Transformative Journals: Frequently asked questions


Author FAQs

Librarian FAQs


Author FAQs

What are the benefits of Open Access publishing?

It is clear that free-to-read and Open Access articles have higher usage because the articles are easily accessible to a wider readership. In future years, we will be reporting on the metrics for Open Access versus other content. Our preliminary data on citations are mixed, with two of the hybrid journals showing slightly higher citations to Open Access content but one journal showing slightly lower citations to OA content – we therefore have no reason currently to believe that Open Access status alone has a beneficial effect on citations.

What is Plan S?

Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018 and comes into play from 1 January 2021. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders. Plan S requires that scientific publications that result from research funded by cOAlition S funders’ grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.

cOAlition S endorses the Transformative Journal approach.

Is this Plan S compliant?
Yes, our commitment to the Transformative Journal approach makes us Plan S compliant, which supports those of our authors with cOAlition S funding. By continuing to offer author choices, we ensure that we support our whole author community whatever their funder and financial status.

How do I know if the journals comply with other funder mandates?

We believe we currently comply with all funder mandates and provide a range of options to ensure that authors can publish with us – these include fully Gold Open Access CCBY options and free PMC deposition for e.g. NIH authors, in addition to free non Open Access publication.

What are Transformative Journals?

Transformative Journals proactively champion Open Access publishing and have Open Access growth targets. By providing a transition period, the model acknowledges that not all of our authors are ready for Open Access (which requires support from their funders and institutions) and ensures that every author in our community can continue to publish with us.

How are Transformative Journals different from hybrid journals?

As hybrid journals, Development, Journal of Cell Science and Journal of Experimental Biology already offered Open Access publishing options. As Transformative Journals they will continue and extend their Open Access support by:

  • gradually increasing share of Open Access content year on year
  • promoting the benefits of Open Access publishing
  • providing transparent metrics for published articles
  • providing comparative metrics for Open Access articles compared with subscription content
  • providing greater transparency on the services covered by the APC
  • offering ‘transformative’ Read & Publish deals to libraries/consortia
  • continuing to offset subscription revenue to avoid ‘double dipping’

What are the three publishing routes for authors?

Authors will still have the same three routes to publication as we transition towards full Open Access:

  1. Free publication (not Open Access)
    With this option, the author pays nothing at all. The article is available to our subscribers for six months and is then freely available to everyone after this time.
    This option might appeal to authors whose funders and institutions do not mandate Open Access and authors who do not want to choose Open Access or pay an Open Access fee. This option could be important given the financial challenges expected in the university sector due to COVID-19.
  2. Gold Open Access (author pays)
    The author will pay an article processing charge (APC) to publish their article Gold Open Access. Articles will be published under a CCBY licence and will be available to everyone immediately upon publication.
    This option will appeal to authors whose funders or institutions mandate Gold Open Access or to authors who prefer to publish Open Access.
  3. Read & Publish deals
    The third option is for authors whose institutions have taken up one of our new Read & Publish deals. These cost-neutral deals are agreed with librarians and provide unlimited access to all of our content plus they allow corresponding authors from that institution free and unlimited publication of Open Access research articles. These agreements therefore support institutions and authors working to meet funding requirements and to make Open Access the default publishing choice.

What is a Read & Publish deal?

We were one of the first not-for-profit publishers to offer ‘Read & Publish’ agreements to libraries and library consortia. They offer unlimited access to all journal content and also allow corresponding authors to publish free and unlimited Open Access research articles.

How do I know if my institution has a Read & Publish deal?

Please refer to our list of participating institutions. New Read & Publish deals are being agreed regularly and when institutions join us, we will update this page as well as announcing it on our social media channels.

If your institution is part of a Read & Publish agreement, we recommend that you select the journal’s Gold Open Access option during submission of your manuscript. An APC payment link will be sent to the corresponding author at acceptance and waivers will be applied automatically based on the institution details provided at submission. Publication will proceed following verification by the institution and articles will be published under a CC-BY license.

If my institution is not listed, but I would be interested in publishing under a Read & Publish agreement, what can I do?

You can only publish Open Access for free if your institution has signed one of our Read & Publish agreements. We do encourage interested authors to inform their librarian of the option and guide them to our webpage. These agreements are cost-neutral and support institutions and authors working to meet funding requirements and to make Open Access the default publishing choice. We would be happy to talk to your institution about setting up a Read & Publish agreement.

Which policies cover which article types?

When we report our % Open Access against Open Access growth targets, this measure will include research content such as Research Articles, Research Reports and methods/techniques papers.

Authors of front section articles, such as Reviews, also have the option to pay an APC should they wish to publish Open Access (but these articles will not be included in our reported % Open Access for research content).

Our Read & Publish agreements cover Open Access publishing for research content only: Research Articles, Research Reports and methods/techniques papers. The exception is the Jisc agreement with institutions in the UK, through which corresponding authors can also publish free Open Access front section articles, such as Reviews.

What are the Open Access fees or APCs for the journals?

The APCs on the three hybrid journals are: £2,750/$4,000. APCs don’t always cover the costs of quality publishing, which include: quality peer review; support for academic editors; plagiarism and image manipulation checks; text editing; layout; and online hosting, dissemination and archiving.

If you pay for Open Access publication and we fail to fulfill our Open Access commitments, an APC rebate is available.

Can I request a waiver on the APCs for the Transformative Journals?

