England’s Royal Society of Chemistry: Transformative Agreements

In News by Porter Anderson

The Royal Society of Chemistry, founded in 1841, finds itself with almost 50 transformative agreements in Canada, Mexico, and the States.

An aerial view of Montreal, April 2021. The Royal Society of Chemistry’s portfolio of North American transformative agreements includes 13 in Canada. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Chulapat Puangsaroj

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Transformative Agreements: ‘An Essential Stepping Stone’
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the academic and scholarly world’s march toward open-access models hasn’t moved as quickly as many would like. The late-June release of Europe’s Coalition S initiative for open access called “Plan S” was plainly presented as a disappointment.

Closer to the ground, if you will, however, there are parties gamely announcing progress and achievements, among them the London-based 182-year-old Royal Society of Chemistry (the URL of which, yes, looks like that of the Royal Shakespeare Company).

In a message to us from the society, the organization is amending its earlier information from August 11 to clarify that there are 35 transformative agreements currently in play in North America. The society—which has an international membership of more than 50,000—reports, by year:

  • 2018: One agreement (the society’s first in the United States, with Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • 2019-21: Three agreements (all in the United States)
  • 2022: Seven agreements (all in the United States)
  • 2023: 35 agreements (21 in the United States, one in Mexico, and 13 in Canada)

The new communication from Sean Douglass then reads: “The total number of read-and-publish agreements we have in North America is 35 at present–I can only apologize for the wording used in the release. The year-by-year breakdown represents the number of such agreements at the end of each year, rather than the amount of new deals signed in that particular year. Taking this year so far as an example, we have signed 28 read-and-publish agreements, hence the jump from seven to 35. That should have been made more explicitly clear and I am very sorry for any confusion.”

The Biden administration in August of 2022 announced its controversial requirement that by the end of 2025 all taxpayer-funded research will have to be made freely available to the public as soon as a final peer-reviewed manuscript of a report is published. The chemistry society in England is now mentioning this as one of the factors that has accelerated its agreements, along with the society’s own plans.

“On the back of the US government’s open-access mandate and our own open-access commitments,” the society reports, “the number of deals has grown rapidly within the region every year, with 2023 seeing 28 new deals, including our first agreements with partners in Canada and Mexico.”

Bosshart: ‘To Access and Contribute to the Latest Discoveries’

Sara Bosshart is the Royal Society of Chemistry’s head of open access, and she’s quoted today, saying, “We were very excited last year to announce that we aim to make all of our fully society-owned journals open access within the next five years. Open access is at the core of our mission to help the chemical sciences make the world a better place and by making our 44 society-owned journals free-to-read, we’ll be providing unrestricted global access to all of the cutting-edge research we publish.

Sara Bosshart

“A key priority for our transition,” Bosshart says, “is to ensure that our international author base continues to have the same ability to publish in our journals. For this reason, we’re planning to spend the next two years working with our world partners, institutions, and community to develop new open-access models that function at an institutional level, rather than relying solely on author publication charges.

“Transformative agreements are an essential stepping stone in our [progress] toward 100-percent open access as they form the basis for future open-access agreements and allow us to transition gradually from subscriptions to open access. They also strengthen the relationships we have with our United States institutional partners and create a forum for conversation and collaboration toward a joint open-access future.

“Our end goal is an open-access future that ensures that everyone, everywhere, has the same potential to access and contribute to the latest discoveries in the chemical sciences and beyond—and we’re looking forward to working collectively with our community to achieve this vision.”

The term “read-and-publish” may not be familiar to you. The royal society refers to it as an alternative to the traditional subscription model. The society’s information on this approach reads, “With a read-and-publish agreement in place at their institution, article processing charges will be covered by the institution in all hybrid Royal Society of Chemistry journals so that authors can publish gold open access. Authors will also receive a 15-percent discount on article processing charges for gold open-access Royal Society of Chemistry journals, and readers will have access to every paper in our journal portfolio.”

Peter Hranjec, the society’s senior sales executive, is quoted in today’s news, saying, “Growing our read-and-publish community in North America is an important step in ensuring that high quality research is as accessible as possible to researchers everywhere and further underlines our commitment to open access.

“The partnerships between the Royal Society of Chemistry and these institutes are paving the way forward toward open-access transformation.”

The society lists on its site a group of recent “read-and-publish” community additions, comprising:

  • Florida Atlantic University, United States
  • National Research Council, Canada
  • Cinvestav Ipn, Mexico
  • University of Chicago, United States
  • Rockefeller University, United States
  • University of South Florida, United States
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro, United States
  • University of Connecticut, United States
  • University of Idaho, United States
  • University of Nevada at Las Vegas, United States
  • University of Nevada, Reno, United States
  • North Dakota State University, United States
  • Colorado State University, United States
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory, United States

More from Publishing Perspectives on academic and scholarly publishing is here, more from us on open access is here, more on transformative agreements is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s publishing market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.