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PLOS response to the Wissenschaftsrat (German Science Council) statement on Open Access

At PLOS we warmly welcome the January 24, 2022 statement from the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) advocating that Open Access (OA), via a CC BY license, should become the default for scientific publications.

The statement observes that a move to Open Access entails a paradigm shift in the scientific publication system, moving the roles of publishers toward coordinators of peer review and providers of publishing services. Since our foundation in 2001, to date, PLOS has published 297,968 articles across our journals under this Open Access CC BY model, and we have helped pioneer the sustainability of rigorous Open Access publishing. In addition, we also are transparent about our finances every year, and we have adopted the pricing transparency model that has been developed by the funders of the Plan S project. 

Therefore we support this statement that this shift is not just desirable, but entirely proven and sustainable, and able to be executed with the desired levels of transparency.

However, in addition to our support for this Open Access vision we would add several points to the statement to ensure it does not only focus on published Open Access Versions of Record, but also accommodates the developing Open Science ecosystem. 

In our opinion, focusing on research article Versions of Record, and spending the following three years only focused on an OA financing system, risks further embedding them as the primary and sole unit of sharing research. In considering how to reorganize the financing system to support more openness and research integrity, we believe it will be important to look beyond OA and build in the potential to support policies and developments that will enable more efficient and transparent research-sharing, especially as that is something the Wissenschaftsrat additionally seeks.

As a publisher aligned with Wissenschaftsrat’s vision, PLOS serves a much broader role than simply the provision of publishing services and a host of the Version of Record. The most well-known example is our Open Data policy: since 2014, all PLOS journals have required authors to make all data necessary to replicate their study’s findings publicly available without restriction at the time of publication (acknowledging standard exceptions for specific legal or ethical restrictions). And, since July 2014, to date, 177,357 articles have been published with such Data Availability Statements. And, now, conversations about open data, reproducibility, and research integrity – a.k.a. Open Science – are all part of the mainstream conversation around research communication as they have been proven to be sustainable values and behaviors within that system.

Via this open data policy, but also open peer review options, protocols, open methods, preregistration, preprint facilitation, and our recent policy addressing inclusion in global research, PLOS is working towards Open Science at a scale and in ways that increase the transparency and rigor of the entire research communication system, and not just our journals. In addition, we are working tirelessly to develop business models beyond Article Processing Charges (APCs) so that both Open Access, and Open Science outputs and behaviors, are sustainable, equitable, and workable at a global scale.

In summary, this moment of the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a time to highlight the importance of Open Access, but also Open Science, and Open Science’s focus on trust and inclusion in the system of research communication. Our Open Science vision aligns with that of the Wissenschaftsrat and needs the support of forward-thinking organizations like it. We would happily discuss how we can work together and help each other.

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