Plan S and institutional repositories – a response from UKCORR

8 February 2019

The United Kingdom Council of Research Repositories (1) (UKCORR) represents  about 600 library professionals and research administrators across 150 UK institutions working with and supporting open access repositories. Collectively, the members of UKCORR have significant experience in the implementation and development of national, funder and institutional open access policies.

We strongly support the overarching aims of Plan S for the immediate and free access to scholarly research. This has been a long time coming and UKCORR sees this as a welcome step in the ongoing move towards open research. However, as with most things, the devil is in the detail. In the UK, research organisations have been grappling with the open access policies of government and charity funders for many years, and while Plan S is a step in the right direction towards policy alignment, the requirements for Plan S compliance are not straightforward. We very much welcome the opportunity provided by cOAlition S to request clarity on particular points relating to institutional repositories in relation to Plan S.

For many researchers, especially those actively engaged in open research, overly bureaucratic restrictions on how their research should be made open access can be confusing. Take, for example,
the open access policy for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. The REF policy’s ambition was to “provide a set of minimum requirements for open access” but it took four years of lobbying (2) before preprint servers were recognised as a suitable open access source . The open research (3) landscape changes quickly, and policies developed today can unwittingly stifle tomorrow’s innovations. We therefore hope that cOAlition S will learn from past missteps and develop very clear guidance for institutions and authors to follow.

Within the open research landscape, institutional repositories are essential for many authors, and the Plan S implementation guidance, in its current form, may marginalize repositories even further than present. We believe that open access repositories add to the diversity of open research platforms and should therefore be nurtured and supported by funding bodies to become an
essential component of the scholarly communication landscape. Failure to do so will exclude a large proportion of ‘APC poor’ authors from their participation in scholarly discourse, as well as inhibit the growth and exposure of high-value grey research literature. And without clear leadership from cOAlition S to support routes to free gold open access, the association between gold open access and APCs will only grow. The strength of open research is in its diversity, and in many respects Plan S seeks to strictly define the way in which research should be shared.

UKCORR would like to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. The Plan S implementation guidance for open access repositories presents some serious and significant
challenges for the repository community. The requirements are reproduced below:

“10.2 Requirements for Plan S compliant Open Access repositories:

The repository must be registered in the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) or in the process of being registered.
In addition, the following criteria for repositories are required:

● Automated manuscript ingest facility
● Full text stored in XML in JATS standard (or equivalent)
● Quality assured metadata in standard interoperable format, including information on the DOI of the original publication, on the version deposited (AAM/VoR), on the open access status and the license of the deposited version. The metadata must fulfil the same quality criteria as Open Access journals and platforms (see above). In particular, metadata must include complete and reliable information on funding provided by cOAlition S funders.

OpenAIRE compliance is strongly recommended.
● Open API to allow others (including machines) to access the content
● QA process to integrate full text with core abstract and indexing services (for example
PubMed)
● Continuous availability
● Helpdesk”

These requirements, if required by 1 January 2020, will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement especially for smaller institutions already groaning under the demands of other funder policies. In the UK the repository community is relatively well equipped to respond to the challenges of Plan S, yet we have concerns for our international colleagues in institutions yet to deploy or fully embed an institutional repository in their research services.  In addition to the specific concerns addressed in the Plan S feedback questions (see Appendix), we would also note that the majority of gold open access journals do not levy APC charges. These titles are an important venue for communicating research outcomes in specific disciplines and their existence is very much in the spirit of Plan S. Yet, technical barriers have been raised by Plan S such that very few of these titles will satisfy the technical requirements of Plan S, thereby once again excluding some scholars from scholarly discourse.

While we have outlined a number of criticisms of the Plan S implementation guidance for repositories, it is important to reiterate that the overriding aims and ambitions of Plan S are not
without merit. Repository managers will be looking for further clarity from cOAlition S on what these requirements actually entail. Certainly the most difficult will be the conversion of manuscripts into full text XML. We believe this should be an aspirational recommendation.

1 https://www.ukcorr.org/
2 https://www.ref.ac.uk/media/1016/draft-guidance-on-submissions-ref-2018_1.pdf
3 https://unlockingresearch-blog.lib.cam.ac.uk/?p=2115

A pdf version of this response is available alsohttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1GOTJVapsuxuLuc_mO8ClEL_65pn0o5o_/view?usp=sharing

Dr Arthur Smith on behalf of UKCORR
Secretary to UKCORR

Deputy Manager of Scholarly Communication (Open Access)
Office of Scholarly Communication
Cambridge University Library
West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR
as2507@cam.ac.uk

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