is funded by discrete external funding agencies, where each research grant will produce predictable number of articles, and where all the journals operate on an APC basic.
Plan S and Author Processing Charges will not work as a funding model in the Humanities where much research can be done without external research grants so there is no funding for APCs. It will not work where a significant proportion of scholarship is produced by early career scholars without a permanent academic position and without private means to pay APCs. Plan S ignores the fact that much of the publication in the Humanities is done by small professional organizations such as ourselves. It is financed via a model that includes very modest subscription or membership fees, grants from Universities, funding agencies, or charities, and is heavily subsidized by volunteer editorial and peer review labour. There are strong financial and professional arguments not to transform the entire ecosystem to an APC model and there is no possibility of such a transformation by the January 1, 2020 date that Plan S is supposed to come into effect.
Open Access in the Humanities can be achieved in other ways that do not disrupt the entire scholarly review and editorial model that has evolved over many decades. Unlike some of the science and medical disciplines where timeliness is critical and articles go out of date quickly, in the Humanities articles are typically in dialogue with others that are often decades old, and they do not go out of date in a few months. In this environment, a Hybrid system where subscribers get immediate access and the public gets access after 6 or 12 months offers Open Access in a fashion that does not significantly penalize the authors or the public readers. An alternative system where the funding agencies directly pay the cost of the journal and monograph publishing operations instead of indirectly through subsidizing author fees would cost funders the same and allow instant access to the public. Among other conceivable Open Access possibilities, authors could be required to deposit their manuscript and research materials in a secure institutional repository within a specific time period after publication.
In sum, the Canadian Historical Association supports the goals of Open Access to publically funded scholarly research but rejects the simplistic, one-size fits all model proposed by Plan S. Plan S will surely create new barriers to scholarly dissemination in History and the Humanities and we urge you to consider alternative models that will encourage and support dissemination and Open Access.
Canadian Historical Association