PNN Statement about the implementation of Plan S

Involve and support PhD candidates and early career researchers in the implementation of Plan S

Plan S

On the 8th of septebmer 2018, Plan S was presented by cOAlition S. The initiative strives to establish direct and complete Open Access of scientific publications from January 2020 onwards. It encompasses all publications that are the result of research funded by the members of cOAlition S, including the Dutch NWO and ERC. At its core are 10 principles currently being developed into a set of implementation guidelines.

As representatives of all PhD candidates in the Netherlands, we like to respond and contribute to the debate surrounding the implementation of Plan S. In general, as young researchers, we support the ambitions of Plan S. We fully endorse the joint statement on the implementation by the European representation (Eurodoc, MCAA and YAE), to which PNN also contributed. In this statement, a number of specific proposals are made regarding the implementation of Plan S. We call upon NWO and the other members of cOAlition S to integrate these proposals in the implementation of Plan S, as well as in future debates and initiatives within cOAlition S.

In addition to this joint statement, we would like to address the members of cOAlition S, in particular also the Dutch members, with an important call: make sure that PhD candidates and early career researchers are better informed, supported and involved in the ongoing transition to open science in general, and the implementation of Plan S especially. Below we iterate 4 key concerns we would like the members of cOAlition S to consider while moving forward with Plan S.

  1. Modernizing the evaluation and rewarding of researchers

One of the major concerns for early career researchers on Plan S is the potential disruption for their scientific career. For many research areas most of the ‘high-impact’ journals are currently not Plan S-compliant. However, in the current academic system, publishing a ‘high-impact’ paper is key to advancing ones scientific career, especially for early career researchers. Since Plan S will make publishing in such ‘high-impact’ journals more difficult, the scientific community will have to shift towards an alternative way of evaluating and rewarding scientists.

PNN supports the statement of (the Dutch) NWO and ZonMW on actively debating and pursuing a new system to evaluate and reward scientists. A clear, specific and rapid completion of this transition will be crucial to address any potential career disruptions and concerns for PhD candidates and early career researchers. It should be made clear how open access benefits young researchers, for example when it comes to awarding grant applications. A ‘lost generation’ of young researchers should be prevented: a generation who under the current reward system would not be rewarded for complying with Plan S, but rather suffer negative career consequences. In our opinion, the emergence of such a lost generation would harm the transition to open access by eroding the support among young researchers.

We call upon cOAlition S, and in particular NOW and ZonMW, to provide clarity on this topic as soon as possible. We explicitly call for the involvement of PhD candidates and early career researchers in the design of a new evaluation system which rewards open access. Signing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) would be an important step in this transition. The shift towards a new reward system should take into consideration two key points: 1) avoiding a ‘lost generation’ as stated previously and 2) providing a level playing field and equal opportunities for researchers who do not fall under Plan S to also publish in Open Access journals through ensuring adequate funding.

  1. Involve PhD candidates and early career researchers more actively in the debate

Plan S accelerates the transition to Open Access publishing. This provides both opportunities as well as challenges for early career researchers. We feel that this group is not always represented and involved in the debate surrounding Plan S. If Plan S and the transition to open science is to be a success, engaging and involving young researchers is crucial. PNN represents the interests of PhD candidates in the Netherlands and as such invites NWO and ZonMW as a member of cOAlition S to involve the voice of young researchers more explicitly in the implementation of Plan S.

  1. Lack of Open Access Infrastructure: ‘One size fits all’?

As mentioned by other parties, Plan S does not distinguish between differences in publication cultures across the various scientific fields. PNN is especially worried about young researchers in fields that are still lagging behind when it comes to open access infrastructure, lacking peer-reviewed open access journals. In this regard, Plan S is sometimes ahead of scientific practice. For example, in the field of law, articles are often published in national journals who do not have clear guidelines on open access at all.

