With 170 attendees from 37 countries from all continents, the event was in many ways unique, but especially because the three largest publishers, Elsevier, Wiley and Springer, had been invited to take part, each with a 20-minute presentation about how they view the transition to open access. The CEOs or deputy CEOs from all three also took part. I myself was on a panel of eight participants from five continents, which was given the unique opportunity to comment on the publishers’ contributions, and all with the aim of promoting the joint effort of promoting the transition to open access.

The headline for the conference was “Aligning strategies to enable Open Access” – and this was also the overall topic for the discussions, the results of which were even clearer than expected by those attending. Open Access is now a matter of some urgency for the entire research community, which is accordingly also crossing thresholds, both in terms of subject and geographically, across all continents, but also across different initiatives for promoting Open Access. The key point now is to promote “transformative agreements” based on the “read and publish” principle, i.e. agreements that speed up the transition to open access. We, as seats of learning, currently pay both to read and to publish, while at the same time providing free peer review services and free editing of scientific journals. In practice, therefore, we are paying three times for the “services” provided by the publishers.

What was unique about the conference in Berlin was, in part, participation by the publishers – which, while interesting, required a significantly expanded dialogue in order to achieve decisive results – but also primarily all the global participation. For example, the fact that China, as the most important country in the world in terms of the number of research publications, is now clearly adopting a position in favour of open access is of absolutely decisive significance for developments going forward. Today, we are united globally as never before behind a number of central points. Amongst them is that we all agree that authors should retain their copyright rights, that we all agree on the principle of complete and immediate open access, and that we all agree on the need to accelerate the process, by means of forward-looking, transformative and cost-neutral agreements that are temporary and transitional in nature, but which are clearly intended to speed up the transition to full open access over the next few years. The strong consensus on these points was clear as never before – and possibly surprising for some.

Another important consequence of this meeting was that a number of participants pointed out that there was a fundamental communication problem here. It was only now that many realised – and also pointed out with the greatest clarity– that Plan S was in no way intended to restrict researchers’ publication opportunities, but rather that it was intended solely to exert pressure on the publishers to comply with the needs of researchers, in order to achieve the overall and universally common goal, i.e. open access to scientific publications. This is absolutely essential if we are to achieve our shared objective.