May 29, 2023
The Royal Society of Chemistry will make all its journals open access

The Royal Society of Chemistry will make all its journals open access

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has committed to making all its journals open access within the next five years. It is the first chemistry publisher to commit to a 100% open access model and hopes to finance the move in a way that avoids individual authors having to pay article processing charges (APC).

Traditionally, publishers of scientific journals relied on journal subscriptions to cover the costs of their activities. But in recent years there has been a growing push for the free sharing of scientific knowledge, regardless of readers’ ability to pay.

For example, the Plan S movement in Europe has campaigned for funders to ensure that the researchers they support publish their results in open access journals. This has led the European Research Council and UKRI to require grantees to publish their work in open access journals. Meanwhile, in the US, all government-funded research must be published open access from 2026. These measures have seen a growing number of journals move towards open access models.

Open access journals generally require authors to pay a one-time APC to publish their papers. This covers the costs associated with managing the peer review process and maintaining the scientific archive and means that anyone can read the journal’s content without having to pay a subscription.

But in announcing its commitment to a fully open access model, the RSC notes that it hopes to negotiate new “institutional or funding level” agreements, where institutions pay a flat fee so that their researchers can publish in RSC journals without they pay individual APCs. These agreements will take regional differences into account so that institutions in poorer countries are not expected to pay the same interest rates as those in richer countries.

The RSC publishes 44 journals in the chemical sciences, most of which still operate on a subscription model.

Dealing with obstacles

“Obviously, moving to full open access is great in terms of making research as widely available to everyone as possible, without barriers to reading. My biggest concern with such transitions is always that if the transition is done as an APC-based approach, it just shifts the barriers from read to publish,” says computational biochemist Lynn Kamerlin, who works at Uppsala University in Sweden. “So actually one of the best things about the announcement in my opinion was the fact that the RSC is very aware of this challenge and is committed to exploring new and other open access models to ensure that this transition doesn’t become a stumbling block. for publication”.

“It is also worth noting that while those most affected are indeed researchers from countries where funds to even conduct research are extremely limited, even in nominally rich countries access to research funds varies widely and APCs can be major barrier to dissemination’. she adds. “I fully support the RSC’s aim to ensure that the majority of the global author community is covered by foundation or funder level agreements and I commend the RSC for this important step in moving towards full open access by addressing so highly the concerns about justice on the agenda.’

Floris Rutjes, a synthetic organic chemist from Radboud University in the Netherlands who is president of the European Chemical Society, says he was “pleasantly surprised” to learn of the RSC’s new commitment to open access publishing, describing it as “a big step forward in the pursuit of open science.”

“A few years ago, I was involved in negotiations between the Dutch universities and the RSC about a new transformative agreement at national level, which was quite complicated with reading and publication figures for the various journals and lengthy negotiations,” says Rutjes. “This situation will become much simpler after the transition to a full open access system. From a researcher’s point of view, I hope that there will still be agreements between the RSC and university libraries so that APCs are paid for by the libraries rather than the researchers themselves, as is often the case when publishing in open access journals.’

In a statement, RSC publishing director Emma Wilson notes that it is “essential” to the organization that all authors retain the same ability to publish regardless of where they are based. “We are aiming for a future in which [open access] Publishing makes the work of authors accessible on a global scale,” he said. “As we saw with Covid research, enabling this level of openness and international collaboration can be a catalyst to accelerate innovation and discovery, creating a better, more sustainable future for all.”

“This is an exciting step for the RSC and our growing portfolio of highly respected journals,” added University of Strathclyde chemist Duncan Graham, who chairs the RSC’s editorial board. “Moving to open access will mean that the RSC can ensure that everyone around the world has the same ability to read and rely on all the important research published in RSC journals, while continuing to maintain high standards of quality and the reputation our community relies on.’

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