Throughout the transition period authors will still be able to select free non-Open Access publication in addition to the Gold Open Access options. As free publication remains an option, we will not grant APC waivers. Please note that a waiver scheme is in place on our fully Open Access journals, Disease Models and Mechanisms and Biology Open.

Do you make a profit from the APCs that authors pay?

No, the APCs don’t always cover costs and in fact the hybrid journals currently subsidise our fully OA journals, which only break even before overheads.

I don’t have funds to pay for Open Access publication – can I still publish in the journal?

Yes. Simply pick free non-Open Access publishing. With this option, the author pays nothing at all. The article is available to our subscribers for six months and is then freely available to everyone after this time.

As a Plan S funded author, can I use the Rights Retention route to provide my Author Accepted Manuscript Open Access in order to comply with my funder mandates?

Plan S have emphasised that their preferred route to compliance is Gold Open Access for the final published Version of Record and this is provided through the Transformative Journal approach – supported by Plan S – either by paying an APC or through an institutional Read & Publish agreement. We will also deposit any Gold Open Access articles into PubMedCentral on the author’s behalf. Therefore Plan S authors do not need to deposit an Author Accepted Manuscript CCBY.

What is the timeline for transition?

The Plan S transition period is currently 1 January 2021 – 31 December 2024.

Development, Journal of Cell Science and Journal of Experimental Biology aim to:

  • grow the proportion of Open Access research content by 5% year on year (or 15% in relative terms) over the transition period 2021—2024. This will require the support of funders and institutions as we promote Open Access publishing to their authors. To allow flexibility, the annual growth targets may be spread over a rolling 3-year period.
  • transition to full Open Access when the journals reach 75% Open Access research content. Journals could transition earlier with the support of the journal communities. Financial support from cOAlition S funders for hybrid journals ends 31 December 2024.
  • report annually on our transformational journey. Our Open Access growth targets are challenging and require real changes in the marketplace such as funder mandates (including financial support for Gold Open Access) and more libraries/consortia taking up our Read & Publish deals. We will monitor our progress on this transformational journey closely and will openly report on it, highlighting successes and areas of concern, ensuring we work together with stakeholders to maximise the chances of success.

What happens if the journals don’t meet their % Open Access growth targets during the transition period?

We will be promoting Open Access publishing to our authors and providing routes for them to choose Open Access – we will also be promoting our Read & Publish agreements to libraries/consortia to support authors in this regard. We therefore do expect our % Open Access research content to grow year on year. But we absolutely respect author choice and acknowledge that many of our authors will require new support from their funders/institutions in order to choose one of our Open Access options. We will be working closely with our cOAlition S stakeholders to demonstrate that we are making real efforts to grow Open Access research content and that our efforts are producing results.

The pattern of Open Access uptake is currently different for each of our hybrid/transformational journals and the pattern for Open Access growth during the transition period may also be different for each journal.

What happens in 2025 when the transition period is over?

If, by 2025 or earlier, the three journals have reached 75% Open Access research content, they will flip to fully Gold OA journals. We believe this would reflect real changes in the publishing landscape and that our communities of authors (supported by their funders and institutions) would therefore be ready for this change at that time. We will be working closely with our stakeholders to maximise the chances of success.

If the 75% OA threshold has not been reached by 2025, then the Company will need to consider whether enough progress has been made along the OA pathway to justify an OA flip and crucially whether the change is supported by the journals’ author communities (which will depend in large part on the policies and support provided by their funders and institutions).

Our decision may need to be different for each of our hybrid/transformational journals.

If you have additional questions we haven’t answered, please contact us at info@biologists.com.

Librarian FAQs

If the % Open Access increases, will that not devalue my subscription?

We are committed to providing a clear and fair service to both authors and subscribers. We have processes in place to make sure that there is no double dipping, meaning that when the Open Access income of the journal increases, the subscription prices will fairly reflect these changes. Read & Publish agreements especially, which combine article access and free Open Access publication, will continue to be excellent value for institutions/consortia.

How do the journals avoid double dipping?

To avoid any perception of double dipping, all revenue received from APCs is fully returned through subscription pricing. This has been our practice for several years. Because the levels of Open Access have both increased and decreased from year to year, we apply a three-year smoothing so that subscription prices do not jump up and down from year to year.

What are the benefits of Read & Publish agreements?

These agreements are cost-neutral: pricing is calculated on the basis of current subscription spend plus the annual average APC spend over the last three years. You will also benefit from:

  • unlimited access to our three subscription journals – Development, Journal of Cell Science and Journal of Experimental Biology – including the full archive dating back to 1853
  • free and unlimited Open Access publishing for all corresponding authors under CC-BY licence terms, with authors retaining copyright
  • support for institutions and authors working to meet funding requirements and to make Open Access the default publishing choice
  • transparent pricing plus ease of administration with no separate article processing charge (APC)

How do I find out more about Read & Publish agreements?

Libraries and consortia can find out more on our Read & Publish pages or contact subscriptions@biologists.com.

We are one of the first not-for-profit publishers to offer Read & Publish agreements to libraries and library consortia.

Are the journals providing transparency around pricing and metrics?

As Transformative Journals, from 2021 we will provide more transparency around pricing and publishing metrics in line with the Plan S Price and Transparency Framework developed by Information Power.

In the interests of openness, we are now posting 2019 data with a few small updates based on our contributions as pilots during the Information Power transparency project (the format therefore varies slightly from the final published framework).


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