Academy of Social Sciences response to Plan S, and UKRI implementation

12 February 2019

Introduction

1. The Academy of Social Sciences (AcSS) is the national academy of academics, learned societies and practitioners in the social sciences. Its mission is to promote social science in the United Kingdom for the public benefit. The Academy is composed of nearly 1400 individual Fellows, 44 Learned Societies, and a number of affiliates, together representing nearly 90,000 social scientists. Fellows are distinguished scholars and practitioners from academia and the public and private sectors. Most Learned Societies in the social sciences in the UK are represented within the Academy.

2. This response to Plan S is informed by particular concerns relevant to the social sciences. We believe, however, that many of the issues we raise are also more widely relevant, including to some STEM subjects.

Summary

3. The AcSS supports the principle of open access as an important public benefit. A key question though is how best to implement this principle, and how to balance it against other principles (academic excellence, autonomy and freedom). Balancing open access is not just a question of balancing one principle against another but considering how in practice open access can be broadened, while not undermining the conditions for producing excellent research and ensuring that an appropriate degree of academic autonomy is supported.

4. Like many other respondents, the Academy of Social Science has concerns about the method and speed of implementation proposed both by cOAlition S and, in the UK, UKRI. We are concerned that these plans are still accompanied by little detail in many important areas, and little empirical evidence about possible effects on the wider systems and structures within which academic research in produced (as well as consumed), or of the effects on different disciplines. We do not believe that ‘Gold’ access is the best solution in all cases; we think that Green (and hybrid) journals are capable of meeting aspirations for wider access.

5. We believe that cOAlition S, and in the UK, UKRI and others, should engage more widely with a range of stakeholders to consider relevant evidence about systemic effects, looking also at distributional effects (between early career and established researchers; research in different parts of the world; and researchers from different disciplines) and a range of possible
unintended consequences, including the effects on the social sciences. This should inform proposals about how to implement aims to improve open access, but would require changes to the timetable announced by cOAlition S.

6. The Academy of Social Sciences and its member Learned Societies would be happy to co-operate in any such exercise and to work with others, including the British Academy or the European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities, to ensure the effects on all disciplines were taken into account.