Thursday 26 August 2021

Spotlight on PLOS Community Action Publishing (CAP)


Shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of six for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing. Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers at the ALPSP Awards session on Wednesday 15 September at the opening of the ALPSP Virtual Conference & Awards 2021. The winners will be announced on the final day of the Conference on Friday 17 September. 

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists.

Tell us about your organization

PLOS is a non-profit, Open Access publisher empowering researchers to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication. We’ve been breaking boundaries since our founding in 2001. PLOS journals propelled the movement for OA alternatives to subscription journals. We established the first multi-disciplinary publication inclusive of all excellent research regardless of novelty or impact, and demonstrated the importance of open data availability. As Open Science advances, we continue to experiment to provide more opportunities, choice, and context for readers and researchers.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

PLOS Community Action Publishing is a new, non-APC-based business model PLOS launched in Fall 2020 that uses collection action as a means of making highly selective publishing APC-free. PLOS' aim with non-APC-based business models is to ensure that the open access business model ecosystem doesn't get ‘stuck’ with APCs in the long term. While an appropriate business model for some, APCs are highly exclusionary for many in the global publishing community and PLOS wants to be part of innovating for more diverse, inclusive business models. PLOS CAP is our first attempt at that. We followed it closely with the new PLOS Global Equity model in May 2021.

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

Developed in consultation with libraries and consortia globally, PLOS' Publishing and Partnerships team and Raym Crow (from ChainBridge group) built PLOS CAP over nine months, iterating based on library feedback. We identified the cost we need to cover for the three titles currently involved in the model, an appropriate margin on top of those costs, and worked from that revenue target to determine an inclusive fee structure to spread the cost. Innovations including counting contributing author publication activity (not just corresponding authors), being transparent about our revenue target, and committing to redistributing revenue overages to community members as discounts.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

If you understand innovation as applying ‘creative invention’ to solve a challenge, that is the PLOS CAP model from start to finish. The problem we were trying to solve was making highly selective publishing equitable and accessible -- meaning sky high APCs were not an option for cover cost. The creative invention came in examining ‘collection action’ (it's possibilities and challenges) to address the problem and committing to the transparency and openness the library market requires to engage with a new model. So far the enthusiastic uptake by our library parnters during the worst budget crisis in our lifetimes, speaks to the power of open, transparent collaboration amongst like-minded organizations.

What are your plans for the future?

We aim to report annually on uptake against our targets, and we current share our partners publicly on the PLOS site. We will use conferences, webinars, and other public fora to continue reporting on the ongoing challenges with implementing such a model as well as the positive outcomes it generates. Additionally we've parlayed the ground work required to build PLOS CAP into another new business model focusing on a different equity facet -- geography -- with PLOS Global Equity, which we launched in May 2021. 

For both of these models we intend to report on success/challenges and engage with other publishers. and institutions on how to make these models more successful.

Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2021 website for more details and to book your place. 

The ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2021 are sponsored by HighWire

About the author

Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships, PLOS 
In her role, Sara focuses on developing new business models for sustainable, inclusive open access publishing. As part of the PLOS Leadership Team, Sara's work is reintroducing libraries and consortia to PLOS as essential partners in PLOS' next stage of growth.

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