Plan S seems to meet with very little approval in Helix

"Plan S contravenes scientists’ freedom to determine in which journal they choose to publish.” University professor René Janssen did not conceal his criticism of Plan S in Helix yesterday afternoon. Emiel Hensen, dean of the Department of Chemical Engineering, often agreed with Janssen, while Chairman of the Executive Board Jan Mengelers asked the professor what he believed the Executive Board should do now that Plan S seems irreversible.

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The second dialogue session on Plan S, which was held in Helix yesterday afternoon, was attended mostly by representatives from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. Plan S, the European plan to make all scientific publications available in open access journals or platforms by 2020, met with little approval at this faculty, as became clear after the tirade with which René Janssen opened the discussion. According to Janssen, who claims not to oppose open access, Plan S contravenes scientists’ fundamental right to determine in which journal they choose to publish. “That should never be determined by the subsidy provider”, said Janssen. He believes Plan S is “a telling example of a plan that was thought up by people who have no experience with publishing in scientific journals.”

Many of the attendees agreed with Janssens’ argument, including dean Emiel Hensen, but young researcher Veronika Cheplygina in the back row wondered whether this dialogue session was the right setting for a “monologue” by Janssen. According to her, Plan S offered opportunities, especially to scientists who are in the early stages of their career and who do not have a large laboratory at their disposal. Cheplygina explained that publication in open access does work for her and that it has led to many invitations for lectures and collaborations.

No voice

In response, Janssen said not to oppose open access as such, but more specifically the way in which Plan S intends to implement it. “Will those renowned journals in which I wish to publish still be available in the future,” he wondered out loud, “and will we have to pay twice as much to make it open access?” According to his ally, dean Hensen, scientists have no voice at all in the discussion on Plan S. He also stated that twenty percent of the total subsidy amount will be spent on matters that have no bearing on actual research.

Rector Magnificus Frank Baaijens and Chairman of the Executive Board Jan Mengelers tried to persuade those present that the implementation of Plan S is irreversible. Mengelers believes it’s important to consider how TU/e will be able to implement the Plan “in the wisest fashion possible.” Baaijens drew the scientists’ attention to the fact that adjustments will be made to the original plan and that an updated version, which is supposed to provide more clarity, is expected to appear by the end of May. He said to strive for a system that keeps the positive elements of the system intact, such as a thorough peer-review, but that does work towards open access for all scientific output at TU/e. “The outcome of negotiations with publishers should be that this under no circumstance leads to extra costs.”

At the end of the session, Mengelers asked the scientists in Helix what they believe the Executive Board should do at this point. “Stop the implementation of this plan,” Janssen exclaimed. Hensen added that the universities should sit down with subsidy provider NWO (the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research) and government representatives. Because the NWO is funded by the government and therefore also plays a role in this matter, said the dean.

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