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Preprint Open Access

Comments on "Factors affecting global flow of scientific knowledge in environmental sciences" by Sonne et al. (2020)

Pourret, Olivier; Irawan, Dasapta Erwin; Tennant, Jon P.; Wien, Charlotte; Dorch, Bertil F.

There are major challenges that need to be addressed in the world of scholarly communication, especially in the field of environmental studies and in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Recently, Sonne et al. (2020) published an article in Science of the Total Environment discussing some of these challenges. However, many of the arguments put forward by these authors are lacking precision and are based on an incomplete understanding of Open Access (OA), Plan S, and broader issues in scholarly publishing. In our response, we focus on addressing key elements of their discussion on (i) OA and Plan S, as well as (ii) Open Access Predatory Journals (OAPJ). The authors mischaracterise OA and Plan S as restricting author choice, especially regarding the payment of article-processing charges. The reality is that ‘green OA’ self-archiving options alleviate all of the risks they mention, and are even the preferred ‘routes’ to OA as stated by their own institutional and national policies in Denmark. In alignment with this, Plan S is also taking a progressive stance on reforming research evaluation. The assumptions these authors make about OA in the “global south” are also incorrect, and fail to acknowledge some of the progressive work being done in regions like Indonesia and Latin America. Finally, Sonne et al. (2020) highlight the threat that OAPJs face to our scholarly knowledge production system. While we agree generally that OAPJs are problematic, the authors simultaneously fail to mention many of the excellent initiatives helping to combat this threat (e.g., the Directory of Open Access Journals). We call for researchers to more effectively equip themselves with sufficient prior knowledge of relevant systems before making public statements about them, in order to prevent misinformation from polluting the debate about the future of scholarly communication.

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