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The Royal Society sets 75% threshold to ‘flip’ its research journals to Open Access over the next five years

13 May 2021

In an exciting new chapter for its scientific publishing, the Royal Society sets out how it will transition its primary research journals to open access and make more of its world-leading research available to all.

Following a review by its Council, the Royal Society has committed to ‘flipping’ the journals Biology Letters, Interface, Proceedings A, and Proceedings B to a fully open access model when 75% of articles are being published open access.

This transition will be driven chiefly by the expansion of Read & Publish agreements with major research institutions, enabling their scientific research output to be published open access in the Society’s journals.

The process is already well underway, the Society launched Royal Society Read & Publish in January 2021 and has pioneered new agreements – including a shared funding arrangement announced this year with the University of California.

“This project is truly a landmark in the history of the Royal Society,” said Dame Wendy Hall DBE FRS FRSEng, chair of the Royal Society’s Publishing Board. “Just as we pioneered science publishing three and a half centuries ago, I am delighted that we are taking this important step forward to maximise the reach and usefulness of the research we publish.”

To underscore this commitment and to provide an additional compliant route for researchers, the Society will seek “transformative journal” status from the cOAlition S, the consortium of research organisations and funders supporting the Plan S open access initiative.

This requires committing to flip the journals to open access at the 75% threshold, to transparent pricing and to an annual increase in the proportion of articles published open access.

The move follows a review of the Society’s publishing strategy involving both Fellows and other experts. It continues the open access journey the Society began in 2006, with the introduction of open access publishing as an option on all articles and the launch of Open Biology in 2011, and Royal Society Open Science in 2014.

“As a Fellowship of some of the world’s leading scientists, the Society supports open access publishing to maximise the dissemination and impact of high-quality scientific research,” said Dr Stuart Taylor, the Royal Society’s Publishing Director.

“Publishing income supports our internationally recognised journals output, as well as the Society’s wider mission to promote scientific excellence for the benefit of all. 

“We have seen steady growth in open access publishing and over 40% of our articles are now published open access. With Read & Publish, and other transformative agreements, we expect that trend to accelerate and all our research journals to become fully Open Access within five years.

“The approach set out today ensures we can transition towards a transparent and sustainable open access system while continuing to support our wider work.”

Open access policies across the Society’s journals already comply with all existing funder requirements and the past year has seen further rapid transformation in the Society’s publishing processes. 

This includes cross-publisher work to support rapid peer review and publication of research relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic in an open access collection

In total, the Society publishes 10 journals, including the six which are already open access or part of the OA75 commitment. 

The remaining four journals; including the world’s first peer-reviewed journals, Philosophical Transactions A and B; Interface Focus; and the history of science journal Notes and Records, will continue to operate on a hybrid model for the time being.

The Society – along with other publishers of journals which commission content directly from authors – recognises that such journals are unlikely to progress to the 75% open access threshold at the same rate, if at all.

The future publishing model for these journals, and the Society’s wider output, will be kept under review as the publishing landscape continues to evolve and new ways of supporting research continue to emerge.

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