Plan S – what impact will the new OA policy have on your journal

This blog post has been written by EASE President, Pippa Smart, at the request of some EASE members who have asked EASE for advice about “Plan S”

Open access is an established principle in scholarly communication but the full transition to global OA is nowhere close after almost two decades of discussion. Several grant funders have introduced requirements to mandate OA but still, compliance has not met expectations. To speed up the transition, Plan S was announced last September by cOAlition S; a consortium of (mostly European) funders led by the European Research Council. The proposal would require anyone in receipt of grant funding to make their work OA at the point of publication.

The plan is now supported by 15 funders including several national funders (e.g. Netherlands, Ireland, Finland, France) and a couple of charities, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Of note, the Wellcome Trust is not part of the coalition, although it has voiced support and re-issued its OA policy in line with Plan S (plus some additional requirements over data).

The plan is currently to come into force for all publications in January 2020.

The plan has 10 principles:

1. Authors retain copyright.
2. Funders will set the criteria for what services journals must provide.
3. The funders will support new journals and platforms if none are available.
4. OA publication fees will be covered by the grant funders.
5. The amount of publication fee will be capped (but the cap has not been decided yet).
6. Universities, research organizations and libraries are asked to align their policies.
7. Books will be included later.
8. The importance of repositories is identified.
9. Hybrid journals are not considered compliant.
10. The funders will monitor compliance.

Grantees will be required to make their articles open access at the point of publication under a CC BY licence (i.e. allowing reuse for any purpose including commercial and derivative publications). The work can be published in a subscription journal so long as the accepted version is available, at point of publication, in a repository under a CC BY licence. An OA journal is compliant if it is indexed by DOAJ and uses a CC BY licence.

The main differences between this policy and others are:

1. Publishing OA in a hybrid journal will not satisfy the requirement. (A hybrid journal is a subscription journal that allows authors to select an OA option in return for paying a publication fee.)
2. The plan does not allow for any embargo period – i.e. it stipulates that the article must be freely/publicly available at the point of publication (other policies usually allow a 6- or 12-month embargo period).
3. Compliant journals must satisfy various technical and quality standards.

The proposal has changed somewhat since the original announcement and the consortium issued a call for feedback on their guidance for implementation which closed on 8th February.

Many publishing, library and research groups submitted comments. In general the feedback has been cautiously positive, but many commentators have raised concerns – particularly about the timeline, the lack of consultation and the “one size fits all” approach.

Most of the criticisms relate to publishing implementation and the impact on researchers. Some responses have suggested that the impact on smaller journals, learned and academic societies and university presses will be more detrimental than to the larger commercial publishers.

A web page is available which is tracking and linking to the public submissions. You can also read a summary of the feedback on the Scholarly Kitchen blog.

It is hard to anticipate what impact the plan will have on journal editors. Much will depend on the content of each journal and how many submissions come from grantees of the funders who have signed up to the plan. The plan may serve to deprive some journals of submissions (if the journal is non-compliant). The objective of cOAlition S and Plan S is to force a change in the publishing environment by creating stringent requirements.

Editors concerned about this plan are advised to speak to their publishers. EASE will provide updates through our member newsletter.

Pippa Smart
President, EASE