The Knowledge Exchange and Transitional Open Access for Smaller Publishers

The launch of Plan-S has created a great deal of interest surrounding the potential benefits, as well as complications surrounding a policy mandating full and immediate Open Access (OA). Institutions and organisations continue to discuss the implementation of the plan but have expressed concerns about what they are really meant to do in order to comply with the requirements. Even after a period of consultation with various stakeholders about the ten requirements, many are still in a waiting pattern, not out of any insouciance, but to see what others will do first or more immediately focused on the next REF. Consultation with different stakeholders can obviously be a time-consuming task.

The Knowledge Exchange (KE) is an organisation made up of six partners:  CSC in Finland, CNRS in France, SURF in the Netherlands, Jisc in the UK, DFG in Germany and DeiC in Denmark. A recently published study from the KE showed that even big publishers are challenged to comply on requirements, for example the ESAC/KE recommendations on OA article metadata to support OA workflows and monitoring; small and medium publishers, therefore, are a group who need additional attention and support. Many smaller publishers have a strong desire to engage in the dialogue and work in order to meet the expectations from cOAlition-S; however, others may still have some consternation regarding time and resources.

The KE partner countries share the vision of Open Scholarship and immediate access to all publicly-funded research and have launched initiatives to help small publishers with their efforts to make a transition to Open Access and/or comply with the recommendations in Plan S. Below are some of the activities undertaken in five of the six partnering countries.

The UK:

On 11 September 2019, Information Power released a report and a tool kit for their international project, “Society Publishers Accelerating Open access and Plan S (SPA-OPS) project”, which has as its ethos the desire to help small publishers develop and implement Open Access policies which comply with Plan-S. The SPA-OPS project is now complete, and their results, namely the report and the toolkit, are designed to help support learned society publishers accelerate their transition to Open Access and enter into transformative agreements that unlock a multi-year transitional pathway compliant with Plan S for hybrid OA titles.

Connected to it, in the UK, Jisc is leading the way in negotiations with small publishers, having agreed 5 pilots that are now available for 2020. The first of these negotiations came to fruition back in October with the announcement that Jisc has reached a two-year pilot for an open access agreement with the Microbiology Society. As Jisc Collections’ Licensing Manager, Kathryn Spiller said, “We are thrilled to have worked with universities, funders and the Microbiology Society to create a transitional model that allows 100% of UK output to be published open access on a cost-neutral basis.” Wellcome Trust’s Robert Kiley also said “Following the work we commissioned with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) to help learned society publishers transition to full and immediate Open Access, I am pleased to see these cost-neutral transformative agreements come to fruition and I hope others will follow the lead of the Microbiology Society.” Dr Peter Cotgreave, chief executive of the Microbiology Society, also stated that “We are delighted to have forged this agreement with our first national consortium for the benefit of microbiology researchers in the UK. As a small publishing Society, we are keen to introduce models to promote new, innovative and country-wide OA publishing across our portfolio of journals.” Over the course of November, Jisc released four additional transitional pilot agreements with small, learned society publishers: Portland Press, IWA Publishing, the Company of Biologists and the European Respiratory Society; all now offer transitional journal agreements through the national Jisc consortium. These agreements allow participating institutions unlimited read access to the publishers’ hybrid titles and unlimited open access publishing in these titles for 2 years, with some allowing unlimited publishing in their open access titles, too. The pricing is based on current spend on subscriptions and APCs and is fixed for 2 years with a 2% increase in year 2. The Wellcome Trust has also confirmed that it will allow its funds to be used to support these agreements with up-front fees based on historical funding.

Jisc is in talks with many more society publishers with the aim of getting as many as possible signed up to transformative deals before the policy changes in 2021. In addition, the toolkit available from Information Power does much to help small businesses and institutions who are just starting to look at options to comply with open access policies, such as those from Horizon 2020 and its correlate, the Open Research Data Pilot.

