Researchers use that knowledge to build on and to make advances that further help to progress the science – and that’s for the benefit of both science itself and our global society. Open Access publishing facilitates and widens the dissemination of that knowledge; therefore this direct link with our charter is why we think OA is so important and so fundamental to our mission as a learned society.
Open Access has a significant role to play in the greater good that can come from Open Science more broadly. Open Science means more transparency across the whole research lifecycle, leading to greater reproducibility and trust in science. For that reason we have invested in what we think are incredibly important services for the community, for example ChemSpider, our free chemical structure database, providing the community with free access to over 92 million chemical structures from hundreds of data sources, and ChemRxiv, a dedicated preprint server for the chemical sciences. ChemRxiv is a truly global community endeavour, where we partner with a number of global chemical science societies (ACS, GDCh, CCS, CSJ).
Preprint servers allow researchers to disseminate their research as soon as possible, to establish precedence for the ideas that they've had and for the work they've done. That comes with the disclaimer that this knowledge hasn't yet been peer reviewed, though it means others can have advanced sight of new ideas and research.
We have been supporters of and investors in Open Access for a significant period of time, and have evolved our offerings in line with developments in the global landscape, the mandates we see from funding bodies etc. but also to accelerate the transition to open access for the community where we can – again because of the role OA can play to disseminate and advance knowledge.
We introduced a hybrid OA option for authors on all our journals way back in 2006, so that authors who needed to publish OA, could do so, and it was over ten years ago that we acquired ChemSpider. I also want to call out the work we’ve done in partnership with the librarian community, who serve the researchers at their institutions, to evolve our OA products and services and accelerate the transition. In 2012: we launched our Gold 4 Gold pilot, providing institutions subscribing to our Gold package of journals with vouchers for their authors to publish OA in our hybrid journals. Gold 4 Gold eventually evolved into Read & Publish (R&P) in 2016 with the help of our European librarian customers, continuing that opportunity for authors at R&P institutions to publish OA in any of our hybrid journals. Now we have R&P agreements with institutions across the globe, the majority still in Europe, but also several in the US and elsewhere. In countries with R&P agreements, we see high proportions of content (80-90%) published OA in our hybrid journals, showing that authors value this easy route to OA publication in recognised venues.
We’ve also been innovative and invested in our journals to support the transition to OA. In 2015, we flipped our flagship high-impact journal, Chemical Science, to Diamond/Platinum OA, so that it is both free to read and, importantly, free to publish in, meaning it is open and inclusive to all, and ensuring equitable publishing for those without funds. Chemical Science has now published over 6000 open access articles. In 2017, we flipped the largest journal in the chemical sciences, RSC Advances, to OA, and introduced this with a low APC to make this an inclusive venue for OA publishing.
We’ve also been launching more full OA journals in different fields: Materials, Nanoscience, Environmental Science, Chemical Biology to ensure that authors have high-quality full OA venues (as well as high quality hybrid venues) for publication to enable them to meet their funder mandates, or if they are just choosing to publish in a full OA journal. All our new OA journals do not have an APC payable for the first few years of publication to ensure that authors can try out these new journals without having to worry about funds for APCs.
What different author and researcher attitudes to OA do we see around the world?
Open Access is at varying different degrees of progress and acceptance in the global chemical science community and I would say the chemical science community is, in general, less far along in their OA journey than, for example biomedical communities, where there are more direct links to human health.
Because it has, in general, been less of a pressing issue for the chemical science community, we see ourselves having a role in increasing its acceptance and adoption and that will continue to be a focus for us in the coming years. We have seen more awareness in the community around OA and its benefits, but we also recognise that we have a role in talking more around why it is important for knowledge dissemination – and showing how it can benefit researchers’ work. Researchers need to show the impact of their research so, if Open Access facilitates wider dissemination, it helps their work to reach wider audiences, enabling it to gather more downloads, more views, more citations, all of which contributes to impact.
We have seen funders driving the transition to OA and Open Science with mandates around research publications and outputs. This is particularly the case in Europe and the UK, where such requirements have been in place for a number of years and, for that reason, we generally see a higher level of engagement with OA from these researchers. With the advent of Plan S, meaning that Coalition S-funded researchers might only be able to publish in hybrid journals if they're part of transformative agreements – that's quite a significant change, as it might close off renowned and reputable, well-known venues to authors for OA publication, including their usual preferred journals.
So our proposition for Europe and the UK is twofold – we're looking at full Gold OA journals and having transformative Read & Publish agreements in place with as many institutions as possible to ensure that as many publication venues as possible are as accessible to authors.
In the rest of the world, it's less clear cut, with fewer national funder mandates in place around OA and less demand from librarians for Read & Publish agreements as a result. Evolving these agreements to make them relevant for librarians/institutions and authors in other regions and countries will be the next step for us.
In the US, while the NIH and key agencies in the US have specific Green OA policies, we are seeing a drive for Gold only from specific institutions who have fully invested in OA. We have Read & Publish agreements with several North American institutions but, as yet, have seen no significant community demand for it.
India are perhaps less far along in their OA journey than the other countries from where we have large volumes of authors. Acknowledging that researchers may have less funds available to pay APCs, we have specific discounted rates for Indian researchers in RSC Advances, our largest OA journal, to make this more accessible.
In China, we tend to see authors publishing more within our Gold OA journals, than OA in hybrid. The new China Research Assessment policy has specific provisions around OA and a potential APC cap for representative works that researchers wish to publish OA - with a reasonable APC rate our journals are well within this and offer high quality venues for publication.
Supporting researchers, wherever they are
Science is collaborative – it's a global endeavour, with researchers who are based all over the world working together. This is fantastic, but then they have complex and varied requirements or recommendations that they have to navigate from funders or institutions or even countries. As a publisher, therefore, it’s our role to make this as easily navigable for researchers as possible and provide them with all the options they need for publication. For example, our Read & Publish workflow makes it really simple for authors: the system automatically identifies if an author is at an institution with an agreement and highlights that they can publish their article OA in a certain journal.
For this reason, we’ve tried to keep the conversation going with our global community wherever possible around OA, both via our day to day publishing activities and the various touchpoints the Society has with the global chemistry community. We’ve also reached out in different ways - when Plan S arrived, we produced an animation aiming to increase awareness of it with the community and find out their thoughts about it. We also conducted a livestream debate to bring researchers’ voices directly into the debate. And we’ve conducted surveys with researchers around the world.
Recognising that some researchers have concerns around OA because of predatory journals, our activities try to showcase to the community that the quality of our journals is the same, whether it's OA or hybrid – they have the same editorial standards and they all uphold high quality standards.
This isn’t the end of the journey: we’re committed to increasing our Open Access and Open Science products and services, and continuing to make improvements so that the route to Open Science is as seamless as possible. Our belief in Open Access and Open Science is based on that foundation of one of our core Charter objectives, knowledge dissemination: to have as much knowledge as accessible as possible to members of the community, and more widely. Recent events have made the need for this all the more clear.
Open Science contributes to the integrity of the scientific record. Openness and transparency aids reproducibility and trust – not only can people see more of the science, they can use more of it, to move science and Society forward.