We ask NWO and members of cOAlition S to collaborate with junior and senior scientists to make a thorough analysis of the various scientific fields in order to detect and tackle potential practical problems upfront. Where (peer-reviewed) open access publishing opportunities are indeed lacking, this should not be made the responsibility of individual researchers. Where this is the case, alternatives publication methods should be offered to make sure that all researchers can still publish under Plan S. Potential practical problems and solutions should be identified and communicated to researchers in advance.

  1. Financial support

The implementation guidelines contain important features that make open access publishing better achievable for young researchers. Of particular importance to PhD candidates is the financial support by the members of cOAlition S to cover the APCs (‘article processing charges’) so as not to financially burden researchers themselves. We would like to stress that tall publishing fees should be covered fully under Plan S. If such fees would exhaust the already small research budgets of many departments, young PhD candidates will often be the first to be affected.

Finally, we would like to propose an addition to Plan S and ask the Dutch members of cOAlition S in particular to consider to provide also for funding for open access publishing for researchers who do not fall under Plan S. Independent financial support for open access is not always present at universities, making it difficult for PhD candidates to engage in open access publishing due to limited financial support. Although Plan S is an important first step towards open access publishing, extending means and support beyond Plan S for all researcher would help further accelerate the transition to open access, thereby also potentially contributing to more appreciation of the ambitions of Plan S within the research community at large.

Questions or comments can be sent to rob.vangassel@hetpnn.nl or (for press) anne.devries@hetpnn.nl

International Affairs

In 2014 the Dutch national agency on statistics (CBS) published a rapport on the Careers of Doctorate Holders in the Netherlands. The rapport is about the characteristics of this group  such as age, sex, discipline. Furthermore it gives insight into the gross annual income of this group and employment status. It is a helpful read if you are (considering) doing a PhD in the Netherlands. You can find the rapport here.

This year PNN will be broadening her scope in the field of International Affairs. Through the grapevine it has come to the board’s attention that there are some difficulties for PhD-candidates in this field. Whether it be PhD candidates in the Netherlands wanting to expand their horizon past the Dutch borders; or international candidates coming across difficulties in residence or affluent problems. It will be among the goals of this board to address such matters. As 50% of all PhD-candidates in the Netherlands are of non-Dutch descent the importance of this, need not be exemplified. Furthermore due to policy objectives concerning internationalization of education in its most broadest form, as well as a desire by PhD-candidates to improve one’s mind by transcending borders; this should not be left out of our agenda. In order to do so we need to assess where difficulties and problems arise. For this we’d like to ask you for help. If you have come across obstacles in your endeavors as an internationally oriented PhD or an international PhD in the Netherlands could you let us know? Your contact person for matters relating International Affairs is: Daniëlle van Osch – danielle.vanosch@hetpnn.nl

EUA interprets Salzburg strategically

In a paper entitled “Doctoral Education – taking Salzburg forward”[1]the European association of Universities (EUA) is trying to provide a more detailed and practical interpretation of the ten principles that were agreed upon during a Bologna follow-up conference in Salzburg. The paper addresses the importance of the creation of a critical mass. The EUA expresses concern in relation to the current funding system:  “ There is a clear risk that the fundamental values of research are being

undermined by a focus on immediately quantifiable outputs.” This concern is shared by PNN as well. The solution to this issue lies in strategic institutional leadership according to the EUA. This type of leadership should outline priorities and support bottom-up initiatives. Although the value of doctoral research is stressed in the paper, the structural involvement in decision making by doctoral researchers is not offered as one of the solutions. Currently PhD candidates have the opportunity to formally and informally to co-decide in the doctoral policy of the university by taking part in university councils and faculty councils or to join a PhD council. Even though, university council members are oftentimes sufficiently compensated, faculty council members aren’t, and being a member of a PhD council is mostly voluntary. It is evident that PhD candidates don’t opt for joining a participation council due to the extra time and effort involved and the lack of compensation. And finally the different councils don’t have a say in one of the for PhD candidates most important of policy documents: the doctoral graduation regulations. We would suggest (A) to encourage PhD candidates to partake in the councils (B) to compensate PhD candidates sufficiently for their work in the councils (C) to provide right of consent concerning the doctoral graduation regulations to the university councils. The creation of an open discussion with PhD candidates limits itself in the paper to the graduation schools: “They should become fora for exchange and agreement on good practice, and they should be the agent of change that implements good practice in a transparent way. Particular attention should be given to the systematic inclusion of the voice of doctoral candidates.” PNN is of the opinion that this doesn’t reflect the Salzburg ten points in which it is stated: “Doctoral candidates should preferably be engaged in all levels of governance at the university and participate in decision-making.”

