Recently, my university has expressed that it wishes to enforce compliance with Plan S, an European-wide initiative to 'transition' towards open access publications, for all researchers employed by the university.
I think that while the plan has good intentions, the execution seems to ignore important features of the publication process in my field, and could be actively harmful for the development of my scientific career (I have a more detailed description of my concerns at the end of this post).
While I don't think I am the only one who would oppose this plan, nor that this concerns only phd students, I would like to have my objections to this plan heard or considered. It seems the university board would like to treat this as a 'done deal' (only shortly after announcement, in spite of initial resistance), and does not see keeping the status quo as an option.
How can I, as a (relatively new) phd student, most effectively lobby against this decision?
I have thought about the following methods, which I can easily do (and will do). However, I am unaware of their effectiveness.
- Contact the phd council of my department. These people are easily approachable, and should have more experience with influencing university policy than I have.
- Discuss the matter with my advisor. I'm sure my advisor would have an opinion here, and I think he would share some of my concerns, as this also affects senior researchers.
The main concern I have with this plan is that it seems to ignore the primary publication venue in my field (computer science): conferences. The workflow for publishing in my field is roughly as follows:
- Submit to a conference.
- Simultaneously to 1, publish a freely accessible pre-print on the arXiv.
- If the conference paper was accepted and generally well-received, publish an extended version of the conference paper in a journal.
Many conference proceedings of top conferences in my field are not in open access and do not appear to be pressured by plan S to do so. (the entities that control these conferences include ACM, SIAM, and IEEE, who have quite a stake in closed-access proceedings and where the influence of European researchers does not seem to be particularly big.)
Plan S explicitly states that releasing freely available pre-prints is not enough to be compliant. This may make sense when publishing to non-open access journals, as it means the 'official' and hence mostly cited version of the publication is still not open access. However, publishing in conferences without open access proceeding does not have the same problem: For almost all important work, there will be a journal publication later, which can be open access. The journal version is the version that will usually get cited, rather than the conference version. In the mean time, any researcher can freely access the pre-print on the arXiv.
Note that disallowing publication at these venues also has the secondary effect that it hinders my option of attending these conferences. They are often held in North-America, and costs for travel+attendance are not cheap. It is therefore not easy to get sufficient funding to attend one of these conferences if you are not presenting or at least publishing something at the conference.