A scientist’s opinion : Interview with Sabina Leonelli about Open access

Open access, a scientist’s opinion

Interview with Sabina Leonelli, Co-Director of Egenis, the Exeter Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences.


How are you involved in Plan S?

Sabina Leonelli ESMH ScientistI am a Plan S ambassador. This is an independent role and does not imply being aligned with everything cOAlition S proposes. As ambassadors, we are tasked with presenting cOAlition S with feedback from the research community and I believe this is very valuable, as we saw at the recent consultation last spring. I am also a member of the EU Commission’s high-level working group on open science.


You have been studying and developing open access models for years and have been involved in drafting the Global Young Academy report on open science. What do you think of Plan S in itself?

Plan S proposes a very ambitious open access model, but you have to keep in mind who is behind it. It is essentially driven by the publishing and funding model of the hard sciences. Social sciences and humanities are somewhat different as they do not always require external funding and they struggle with the restrictions of Plan S. cOAlition S is aware of the need to evolve towards a model that favours researchers over commercial publishers. More specifically, we need to look at what is already being done elsewhere, such as the Open Library of Humanities, where institutions pool resources to create publications with no publishing or subscription fees.


Do you think open access will drive traditional publishers out of business?

At the moment, it’s quite difficult to say how open access will impact publishing houses’ revenues, but I believe they won’t go out of business. The question is rather how they will adapt. Transitioning to OA is obviously a big test for all companies. Some, such as Elsevier, are very critical of open access models that deviate from their business model, while others, such as Springer and Wiley, are changing some of their policies and entering into transformative agreements. We have not yet seen a real shift in business models. On the other hand, libraries are, by and large, enthusiastic about OA being cost-free for authors. That said, libraries need to step up their digitalisation and related skills, and their ability to do this varies enormously from country to country as it also depends on the transparency of funding and administrative setups.

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