The Company of Biologists’ Open Access journey – a message from our Chairman, Professor Matthew Freeman
As Chairman of the Board of The Company of Biologists, I wanted to share with you the story of our Open Access (OA) journey.
We are a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting and inspiring the biological community worldwide. We do this by publishing high quality peer-reviewed journals, and the income we receive enables us to help biologists in other ways – for example by facilitating scientific meetings, giving travel grants and funding biological societies. The Board of Directors are experienced, senior scientists from a range of life science and clinical research backgrounds.
We have participated in Open Access over the past 16 years as we believe OA publishing leads to broader dissemination and faster reuse, accelerating the sharing of quality information.
We have launched two Open Access journals – Disease Models & Mechanisms and Biology Open. Authors can also contribute OA articles to our three hybrid journals – Development, Journal of Cell Science and Journal of Experimental Biology – under a CC_BY licence, and we deposit their articles into PMC.
However, as a small company, it has been a challenge to find a way to transition fully to OA whilst maintaining financial stability and sustaining quality – and thus being able to support biology and biologists in the longer term. This is because not every biologist has access to funds for APCs at a level that covers the costs of quality publishing. It is also true that there has been much discussion and debate about what the best mechanisms are to promote OA fairly.
Following a great deal of work in association with other not-for-profit publishers, libraries and funding organisations, we decided that Read & Publish (R&P) agreements offered a great way forward for all.
We launched our Read & Publish (R&P) Open Access initiative in November 2019, and were proud to be one of the first not-for-profit publishers to do so.
R&P agreements remove the barriers to reading and publishing articles. They enable biologists to share their work widely without having to pay article processing charges (APCs), and to access all our subscription journals and their backfiles.
R&P agreements are cost-neutral and represent excellent value for money for institutions. For the current subscription fee plus the average of the last three year’s APCs, authors can publish an unlimited number of research articles in our subscription journals.
R&P agreements also support institutions and researchers working to comply with Plan S and funder mandates.
In addition, by securing a baseline of income, R&P agreements will enable us to continue to support and inspire the biological community in the years to come.
This is all made possible because librarians are taking steps to repurpose their subscription budgets to financially support sustainable OA publishing. Following agreements with three national library consortia, as well as with individual libraries, we are delighted that researchers at over 40 institutions in the UK, Israel and Ireland are already benefitting from our R&P initiative, and that OA publishing is increasing as a result.
This has given us the confidence to be one of the first not-for-profit publishers to commit to the Transformative Journal approach, and we are proud to be the publisher of the first journals to be awarded Transformative Journal status by Plan S.
And to finish on a personal note, from my perspective as a working scientist, the best news is that, because the University of Oxford now has an R&P agreement with The Company of Biologists, my group can publish in Development, Journal of Cell Science and Journal of Experimental Biology without paying any APCs.