The Netherlands:

The VSNU and University Libraries in the Netherlands are talking to a number of publishers about transformative deals: Brill, European Respiratory Society, IWA, Microbiology Society and Portland Press. This is part of an international project which makes use of the toolkit commissioned by Wellcome and UKRI in partnership with ALPSP. The tool helps to make it easy to set up agreements with smaller publishers that meet Plan S requirements. The Netherlands is adapting the toolkit to make it more suitable for the Netherlands, including a way to handle contracts in the Netherlands. Following on from this, a workshop was held on how transparency of costs can be fleshed out. Scaling up of the agreements with small publishers has been planned for the beginning of 2020 and will be supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.


The Danish Open Access strategy have a vision to create free access for all citizens, researchers and companies to all research articles from Danish research institutions financed by public authorities and/or private foundations via parallel filing of quality-assured research articles in institutional repositories with Open Access.

The target is that from 2025 onwards, there should be unimpeded digital access to all peer-reviewed scientific articles from Danish research institutions – with a maximum 12-month embargo: Alongside this, the Open Access Indicator helps to follow the progress on national and university levels. Both the National consortium and the individual universities strive to negotiate lower embargoes, ideally with a zero-embargo similar to Plan S.

Even though Denmark has a national Green Open Access policy, there are many Open Access journals in Denmark and an infrastructure is offered by, a national Open Access platform and the Royal Danish Library’s portal for the publication of professional, scientific and cultural journals in digital full-text. It is a part of Denmark’s National Strategy for Open Access, which is supported by the Ministry of Education and Research. There has been an increase by 18 in number of Open Access journals in 2018, with a total count now at 117 OA journals with immediate OA out of 147 hosted on the server.


In France, the main research funding structure, the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), is a member of cOAlition S and has contributed to the development of Plan S.
For the time being, work with medium and small publishers is not yet very advanced in terms of compatibility with Plan S. It is, however, possible to mention two trends:

An intense debate has been going on for several months within the French HER institutions regarding transformative agreements, namely asking whether they are the best strategy to transform the scientific publishing ecosystem. Should we not consider solutions that bring researchers and scientific communities back to the centre? Opinions are divided and, at this time, the discussion is not settled.


In Finland, Open Science activities are coordinated by The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. In 2019, expert groups from four areas of Open Science (data, access, learning and community) have worked to identify essential tasks to advance Open Science. The first part of the national policy of Open Access to scholarly publications has been published in Finnish, Swedish and English.

The guidelines and actions also affect small publishers, and one of the objectives is to find a publishing model that enables immediate Open Access to research articles published in Finland. Many Finnish publication channels are small, and the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies is responsible for developing and maintaining the service, which is intended for editing and publishing scientific journals. The platform makes it smoother for smaller publishers to move to Open Access publishing.

HE organisations have made their choices to support Open Access channels, and many of them have agreements with smaller publishers already in place. The FinELib consortium is advancing Open Access in its negotiations, as well, but the priority has been on big publishers until recently; however, consortium policies for Open Access are increasingly supporting a diversity of channels.

Much work still needs to be done, but as Bas Cordewener, coordinator for the Knowledge Exchange, stated in the December 2019 newsletter, “The purpose of Knowledge Exchange is to exchange knowledge, build expert networks and cooperate between partners, with a special focus on Open Access and Open Scholarship. KE has an open eye for emerging opportunities to enhance and support an open higher education and research infrastructure.” It is with this particular ethos in mind that KE continues to focus on the efforts of smaller publishers in the larger open access landscape.


2 replies on “The Knowledge Exchange and Transitional Open Access for Smaller Publishers”

I should also like to add that the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (TSV) is running a project with DOAJ to increase the number of Finnish journals in DOAJ. Starting with a list of 160 journals provided by TSV, we will run a series of workshops helping journal staff and editors understand what needs to be done to submit a full and proper application to DOAJ. The first workshop, held in December, resulted in 4 applications, the first one of which was accepted into DOAJ yesterday.

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