Towards Responsible Publishing

Towards Responsible Publishing 736 524 Open and Universal Science (OPUS) Project

A Proposal from cOAlition S


New scientific discoveries are built on the foundation of established results from previous research. For this chain of knowledge to function optimally, all research results must be openly accessible to the scientific community. As Marc Schiltz stated in “Why Plan S,” the global push towards full and immediate Open Access (OA) has become an unstoppable trend over the past five years. However, academic publishing practices have lagged behind, failing to keep pace with the rapid advancements in the way science is performed, disseminated, and utilized. This growing disconnect jeopardizes the goal of universal OA for research outputs.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the necessity for faster, more efficient publishing models. Traditional publishing systems were too slow to disseminate critical and urgently needed information about SARS-CoV2. In response, scholars worldwide have adopted new practices to improve the dissemination and peer review of research findings, such as sharing articles before peer review and participating in open peer review processes. Innovative models like “diamond” publishing, which provide scholar-led services free to authors and readers, have been championed by research institutions, particularly in Latin America. These developments demand that funders and other stakeholders, including university libraries, rethink how best to support the dissemination of research responsibly, equitably, and sustainably.

In this document, cOAlition S proposes a vision and set of principles for a future scholarly communication system. This system aims to align with the evolving needs of the research community, promote open science, and address the challenges of the current publishing models. A consultative process will be undertaken to gather input from the research community, with a revised proposal to be considered by cOAlition S funders in June 2024.

The Dominant Publishing Models Are Highly Inequitable

Most academic journals sustain their operations through subscriptions, article processing charges (APCs), or both, creating significant barriers for researchers. Subscription paywalls hinder access to relevant research findings, while APCs can prevent researchers from publishing their work. While acknowledging that publishing incurs costs, cOAlition S believes all researchers should be able to publish their work as Open Access without facing author charges.

Key Challenges in the Current Scholarly Communication Ecosystem

  1. Delayed Sharing of Research Outputs: The pre-publication peer review model causes significant publication delays, sometimes taking longer than traditional print and postal distribution. In the digital age, a 12-month delay in releasing new knowledge is as detrimental as the previously common 12-month open access publication embargo.
  2. Underutilized Peer Review Potential: Peer review, while essential for quality control, is often confidential, hiding the efforts and insights of reviewers. Repetitive and confidential reviewing processes waste earlier peer review reports’ insights and undermine the quality control and accountability of authors, reviewers, and editors.
  3. Editorial Gatekeeping and Career Incentives: The rejection-resubmission cycle, coupled with career incentives linked to editorial gatekeeping, burdens scientists, particularly early career researchers. This cycle threatens the well-being and persistence of the next generation of scientists in academic research.

Why Scholarly Communication Needs to Change

The problems with the current scholarly communication ecosystem can be distilled into four key challenges. cOAlition S proposes a scholar-led communication ecosystem to address these issues. This ecosystem empowers scholars to share their research outputs and participate in new quality control mechanisms, ensuring rapid and transparent dissemination of high-quality scientific knowledge.


This document focuses on scholarly communications related to research articles and associated content elements, such as peer review reports, author responses, and editorial decisions. While other research outputs like monographs are important, they are beyond the current scope. Open Science, as defined by the UNESCO Recommendation, covers all disciplines.


cOAlition S envisions a community-based scholarly communication system that empowers scholars to share their research outputs and participate in quality control mechanisms and evaluation standards. This approach ensures the rapid and transparent dissemination of high-quality scientific knowledge.


The following principles support this vision:

  1. Authors Control Dissemination: Authors, not third-party suppliers, should decide when and where to publish their work, including pre- and post-peer review versions and associated peer review reports.
  2. Immediate and Open Sharing: Researchers should share their outputs openly, allowing others to adapt, reuse, and build upon these results at no cost to themselves.
  3. Community-Based Quality Control: Academic communities should set and monitor quality standards through open quality control processes, publishing peer review reports to enable transparency and trust.
  4. Inclusive Research Assessment: All scholarly contributions should be considered in research assessment, with their value determined by relevant research communities.
  5. Support for Scholar-Led Publishing: Stakeholders, including funders and institutions, should support the development and adoption of community-based publishing, respecting disciplinary differences and epistemic traditions.

Opportunities to Engage

A scholar-led communication system is not a new concept but builds on existing good practices. Researchers, service providers, funders, and institutions must work together to put scholarship at the center of scholarly communication. Researchers will need to take an active role in disseminating their outputs and contributing to open peer review. Service providers must tailor their services to support scholarly contributions. Funders and institutions should incentivize and reward practices aligned with these principles and provide financial support for infrastructure and services.


cOAlition S aims to facilitate the transition to an open, scholar-led communication ecosystem in partnership with the research community, through funding requirements and research assessment processes.


The Plan S initiative has enabled unprecedented levels of Open Access research. However, current models, such as Read and Publish agreements and APCs, remain inequitable. Pre-publication peer review delays sharing, and inaccessible peer review reports hinder responsible research assessment. The proposed scholar-led communication ecosystem addresses these issues, building on existing good practices and aligning with recent conclusions from the Council of the European Union and UNESCO.


The consultation process, running from November 2023 to April 2024, aims to refine the proposal based on input from the research community. Details on how to contribute can be found at: cOAlition S Consultation.

Example of a Scholar-Led Ecosystem: Publish, Review, Curate (PRC) Model

The PRC model distinguishes three core functions of scholarly communication: publication, peer review, and curation. This model ensures the full and immediate sharing of scholarly outputs, with authors deciding when to publish unreviewed publications, exposing their work for formal review, and having curation editors select peer-reviewed papers for publication.

By proposing a transition to a scholar-led communication system, cOAlition S seeks to create a more equitable, efficient, and transparent scholarly communication ecosystem, fostering the rapid dissemination of high-quality scientific knowledge.

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