FAQ Open Access
This page features a collection of Frequently Asked Questions about Open Access. Utrecht University aims to promote the accessible publication of articles, manuscripts and books, and therefore offers the necessary support. A special landing page has been developed for support questions.
We also frequently receive questions about the purpose behind open access, the choices made, and what employees can do to contribute to open access themselves. These questions have been collected below, along with honest and clearly written answers.
If you have any other questions or suggestions, please feel free to mail them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As university employees, we do indeed have the luxury of access to a large number of academic publications. And if we don’t, we can often find it via our (digital) network or the University Library.
But for many outside the academic community, access is far from universal. Think of secondary school teachers who want to read about the latest research in teaching methods, municipal officials looking for comparative data, or journalists who cannot access interesting scientific work. And then there are our colleagues in countries that don’t have the same level of scientific infrastructure. All of that adds up to yet another barrier to reaching relevant target audiences, alongside the cultural and institutional obstacles.
Plan S is primarily an initiative by (inter)national and philanthropic research financiers united in the cOAlition S. In the Netherlands, NWO has also signed on to Plan S. As a result, all grant awards will be subject to the Plan S guidelines as of 1 January 2021. NWO has its own special interpretation of these guidelines, as explained on its website.
Utrecht University has not signed on to Plan S. In fact, so far no individual universities, research institutes or governments have signed the Plan S statement. The VSNU and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science have stated their intention to support the plan in the future, however. The plan primarily stipulates the financier’s conditions for publishing research paid for with their funds. It also describes principles such as direct accessibility, copyright for authors, the use of open licenses and transparency regarding publication costs.
Since many Utrecht University researchers are funded by financiers that have signed on to Plan S, they are also subject to these conditions. For NWO, the conditions apply to all grants awarded on or after 1 January 2021.
With that in mind, the University Library (UB) has made every effort to clarify the conditions, help researchers comply with them, and advise the university on how to make academic research as accessible as possible. These efforts pay special attention to the issue of Publishing Support.
If we’re not careful, it will. It is undeniable that most of the steps towards more open access taken so far – such as the contracts with commercial publishers – have only increased the costs of publication. We can justify paying higher costs temporarily, but we cannot justify facilitating ever-increasing profits for publishers. For that reason and others, institutions and research financiers (such as those united in Plan S) increasingly demand transparency in the often-opaque cost structure for publishers’ open access services.
At most, higher costs can only be a temporary consequence of the transition. In addition to negotiating with the traditional publishing parties, universities are also considering some alternatives. There is a growing selection of (open source) platforms for publication with high standards for quality, where researchers can publish for a very reasonable price – and sometimes even for free. The government has also implemented legislation that should accelerate the open accessibility of academic research.
In contrast to what many people think, editors of academic journals have quite a bit of authority regarding how the publication process is organised. Some journals have their roots in academic communities, such as associations or institutes, and therefore have their own statutes and regulations that describe their principles and conditions. So for the same reason that publishers cannot simply change the rules, an editorial board or Editor-in-Chief can often make their own rules regarding accessibility.
The debate about Plan S has also encouraged discussion about the transition to fully open access. That will inevitably lead journal owners, such as academic associations, to ask how they can bring about the transition in a sustainable manner. The University Library’s Publishing Support can also offer advice upon request.
Naturally, there are situations in which editors do not have authority to set the price, conditions or licenses for articles. In these cases, they are naturally free to bring up the subject with the publisher, or to find another publisher that meets the desired conditions.