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Transparency in Open Access at OUP

Transparency in open access at OUP

Open access (OA) delivers many benefits—chief amongst them immediate access to the latest research and the ability to liberally re-use and build upon that research. The recent White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memorandum signified a major push towards opening up federally-funded research in the United States. In outlining the potential impact of increasing access to research, the OSTP stated that the policy would “likely yield significant benefits… from environmental justice to cancer breakthroughs, and from game-changing clean energy technologies to protecting civil liberties in an automated world.” Over the last 10 years the promise of these benefits, and the demonstrable impact of open research in (for example) aiding the quick development of COVID-19 vaccines, has helped make open access the dominant factor in the discourse around the future of journals publishing.  

A culture of openness does not end with access. As the core benefits of OA have become generally accepted, there has increasingly been more focus turned to accompanying discussions around openness in research and what that means not just for how research is disseminated, but how it is described, conducted, validated, and funded. All of these lead naturally to a conversation about transparency. 

The change of publishing model from subscriptions to OA presents an opportunity to start afresh, with open information available about how OA journals and publishers operate and charge. A clear example of this is the ESAC database—which hosts details, and often the actual contracts of more than 500 “transformative” agreements between academic institutions and publishers. The ESAC database represents the opening up of previously confidential information about sales agreements in support of greater transparency and enables anyone to understand how publishers’ “transformative” or “read and publish” agreements with academic customers work. 

As a not-for-profit university press which publishes over 75% of its journals on behalf of scholarly societies and other organisations, OUP is committed to a transparent approach to OA. The transition to OA can appear opaque, steeped in jargon and complexity, and we see a major part of our role in the move to OA as being as open and clear as possible. For example:

  • We fully support institutions making our transformative agreements available on ESAC. You can find details and contracts of 25 OUP agreements on the database.
  • Our article processing charge (APC) pricing is simple and is transparently available on our website. We have one main price per journal, in one currency. Some journals offer discounted rates for members or shorter article types. Authors who wish to pay in another currency can do so at the current exchange rate.   
  • We have an extensive and clear APC waiver policy. Corresponding authors from more than 100 low and middle-income countries are eligible for a 100% waiver of their APC on our fully OA journals. We also offer discretionary waivers for authors who are not based in these countries, but who are unable to pay APCs for their article. 
  • Working with our society partners and our customers, we seek to demystify transformative agreements and the move to OA by providing clear and transparent reporting, both of publishing and financial data.
  • Through our participation in Coalition S’s transformative journals programme, we provide annual reporting on the progress of these journals to OA. Five of the six journals included in the programme have already changed into fully OA journals, or will do so in 2023.   
  • Over 400 of our journals have data availability policies in place, ranging from asking authors to publicly release the data underlying their paper, to requiring them to do so as a condition of publication.

We realise there is much more to do, and over the coming weeks and months we aim to further increase the information available. The following are six steps we’ll be taking to share our work toward transparency in OA:

  1. In the last quarter of this year we will begin moving our transformative agreements, OA licensing, and publication charges to Aptara’s SciPris platform. A crucial focus of this move is to simplify and clarify the OA experience for our authors.   
  2. Reporting more regularly on the number of papers for which we waive APCs and for what reasons. With a large portfolio of individually managed journals, this information has not always been easy to prepare, but we want to push through the challenges of data collection as this is an important and underreported area of OA publishing.
  3. More frequent blog posts on our transition towards open access, sharing our experiences.
  4. Updating our webpages to more easily guide authors and users to information about our OA and open research programme.
  5. Expanding our data availability policies to more journals, and to higher levels of availability. 
  6. Continuing to engage with initiatives in research transparency such as publishing registered reports and transparent peer review, building on the success of journals already adopting these initiatives within our portfolio.

OUP publishes over 500 high-quality journals, the large majority of which are published on behalf of scholarly societies or other academic organisations, and all of which undertake extensive and rigorous peer review to ensure the highest quality of research. 

As we realise the benefits of open access, we want to do so in a way which protects the long-term sustainability of our journals, our customers, and the societies we work with. Balancing our desire to be as open as possible with the complexities of changing the business model of our journals is of course a challenge—but it’s an exciting challenge, with a very positive end goal. We see transparency as an important way in which we can meet that challenge, and look forward to continuing to share information over the coming years. 

Featured image by Ralph Chang, via Pexels, public domain

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