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The German Council of Science and Humanities, the scientific advisory body for the federal and state governments, published its "Recommendations for the transformation of scientific publishing to open access" on January 24, 2022. In it, the panel advocates that open access (OA) should become the standard for scientific publications. The recommendations highlight the role that immediate free access to new scientific knowledge plays in the advancement of science and for society. In the text, the Council highlights three core arguments for transformation, subordinate to the primary goal of "optimal usability(s) of publications":

  1. Strengthen research: Increase the quality of research and accelerate scientific progress through efficient exchange.
  2. Increase societal reception and transfer: Scientific findings are easily accessible outside of academia.
  3. Increase economic efficiency: Innovative capacity, cost transparency and efficiency of the publication system are increased.

"In the view of the Council of Science and Humanities, university administrations in particular are called upon to lead the transformation," the Council's press release (in German) on the publication states. They should dispel reservations about open access and reorganise publication funding. The Council sees the introduction of a transparent information budget as a central task of the administrations here, in order, among other things, to classify actual net shifts due to the OA transformation and to identify untapped potential.

Gold open access as the goal of the transformation 

"The Council of Science and Humanities sees the goal of transformation as being as complete a transition as possible to gold open access (including diamond OA) and recommends gold OA as the preferred path," it says on page 40 of the publication. This is in line with the view that open access is realised when scientific publications are made freely available immediately, permanently, at the original place of publication and in the citable, peer-reviewed and typeset version under an open licence (CC BY).

The Council considers the goal of a complete transfer to gold open access, regardless of the business model, to be realisable in the short term for journals and in the medium to long term for monographs. It emphasises that "Green open access [...] should only be a first step in the transformation and should be replaced by gold open access in the long term."

Publishers become publication service providers

In the view of the advisory panel, the peer review process should remain the standard in the publication system as a quality-assuring selection mechanism. Quality assurance must be clearly separated from the business model of publication services, in which role publishers should see themselves in future. In a press briefing by the German Council of Science and Humanities on Monday, 24 January 2022, Professor Gerard Meijer, member of the Council and Director at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, emphasised that under open access, publishers would no longer be granted exclusive rights. They would thus become publication service providers and compete with other providers. This could strengthen the negotiating position of scientific institutions and contribute to improving innovative capacity, cost transparency and efficiency.

A selection of further demands

In its recommendations, the Council of Science and Humanities also calls for, among other things, neutral search options to ensure that publications can be found – if necessary, using public funds. In addition, the Council emphasises in its publication the importance of scientists in their function as reviewers for quality assurance. In order to ensure long-term archiving, the Council recommends that a network of German institutions be commissioned with a complete backup of all openly available scientific publications worldwide.

You can read the complete document "Recommendations on the Transformation of Academic Publishing: Towards Open Access" here: According to the Council, an English version of the text is in progress.

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