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Nature journals to offer €9,500 open-access route to all authors

Image: h_pampel [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Policy change will offer researchers a way to comply with Plan S open-access initiative

All authors submitting research papers to Nature-branded academic journals will have the option of making any accepted work openly available immediately to readers from January 2021, for a fee of €9,500 per article.

The journals’ publisher, Springer Nature, said on 24 November that the announcement of the option was “positive news” for researchers supported by funders signed up to the Plan S open-access initiative, who will be required to make their work openly available in approved outlets from January 2021.

The option to publish through the ‘gold’ open-access model—in which the version of record of a paper is made openly available by a publisher in exchange for a fee—will be available for the flagship Nature journal as well as 32 other Nature-branded primary research journals.

“These will be the first highly selective journals to offer their authors an immediate open-access publishing option in this way,” Springer Nature said.

In relation to the unusually high fee—which is three-to-four times that of many gold-model offers—it said that research published in the journals “is downloaded by institutional users over 30 times more than papers in a typical journal”.

The move followed an October announcement that Springer Nature had concluded a ‘transformative agreement’ with the Max Planck Digital Library that launched the open-access option to researchers in Germany. Such deals have been a popular choice for publishers seeking a sustainable way to move away from charging subscription fees for paywalled content.

“While transformative agreements are the biggest driver of open-access transition and largely avoid the need for significant additional funding from authors themselves, these take time for institutions to put in place and are not suitable for all organisations,” said Alison Mitchell, chief journals officer at Springer Nature. “I am delighted that we are now able to open up this opportunity to all authors.”

She said Springer Nature would be submitting the affected journals— as well as all the other journals it owns and the vast majority of the journals it publishes for partner organisations—to the Plan S funders for registration. Nature’s news and views articles will continue to be available on a subscription basis.

The company also announced a pilot scheme offering authors the chance to have their paper considered for publication in several Nature-branded journals through a single submission, which it said would increase efficiency for all involved.

The pilot covers the journals Nature Genetics, Nature Methods and Nature Physics, with submissions also being considered by Nature Communications, Communications Biology and Communications Physics. Authors who opt in to the pilot will pay an editorial assessment charge for feedback on their manuscript; if they go on to publish in one of the journals, they will pay a “top-up fee” of roughly €5,000.

Robert Kiley, interim coordinator of the Plan S funders, welcomed the announcements. He said the funders would be watching the pilot initiative “with interest”, adding: “Ultimately we believe that publishing costs need to be split so that they reflect the different services publishers provide, and this experiment by Nature will help inform this approach.”

A little over a month before researchers will have to begin complying with Plan S, the initiative has now secured the backing of two dozen public and philanthropic funders around the world and brought about major policy changes from many academic publishers.

On 17 November, Cambridge University Press announced that it was committing 209 of its journals to align with Plan S by increasing the share of papers they publish with immediate open-access in accordance with the rules of the initiative.