Community Over Commercialization: OA Week 2023

Open Access Week is a special commemoration for us as one of the original co-founders of the event, along with SPARC and Students for Free Culture. It shows how far we’ve come, but also what we still have to accomplish. This year’s theme is “Community over Commercialization,” and we’re giving you a sneak peek into how PLOS prioritizes that ethos in our day-to-day thinking.

PLOS started with an open letter. A call to the research community to build a better future through transparency and inclusion, standing in direct opposition to the profit-motivated practices at large commercial journal publishers. That spirit still drives the organization today.

Community Publishing

We are a mission-driven organization that aims to transform scholarly research communication. Most of our readers know PLOS best as a nonprofit, Open Access publisher. The research communities we serve are at the heart of each of our journals. We only launch new journals and open research initiatives after consulting with representatives of the relevant research communities. It’s not our goal to simply add more options to the list researchers have to choose from today, but to consider journals as vehicles for change and identify the role PLOS can play in providing a venue for researchers to share their work more openly. Journal attributes, such as the level of editorial selectivity, scope, editorial policies, leadership/Editorial Board membership and our business models are shaped by community consultation, centering on their unmet needs, and aim to shift research behaviors from closed to open.

Here are just a few ways that we think about our journals and our Open Science mission.

Although the theme of “Community over Commercialization” is evident everywhere at PLOS, it is perhaps best expressed through our publishing program, which is also the truest expression of our Open Science mission.  PLOS partners with like-minded organizations and scholars, and our unique editorial approach is closely aligned with the UNESCO recommendation for Open Science which emphasizes transparency, collaboration, and inclusion; and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which have a global community perspective.

When PLOS decided to launch new journals, we knew had to build them from a new blueprint in order to fulfill our aims and mission namely by:

  • including the broadest range of researchers’ voices globally
  • ensuring that these new Open Science platforms would be shaped at every level by the communities they aimed to serve
  • striving to amplify the perspectives of all researchers and stakeholders in global issues including from Lower middle-income countries
  • leveraging the diversity of the editorial boards, which shape content, policies, and practices that are reflective of the research communities working in these fields

Community funding

As Open Access has grown, we saw a need to try something new: supporting its cost in a regionally equitable way with our focus on community, not profits, which brings us to our business models, which underpin our approach. At issue: Article Processing Charges (APCs) helped demonstrate that Open publishing could be viable and allowed Open Access to become a meaningful force in scholarly communication.

But APCs don’t work for everyone. Not all disciplines or regions have the same level of funding, and publishing costs can deplete author grants and reduce the amount available for research, while for publishers, administering individual publication fees carries significant overhead which leads to higher costs overall.

We firmly believe that all researchers should have the opportunity to both read and publish under an Open Access license, and that solutions for sustainable Open Access publishing need to involve all stakeholders. That’s why PLOS is leading the charge in developing non-APC alternative funding models. All these business models address specific challenges in Open Access publishing and were created with input from the community.

A future of Openness through community

Although PLOS is primarily a publisher, we advocate for Open Research practices because we believe that Open Science is better science—more rigorous, more trustworthy, more equitable, more reproducible, more creative, faster, and more impactful for society. PLOS’ has a built-in philosophy of sharing what we learn (e.g. OS research) and openly seeking input and collaboration in how we innovate is a defining principle of how we work.

PLOS’ mission is to lead a transformation in scholarly publishing from a closed to an Open model. We believe we can best accomplish that by empowering our community to engage in Open Science practices on a large scale, as part of their regular scientific communications while collaborating with other actors in scholarly communication such as institutions, funders, and policymakers to move towards a better Open Science ecosystem.

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