PNN supports the significance of the development of the academic career of a PhD candidate as does the EUA in their paper. The need for transferable skills is self-evident. PNN has taken on a proactive role with the establishment of the Professional PhD Program (PPP).[2]It is striking to read in the paper: “Doctoral candidates are the glue in global collaborations; they are mobile and can focus almost exclusively on their own research. International collaboration in doctoral education facilitates the sharing of practices between institutions and allows them to find synergies to develop common research capacity. “By means of a survey[3]among PhD candidates in the Netherlands the picture painted by the EUA doesn’t match with reality. In terms of educational tasks the burden placed on PhD oftentimes exceeds what could be expected. This of course also relates to the legal status of PhD candidates. In some cases contracts are devised in such a way that the scientific PhD trajectory is deprived of its quality. A point that is raised in the ten points of Salzburg yet is conveniently (or purposively) forgotten in the paper. The paper was given the suggestive subtitle: “taking Salzburg forward”. The purpose by which the paper was written, according to the forward of the paper, is to create guidelines for the further development of the doctoral trajectory. Although all ten points of Salzburg are mentioned in the paper (see the insert in blue) points 4,5,7 and 10 are left out entirely. Points 8 and 9 are only scarcely mentioned. For your recollection this is point 4:Doctoral candidates as early stage researchers: should be recognized as professionals – with commensurate rights – who make a key contribution to the creation of new knowledge;

Point 5: The crucial role of supervision and assessment: in respect of individual doctoral candidates,

arrangements for supervision and assessment should be based on a transparent contractual framework of shared responsibilities between doctoral candidates, supervisors and the institution (and where appropriate including other partners).

Point 7: Duration: doctoral programmes should operate within an appropriate time duration (three to four years full-time as a rule).

Point 10: Ensuring appropriate funding: the development of quality doctoral programmes and the successful completion by doctoral candidates requires appropriate and sustainable funding.

 

It is clear and readily apparent that these points are relate to the legal status and position of PhD candidates. Recognition of which is acknowledged in the Salzburg points yet is clearly lacking in the EUA paper. The paper could have included real strategic choices in order to really take on board the Salzburg points and by doing so a choice for high pitched and quality scientific research could be made. In the Salzburg ten points paper, above which the logo of the EUA (amongst others) is seen, it is mentioned that: “Many university representatives would prefer four-year fully funded doctoral programmes in order to achieve high scientific quality and integrity.”

The relation between the legal position and the professional status of the PhD candidate benefits the doctoral trajectory and is to be coupled to the scientific quality and integrity; a strategic choice without a losing side. Why this choice isn’t made in the paper is unclear and incomprehensible. The EUA appears to have insufficient understanding of the ten points of Salzburg. The explication of why this point is so important is included in the Salzburg document which makes this appear to be a strategic choice. A choice that doesn’t do justice to the promise of the subtitle of the EUA paper. The ten points of Salzburg are clear strategic choices, the detailed interpretation is missing less than half of the initial ten points. PNN is disappointed to note that the ten points are interpreted strategically by the EUA. The ten points of Salzburg are no pick-and-choose options but together form a coherent choice. A choice for quality and integrity in scientific research. A choice for sustainability in the pursuit of knowledge and the nurturing of talent. No options but rather a basic model.

[1]http://www.eua.be/activities-services/news/newsitem/2016/04/28/taking-salzburg-forward-new-eua-cde-recommendations-on-doctoral-education

[2]https://promovendinetwerk.nl/2013/05/06/ppp/

[3]http://promovendinetwerk.nl.transurl.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Factsheet-De-promovendus-als-docent.pdf