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Plan S laments lack of engagement from big publishers


Initiative says companies including Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley did not provide information about processes

The open-access initiative Plan S has lamented what it said was a lack of engagement from big publishers with its call for publishing companies to make their processes clearer for authors.

In March Plan S asked publishers to tell authors about the terms and conditions of publishing with them at the outset of the publishing process, so authors could make informed decisions about whether to proceed.

It said publishers should provide information about the licence authors would be asked to sign, the fees they would be charged and whether their manuscript would be re-routed to another journal.

This would help avoid problems such as authors facing unexpected fees or withdrawing a manuscript, the letter suggested.

It was sent to over 100 subscription publishers with a request that the information provided to authors should be relayed to Plan S no later than 2 May.

But in an update, Plan S said that big publishers including Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, Taylor and Francis, and the American Chemical Society did not respond.

Robert Kiley, head of strategy at Plan S, said it was “striking” that none of the big publishers had replied. Publishers that did respond to the request included the Royal Society, Portland Press, the European Respiratory Society and Mathematical Sciences Publishers.

Publisher comment

Asked for comment by Research Professional News, Taylor and Francis agreed that it is important to provide clear information to authors. “We provide extensive support for authors throughout their publication journey which satisfies all of the points highlighted” by Plan S, the company said. “We are open to continued dialog with [Plan S] on ways to ensure researchers can easily identify publishing options that are compatible both with funder and publisher policies.”

Wiley said: “We absolutely recognise the importance of providing authors with clarity on all aspects of journal policy and publishing practices, including which licenses are offered by our journals, and which article processing charges apply. Beyond visibility on submission sites, we utilise a range of other means to ensure clarity and visibility of these issues, including author guidelines pages for each journal and our author services pages on licensing and APCs.”

Elsevier said that authors’ choice of publishing model determines the publishing agreement that applies, and that this was explained in detail on its copyright page and open-access licenses page. “Information on individual journal homepages and our transparent pricing page […] ensures that authors are afforded transparency on article publishing charges,” it said. “We will continue to work with funders and the research community to […] ensure we are promoting clarity and transparency.”

Springer Nature declined to comment, while the American Chemical Society had not responded to Research Professional News by the time this article was published.

Update 17/8 – This article was updated with the response from Wiley.

Update 18/8 – This article was updated with the response from Elsevier.