April 15, 2021

Spain analyzes whether it adds to universal and free access to research publications | Science

Spain analyzes whether it adds to universal and free access to research publications | Science

In just a few weeks, the comment period and replies to the plan S, the European initiative so that research financed with public money is published only in journals and platforms that allow universal and free access after 2020. Neither Germany nor Spain have adhered for the moment, but the debate is already on the table.

"In the Ministry we know well and we are supporters of the plan S", explains Rafael Rodrigo, general secretary of Scientific Policy Coordination of the Ministry of Science, to EL PAÍS. "Robert Jan Smits, his promoter, contacted me some time ago and both the director of the State Research Agency and I have been exchanging information with him," he explains.

Rodrigo recognizes that, within the open science bets, "this plan S it's a bit aggressive, even disruptive. "" That explains, "he says," why in all of Europe there are several communities of scientists that are not in favor of this plan"

It is not the case of physicists. "Because physicists are used to being able to share in common repertoires our preprints [artículos previos a la impresión], which gives us access to all the science of our area in open. We do not even need the plan S", emphasizes this Spanish astrophysicist, who began his research career at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, where he devoted himself to exploring the solar system in projects with NASA and ESA.

  Robert-jan Smits, in charge of Plan S.
Robert-jan Smits, in charge of Plan S.

But in other sectors, in molecular biology, in medicine, in chemistry, that dynamic that he knows up close is not yet established. "That does not mean that biologists, biochemists or engineers are opposed to open accessNot much, "he says." They support him as long as they do not detract from his research projects, "adds Rodrigo, and that is what is currently in doubt.

That doubt has a lot to do with your pocket. "All of us who have had projects in Europe, myself included, know that the community forces us to publish in open," he says. But do not forget that a vast majority of open access journals require that scientists pay to publish.

If we did the same in Spain with each and every one of the projects that are financed in our country, according to Rodrigo, there would only be two possible solutions. "Either pay the institution to which the researcher belongs, and we are not in a position to impose such a charge, because they would throw us over and rightly, or pay it from the Ministry, but within the research projects." "Option B", he clarifies, "implies that, as the funding available for scientific research is fixed, if we increase the item to address the costs of the open access they will be able to finance fewer projects ".


Robert Jan Smits defends swiftly that money is not an obstacle to implement the plan S because, once normalized the open access, the institutions would stop spending so much money to subscribe to the magazines and could allocate those resources to publish. "Money would only change places, but it is clear that this would be in the medium term," Rafael Rodrigo replies. At first, scientific production would suffer, because no expense would be cut, but quite the opposite.

Rafael Rodrigo, general secretary of Scientific Policy Coordination of the Ministry of Science.
Rafael Rodrigo, general secretary of Scientific Policy Coordination of the Ministry of Science.

The Spanish government is taking steps, but it is still premature to advance a decision. "The president of Science Europe, Mark Schiltz, who is very involved in the plan S, he met with the president of the CSIC and with the director of the State Research Agency to discuss the issue in bilateral conversations, "says Rodrigo.

Ismael Rafols was not in that meeting, but he also has a lot to say. This researcher is part of the editorial committee of Quantitative Studies of Science (QSS). "It's an example of a truly open magazine, because we've managed to get it published without paying, because it pays for an institution, the International Society of Scientometrics and Informetrics," he explains. "I am critical of the current situation, because it is a model in which one pays to read and in which one oligopoly of a few private companies they control magazines and indexes and they make a big business. Without going any further, Elsevier has a benefit of 40%, according to some estimates, "he adds.

But Plan S does not convince you either. "Give absolute primacy to the golden way [la publicación en revistas de acceso abierto], relegating to a secondary role the green way, that is, to the public repositories in which to share articles at zero cost. My question is, in the rush of plan S, which is from top to bottom, are left out some interesting alternatives, "he stresses.

This issue is also worrying Remedios Melero, researcher at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology, CSIC and editor of the scientific journal Food Science and International Technology. "In the final version of the plan S, I would love for the greenway, the institutional repositories, to be on the same level as the golden way, "he emphasizes, because that would give him" a more holistic vision. "But simultaneously he applauds that the first measure of plan S be that the copyright of the scientific articles is in the hands of its authors.

"There is unanimity in the scientific community about the idea that the science that is paid with public money must be accessible to the public and to all scientists for free," Rodrigo emphasizes. But he recognizes that being the first to take the giant step proposed by the plan Simpose open access, it can suppose almost a "suicide" if before the consequences are not valued and an estimate of the economic impact is made very clear. "If we do it, we should do it well, not in a crazy way," Rodrigo emphasizes. "If Spain adheres to this plan, we assume the responsibility of being a measure for all researchers in our country, and that implies different communities with different sensitivities and needs." That is why he announces that the Ministry will only "make the political decision once valued by the state agency, what are the economic repercussions".


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