ESA seeks input on gold OA, Plan S and the future of publishing

The President of the Ecological Society of America has written a nice blog post on the ESA website about the changing nature of publishing (and how this influences societies and their finances). The short answer is it has big impacts!

As I wrote a few weeks ago, a potentially new seismic shift is happening due to Plan S which seeks to go for pure Gold OA (100% OA journals) and eliminate hybrid OA, green (post a PDF on your website) OA, and other models like JSTOR and old fashioned subscription based models.

ESA is on top of this change and is seeking your input. Read the whole blog post for lots of good thoughts. But if you are tight for time, I have excerpted their request for input:

We are of course very interested in what our members think about this complex issue! Are you currently limited in your ability to access the literature – especially recent papers – and would you be in favor of a rapid shift to open access for ecological research publications? If you are active in submitting and publishing research papers – do you normally have the financial resources to cover the costs of article processing for fully open access journals? Do you have ideas about how to subsidize or afford the publication of papers in these OA journals from authors who cannot afford the processing charges?

ESA will assuredly be affected by continued evolution of the business model for scientific publishing. In order to understand the impact on our members’ professional lives, and not just on our revenues, it is important that we hear from you. I look forward to reading your thoughts. Email (, and use “publications” in the subject line. We will keep our members fully informed as Plan S and related developments move forward.

9 thoughts on “ESA seeks input on gold OA, Plan S and the future of publishing

  1. I’d be curious for a follow-up post from the ESA with various roughly-costed scenarios, to make the choices facing the society concrete and concentrate the minds of members. Including scenarios for alternative ways to keep the publication fee down. Like, if we switch all the ESA journals to gold OA, how low can ESA keep the publication fee if, say, we close the ESA’s Washington office and let all those employees go? How low can they keep it if they forego all copyediting and typesetting? What if ESA gets rid of every journal but Ecosphere? Etc. Those are just made-up scenarios, of course, and ones I personally wouldn’t favor. They’re just meant to illustrate the sort of concrete considerations that I think ought to drive the discussion among the ESA membership. Not an easy discussion to have, of course, since some options might well have knock-on effects such as causing ESA membership to drop.

    Also, foreshadowing next week’s linkfest: we have a link to a news piece in Science indicating that, at least at the moment, the main US and Canadian funding agencies have no interest in joining Plan S. I wonder if one possible near-term future is that N. American society journals continue with the status quo and just forego submissions from investigators funded by agencies participating in Plan S. Note that I’m not saying that’s a *desirable* future–personally I think it’s worse than the status quo. Although it might be less bad than some possible alternatives…

    Question: is there any currently-existing example of a *selective* gold OA journal that breaks even, as opposed to being subsidized from some other source? I ask because I recall back when Plos first started that they started with selective journals that lost money despite the high publication fees. Plos One–an unselective gold OA journal–was invented in large part to capture more publication fees from authors, thereby allowing it to subsidize the money-losing selective journals in Plos’ portfolio. Is something like that a realistic future for ESA journals? Can Ecosphere subsidize the ESA’s selective journals if those selective journals switch to a gold OA model?

      • Well in the sense that EU funding bodies will be paying open access fees, but those open access fees make the work viewable not only to European taxpayers but to everyone around the world. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting plan-S, but on a first look, it does appear to be subsidizing article viewing around the world.

    • “Question: is there any currently-existing example of a *selective* gold OA journal that breaks even, as opposed to being subsidized from some other source?”

      I bet Nature Communication breaks even, but the APC is $5000+.

      Is there any selective gold OA journal with an APC <$2,000? I'm not aware of one.

      As you may be getting at and Tim Vines repeatedly points out there is a cost to selectivity. If you take Tim's # of $400/review and you reject 90% of the papers that 1 in 10 that is accepted has to pay for 9 ($3600) that were rejected (not to mention its own review but also its own production costs and overheads like rent, marketing, billing, etc).

      I'm hoping to do a post this month on the economics of APC.

    • I find the notion of deepening the divide between where North Americans and Europeans publish depressing and detrimental to science. If you look at citation networks, the divides are already much to deep already without any help.

  2. Why do gold OA journals not charge each submission a lower fee, possibly in lieu of APCs? I can see concerns about it discouraging submissions – but any author submitting to these journals would already be prepared to pay the APC. This would probably also benefit the author somewhat, since you’d be able to submit several places before paying the same cost as you currently do.

    • If I understand, you’re suggesting that journals charge to submit a paper for review instead of charge an APC for papers that are accepted? As per my discussion with Jeremy above, you’re right that this would lower the fee at selective journals. Although on average it wouldn’t change the amount authors pay (unless you think you’re such a good author you think you can beat the odds on average accept rates). It also wouldn’t lower the fees lower than the journals that are basically “accept all scientifically valid papers” like PLOS ONE or Ecology and Evolution which are already $1500 and up.

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