Plan S was launched in September 2018 by cOAlition S (a global coalition of research funders) in order to effect a decisive shift to Open Access (OA) for the research that they fund. Despite a number of initiatives in recent years, these have been at the national level and different approaches have made them hard for researchers to understand. They have not provided sufficient incentives for researchers, institutions, funders and publishers to make all the changes necessary to make a full transition to OA. Members of cOAlition S include the European Research Council, UKRI, Wellcome and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Plan S has two primary objectives: to recognise the importance of open research (often referred to as open science, but intended to apply more widely to academic research) and ensure that funder policies require and support it; and to address longstanding and substantial financial pressures caused by the combination of year on year journal subscription increases and the emergence of article processing charges (APCs), known as Gold OA, as the preferred option.
The release of the first draft of Plan S in 2018 caused concern amongst researchers, publishers and universities as the proposals had the potential to be very expensive, and to create unintended consequences. There were particular misgivings in relation to the possible impact on small and society publishers, the implications for research outputs in other forms (particularly monographs), and the potentially significant expense associated with moving to full Gold OA by removing ‘hybrid’ journals (where both subscription and OA options are offered). The University of Aberdeen emphasised these risks in its response to the consultation.
The revised proposals respond to key concerns from the community. In particular, they address the need for more time by extending the timeline by 12 months to 2021, so research outputs resulting from funding calls from 1 January 2021 will need to comply. Additionally, publishers now have until the end of 2024 to make the transition from subscription business models to full OA.
Additionally, the revisions address the following points:
- More options for transformative arrangements are supported, making it easier for publishers, libraries and Jisc (as negotiating agent) to work together on sensible and affordable journal deals;
- Plan S is clearer about its support for a variety of models for OA, and stresses that Open Access does not have to be accomplished through individual APCs;
- The technical requirements expected of repositories to support the Green route to OA (deposit of final accepted manuscript in a local repository) have been made less stringent. However, where Green OA is selected, manuscripts must be made available immediately, with no embargo;
- A commitment by funders to value the intrinsic merit of the work and not consider the publication channel, its impact factor (or other journal metrics), or the publisher. This is in line with the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), which the University of Aberdeen is now considering adopting;
- Monographs are excluded and will form a separate process (still to be announced);
- While the default reuse licence option remains CC BY (the most liberal licence), funders can permit a more restrictive when it can be justified. This responds to the concerns of a number of publishers and researchers about reuse permissions. The proposal is very clear that copyright should remain with the author or the institution, and should not be signed over to a third party.
A rationale for the revisions is available on the cOAlition S site.
It is expected that cOAlition S members will make their own decisions on the way that they choose to implement Plan S. UKRI announced in April that there will be a public consultation later this year as part of a review of their OA policy and have previously indicated that they do not feel bound to implement it exactly as it is written.
On 31 May 2019, The Wellcome Trust announced that they will align their policy with Plan S and as a consequence have extended their own deadline by 12 months in the same way. This is helpful both in terms of allowing more time and by reducing the issues caused by multiple funder policies with differing implementation dates.
The University Library will continue to work with Jisc and other research libraries to engage funders and publishers as policies continue to evolve.
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