At Springer Nature we are strong advocates for open science and, as part of this, big supporters of gold open access (OA). Creating a more efficient research system starts with ensuring that the final version of all primary research is immediately and openly accessible from the moment of publication to be used, re-used, cited, shared and built upon. Gold OA is the most efficient way of delivering this, providing authors with increased citations and downloads and giving researchers immediate access to the version of the article they overwhelmingly want to use.
However, for those of us committed to accelerating the transition to immediate gold OA, 2021 has come with a new challenge - the introduction by cOAlition S of its Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) and its determination that zero-embargo green OA be used as an alternative to gold OA. As we have made clear from the outset in our Plan S submission and contributions to blogs and letters, seeking to assert a prior CC BY licence on the accepted manuscript (AM) version of an article risks undermining the transition to immediate open access to the version of record, a goal we had thought cOAlition S shared with us. This RRS/zero-embargo green OA approach forces publishers into defending subscription income since this is the only income available to pay for their per article costs. Further, this RRS/zero-embargo green OA approach has introduced significant confusion for authors with the priority it gives zero embargo green OA even if a journal provides a compliant immediate OA option for the version of record.
In order to minimise this confusion, at Springer Nature we will be taking the following approach to make things as simple as possible, to avoid our authors being placed in a difficult position, and to deliver on our commitment to a sustainable OA path that ensures the integrity of the system.
Our approach here, therefore, like our approach to the OA transition as a whole, is focused on finding a solution for all our authors. Most authors support the OA transition, value the final published version of record, and want to do the right thing with respect to their grant requirements while retaining the choice of where they can submit their research. However navigating a path that ticks all these boxes is not being made any easier by a default requirement from Plan S that constrains how they submit and where they publish - and for those that can't find the funds for gold OA, it essentially puts them in a position where they are asked to make conflicting commitments. Sustainable OA through funded unrestricted access to the version of record is the solution and route to the benefits of Open Science and so we will help them and the OA transition by facilitating this for authors put in this situation.