Open access has been a hot topic of debate following the launch of cOAlition S and the Plan S initiative in September 2018. The main aim of Plan S is that by 2020 all publications funded by cOAlition S members will be published in compliant open access journals or platforms. Although Plan S is a huge step forwards with regards to research transparency and accessibility, it has met with some resistance, and researchers are currently often driven to publish in high-profile subscription journals.
This issue of prestige is discussed in a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Daniel S Quintana (Senior Researcher, University of Oslo). Despite the controversies associated with the use of a journal’s impact factor as a surrogate measure of research quality, many researchers are still evaluated by the journals they publish in. Quintana suggests that the problem could be alleviated by funding bodies establishing their own open access publishing platforms or journals. Articles published in such journals could be viewed as prestigious as publications would be required of, and restricted to, grant beneficiaries. Quintana notes that this idea is not new – for example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has established Gates Open Research. Wellcome Open Research, which is discussed in a recent blog by Robert Kiley (Head of Open Research, Wellcome Trust) and Michael Markie (Publishing Director, F1000), is an initiative for researchers funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Quintana believes that there are additional benefits associated with journals established by funding bodies. For example, this type of open access journal could ultimately increase the replicability of research, by increasing access to, and re-use of, data. In addition, there could be a cost saving implication, as article processing charges would likely be reduced. Despite these benefits, Quintana does note some potential downsides: for instance, putting researchers who receive other sources of funding at a disadvantage, and exacerbation of the imbalance experienced by underrepresented groups (including women, members of minority groups, and early-career researchers).