Societies, Plan S, and the Netherlands

A Dutch news outlet interviews society editors about Plan S, finds little enthusiasm

Societies, Plan S, and the Netherlands

An interesting report from ScienceGuide last week explores the impact of Plan S on learned societies, asking bluntly if its implementation will lead to their demise.

The reporting is excellent, with many interesting quotes and insights.

Part of the effectiveness of the reporting is the bluntness of some of the responses in interviews. Take, for example, the following response by Gert-Jan van Ommen, a professor emeritus at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and EIC of the European Journal of Human Genetics, the official journal of the European Society of Human Genetics:

If the income from the journal would drop significantly, we’d need a major increase in our membership fee. A lot of members are early professionals, who don’t have the means to pay for this. Many would cancel their membership, leading to lost power of the society. Then, in fact, the field would fall apart.

Interviews with other society editors and with the group attempting to assess gross margins at society publishers make the ScienceGuide story worth a read.

The section on the transparency requirements of Plan S is also worth reading, if only because it gives a sense of the folly of such requirements in a zone where incompetence with business concepts and antagonism prevail. Why would anyone want to share a budget with someone predisposed to trash me over it and without the requisite skills to understand what it means?

Even when toying with the tired “let’s take publishing back” trope, the reporting lands on realism and pragmatism, thanks to the interviews:

Looking back in history one might be tempted to conclude that the most cost effective solution for science itself would be to revert tot [sic] the ‘generosity’ model. A system in which learned societies are sponsored by governments, institutions, or university libraries in order to maintain their platforms and/or publish their periodicals. This would simultaneously put the intellectual ownership back with the creator.

In a way Fletcher welcomes the intentions of Plan S but is sceptical about its feasibility. “We just have to face the fact that the transition is not free, and might even cost money. It cost a lot to publish a journal well.” In essence what research institutes would have to decide is to stop spending their money on subscriptions and become outlets themselves again.

“If all scientists started to boycott paywalled journals as of this moment, the few compliant journals they could send their articles to would be paralysed.” The only way the plan will work is if there is a substantial investment in new journals. “But I don’t see a lot of enthusiasm for that right now.”

I’d recommend you read the entire article. It’s not long, and it’s informative, speaking yet again to the arrogance and capriciousness of Plan S’ inception and subsequent life. Plan S has few fans among society publishers, and is quite properly viewed as antagonistic to the survival and future of learned societies.


This is a free post, which “The Geyser” offers occasionally to members of our email list. Today’s Subscriber Post deals with the rising nationalism in science, especially the profiling of Chinese scientists by the NIH and FBI.

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