In a pilot phase in 2014, the FWF introduced the possibility of certifying publishers. The main objectives the FWF wanted to achieve for publishers with this measure were:

  • peer review: establishment of its own quality assurance process for the selection of scientific publications and introduction of standards for the peer-review process,
  • transparency: creating transparency in the provision of services, the cost structure of books and their open-access publication,
  • open access: maintenance of uniform standards for the open-access archiving of books. 

Initial successes have been achieved in all three areas: the importance of quality assurance for book publications is increasingly recognised both by publishers and authors. The establishment of uniform standards for open-access archiving of publications and cost transparency are supported by some publishers. The study “A landscape study on open access of monographs” highlights the FWF’s certification of publishers as a positive initiative in the creation of transparency in services and costs and in introducing standards in peer-review processes.

However, the experience gained from three years of applications from certified publishers has shown the FWF that the achievement of individual milestones does not justify the continuation of the pilot; recurring problems have arisen with applications from certified publishers, which question the system as a whole. The disadvantages outweighed the advantages.

One of the difficulties, for example, is the FWF's aim of ensuring compliance with procedural fairness between applications for which the FWF conducts the review and those submitted with reviews by certified publishers. Comparable expert opinions are a prerequisite for a fair decision. However, this comparability can only be guaranteed if uniform criteria are taken into account in the peer-review process. Thus adherence to bias rules is just as much a prerequisite as the peer-review of entire manuscripts and well-founded statements by international experts on the scientific quality of the planned publications. As the FWF repeatedly had to demand amendments in this area, the decision-making process was delayed and the originally intended advantage for applicants of accelerated decision-making when applying with certified publishers disappeared.

Another problem arises from the experience of some authors, which shows that services provided by publishers may indeed have been made transparent, but are not always carried out to the desired extent.

Of course, these problems do not affect all certified publishers, but the accumulation of difficulties has prompted the FWF to discontinue the opportunity for certification with effect from 1 January 2018. Existing certifications remain valid for the duration of the agreed term (five years from certification).

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