Currently, Spain occupies one of the first positions in open access (OA) publication worldwide, being the European country with the second greatest percentage of its scientific output available in OA (40.5%), only slightly behind the UK.1 However, one of the most important features of OA in Spain is that the green and the gold routes have not developed at the same rate.
Spain, along with most other countries at the beginning of the OA movement, opted for the green route to offer open access to scientific publications. This decision meant that in a short period of time, a large number of repositories were created, increasing from 13 repositories in 2005 to 135 in 2012.2 In 2018 there were 173 repositories registered in the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), making Spain, along with the UK and Germany, one of the countries with the highest number of repositories in Europe. Set against this, at a qualitative level Spain has ten institutional repositories within the global Top 100 in Transparent Ranking,3 which assesses the visibility of the content of repositories in Google Scholar.
This support for the green route is also reflected in the policies of academic publishers, where Spain ranks as the European country with the fourth largest number of self-archiving policies. This highlights the fact that only 4% of publishers do not allow self-archiving.4 There is some support for the gold route nationally, such as participation in the SCOAP3 initiative,5 but there are few examples of this in practice.
The ten principles of Plan S6 establish a series of requirements that must be met by researchers who receive funds from cOALition S signatory agencies and that directly affect journals, repositories and even the form of evaluation of scientific activity. The publication of the Plan S implementation guide7 has led to multiple reactions – both for and against – from universities, researchers, publishers, and so on.
There is no doubt that Plan S will have a great impact in Spain, generating a series of challenges and opportunities that must be studied from varying viewpoints. However, in order to understand the exact scope, it is necessary to analyze the Spanish context; specifically, the legislative framework, policies and mandates in favour of OA, as well as the relationship between scientific output in Spain and OA.
At the heart of OA lie the researchers, a heterogeneous group with inconsistent participation in OA due, in part, to the influence of the professional evaluation system. In Spain this evaluation system is predicated primarily on the impact factor of publications. However, OA publication is also seriously affected by the contracts that transfer rights which authors usually accept by signing a copyright agreement when submitting their papers. In order to ensure compliance with OA, new initiatives such as Plan U8 and South America-AmeliCA9 have recently appeared. However, Plan S has had the greatest impact due to the support of important funding agencies.
The first major mandate was from the European Commission, which launched an OA pilot experience with the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7),10 extending to all research projects funded by Horizon 2020.11 These mandates clearly indicate to researchers that they must deposit the publications in repositories that OpenAIRE12 collects, as well as the metadata13 for the validation of the compliance with the mandate and its link to CORDIS.14
In Spain, four or five funding agencies are to be found depending on whether we consult Sherpa Juliet15 or MELIBEA,16 which, together with the OA policies of the universities (24 listed in RECOLECTA),17 create an ecosystem that promotes and encourages open access.
Mandates were first introduced in Spain in 2011 with the Royal Decree which regulates official doctoral teaching.18 This stipulates that once a doctoral thesis is approved, it will be archived in open electronic format in an institutional repository. Additionally, Article 37 of the Spanish Law on Science, Technology and Innovation19 indicates that state-funded research results which are published in journals should be accessible in OA repositories in their final version. However, the same Law cedes to the conditions of some publishers, with Article 37.6 allowing that, if the publisher does not allow an author to disseminate the work in OA, the author will be deemed to comply with the Law even if though the work is in closed access.
Some institutions have been making efforts advocating for OA:
All of the above initiatives have encountered difficulties in monitoring compliance with the mandates. The Spanish standards, unlike those established in other European projects, did not establish a detailed procedure, meaning that a number of issues were left open, such as the requirement for the metadata to be included in the publications for its transfer to the repositories. In contrast with some other countries, no effective monitoring proposal has been developed.25
In order to estimate the impact that Plan S might have, it is necessary to analyze the Spanish scientific output over recent years, especially in relation to OA. For this purpose, during February 2019 the data from Web of Science (WOS) and InCites covering the 2013–2017 period were analyzed – specifically, the number of articles published by Spanish authors.
According to WOS, of the 280,335 articles published, one third are available OA. The increasing trend of OA articles over time compared to the total number of articles published is significant (see Figure 1).
Having analyzed the routes articles took to OA publication, it can be seen that 47% of articles were published in OA journals,26 i.e. pure OA journals, and 11% in hybrid journals. On the other hand, 53% of the published articles are in repositories, which is consistent with the strategy of strengthening repositories in Spain. In spite of that, it highlights that in recent years there has been an increase in the gold route, especially through publication in journals listed in DOAJ, compared to the trend for hybrid journals (see Figure 2).
Finally, according to InCites, the main funders of research involving Spanish authors are the European Union (EU) and the Government of Spain, followed by the different autonomous governments. These funders make up 50% of the articles financed. These data are especially relevant, since the possible adoption of Plan S in Spain would have an important impact on Spanish scientific publication.
The implementation of Plan S poses several challenges for Spanish scientific communication, as listed below.
In addition to offering open access to a greater number of scientific works, the implementation of Plan S in Spain also presents a number of other opportunities, such as those detailed below.
Although everyone may support the idea of OA, just as from the outset it was divided into gold and green routes, there are still great differences in views (from publishers, researchers, funders or institutions) on the optimal way to achieve it. Plan S, though it has received great support, has seen less enthusiasm from publishers. It has also received more than 600 individual and institutional comments52 on its implementation, mostly relating to the technical requirements for journals and repositories. It is a great opportunity to improve Plan S, but it will be necessary to measure the timeline and requirements requested.
A disruptive change for Spain will be the centralized payment of ACPs, rather than researchers dealing with them directly. This change will help combat predatory publishers while allowing monitoring, and will give greater transparency to the APCs without increasing current costs. We hope to see how it materializes in the upcoming national negotiations with Elsevier, Springer Nature or Wiley, as requested in the commitment of the CRUE to implement open science in Spain.53
We have to wait until June 2019 for the report that will help the government to decide if Plan S affects, as some researchers say, ‘their academic freedom by preventing them from publishing in journals of their choice’ (hybrid journals). It does not seem that this new scenario will affect the institutional evaluation of researchers based on the classification of the journal where they publish. Aligned with the Plan S, CRUE’s commitment pushes for changes to the evaluation model, focused on researchers with ‘the implementation of more comprehensive indicators, not only quantitative and based on publication impact indexes’.
The adhesion of Spain to Plan S would have a direct effect for researchers54 and for OA, since EU and state plans constitute about 50% of research funds. Repositories, in addition to offering a means of preservation, can be a fundamental tool for monitoring the fulfillment of mandates thanks to their connection with the institutional CRIS (current research information system). With possible refinements, it seems that Plan S is here to stay.
A list of the abbreviations and acronyms used in this and other Insights articles can be accessed here – click on the URL below and then select the ‘full list of industry A&As’ link: http://www.uksg.org/publications#aa
The authors have declared no competing interests.
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