Go back

Study calls for strategic funding of ‘diamond’ open-access model

Funders behind Plan S open-access initiative commissioned study and say they will reflect on it

Research organisations, including the funders behind the Plan S open-access initiative, should come up with a strategy for funding the ‘diamond’ open-access publishing model, in which neither readers nor authors pay to read or publish content, a study has recommended.

The study, which received support from the Coalition S group of funders behind Plan S and the Science Europe association of research funders and performers, said in recommendations published on 9 March that the strategy for the next five years should be produced within 12 months and should provide advice on what kind of diamond publishing should be supported, and how.

Under the diamond model, research funders and institutions such as universities directly support publishing outlets, for example through annual fees. But study authors including Arianna Becerril, a research publishing professor at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, said in their report that over a third of diamond publishers surveyed are not confident about the sustainability of their model.

Need for more ‘efficiency, coordination and funding’

“It will be important for funders and research institutions to prioritise investing in helping journals meet industry standards and in lighthouse projects that develop shared services or infrastructure for a more coherent publishing system that serves scores of journals,” Becerril and co-authors wrote in their report.

Representatives of Coalition S and Science Europe welcomed the recommendations.

“The study shows that the collaborative, community-driven publishing model needs to be more efficiently organised, coordinated and funded to better support researchers in disseminating their work,” wrote Science Europe secretary general Lidia Borrell-Damián and Coalition S executive director Johan Rooryck in their foreword to the report.

“We hope that the study will initiate a community-wide discussion leading to concrete steps for consolidating this vital infrastructure,” they added.

Rooryck told Research Professional News that Coalition S “will attentively study the findings and recommendations of this important study in order to determine how we can best, collectively and individually, coordinate our efforts towards funding diamond open access.”

Funding concerns and Plan S compliance

The survey of more than 1,600 diamond journals found mixed results on their financial health. Just over 40 per cent of the journals reported breaking even and 25 per cent reported a loss, whereas nearly one-third of journals said they did not know their financial status.

Journals “largely depend on volunteer work, universities, and government funding”, said a separate report on the survey findings by authors including Utrecht University librarian Jeroen Bosman, with 60 per cent of journals surveyed reporting using volunteers.

Under Plan S, funders require the researchers they support to make resulting papers openly available immediately under certain conditions, including conditions on the journals in which papers are published. The survey found that diamond journals are “making headway towards Plan S compliance but face a number of operational challenges”. Only 4.3 per cent of diamond journals met all of the Plan S criteria on which they were surveyed, while only 37 per cent met more than half of the criteria.

Other recommendations stemming from the findings included exploring the feasibility of creating a ‘capacity centre’ within two years to coordinate and provide services for diamond publishers, such as offering workshops on accounting, editorial workflows and marketing.

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe