Where's the beef? I'm looking for a bold plan with lots of action.

Finding a common ground starting point for action is vital. What the scholarly communication community needs is a respectful, collaborative effort to work together on solutions that everyone has a say in developing and that will benefit everyone everywhere. Assessing the wealth of recommendations from OSI2016 and OSI2017 workgroup participants (see the OSI2017 report for details), the most frequently mentioned crosscutting issues were the need for more studies and the need to reform the culture of communication in academia. The most frequently mentioned approaches for reforming scholarly communication were studies, coordination and collaboration, outreach, new tools and programs, improved standards, pilots, resource development, and policy leadership. Plan A’s focus is derived from these recommendations, overlaid with what the OSI group has learned and observed since these meetings about our internal strengths and about the environment for global reform. Specifically, what can realistically be accomplished and has the greatest chance of serving  as a foundation for real and lasting improvement? Plan A is it, and from this effort, trust, accomplishments and progress will build and grow.

Is this a manifesto or a plan?

It’s both—a description of the need to come together to solve a very important problem, and the mechanism for doing so.

This is for the benefit of publishers, right?

Wrong. Publishers need to know what to do. Plan A provides a framework for action that allows everyone to work together instead of everyone rowing in different directions.

Is OSI pro-publisher?

OSI is pro-stakeholder. Everyone deserves a seat at the table, even publishers, who have been targeted for years as being somehow culpable for not providing more information free of charge. The reality is that “free” isn’t a sustainable business model. If we value what publishers bring to the table—gatekeeping, evaluation, editing, structure, organization, dissemination, and global integration—then we need to work with them to create effective and sustainable change. If we prefer to wipe the slate clean and start all over again, that’s an okay perspective too, bearing in mind that this approach has risks and may result in simply reinventing the wheel and ending up with the same costs and issues as before, just different players.

This is a lot of work. Who pays for it?

No one yet. OSI is currently (as of March 2020) seeking support for this plan. Our hope is that at least some of the larger signatories will be willing to each contribute a small amount of support to help get the ball rolling.

A lot of Plan A hinges on having adequate support. Is this a problem?

Yes and no. There is plenty for us to do in the short-term absence of full funding (see funding section for details)—continuing to write grants, write briefs, plan studies, build alliances, advise UNESCO, and more. This said, funding may be on the horizon for specific deliverables. Also, as Plan A gets promoted, funders may come on board (whereas if they haven’t supported OSI in the past, this may be because OSI itself wasn’t proposing to build anything).

What's the relationship between OSI and Plan A?

Plan A is an invention of OSI, representing the collective wisdom of OSI participants. However, in order to ensure that Plan A can grow and evolve in accordance with the wishes of the organizations who sign this plan, the current intent is for Plan A to become an independent group by the end of 2020,  with its own management structure and governance rules. OSI will retain a seat on the Plan A board, and will likely continue to provide the bulk of Plan A’s financial support.

Why 5 years? Why not now?

The open access movement has been pushing for “now” solutions for the past 20 years. They don’t work, because “now” is not an acceptable substitute for appropriate consultation. The scholarly communication community has many stakeholder groups with a stake in the outcome of reform measures. It is essential, both for the success of these reforms and for their long-term sustainability, that the first step in these efforts involves bringing everyone together. From there, who knows? Maybe real reform will take only four years? But continuing to pursue “now” solutions for another 20 years isn’t the right approach.

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