Open Access Week 2018

October 22, 2018, by Julie Baldwin

Open Access Week 2018: Plan S – Radical change or not radical enough?

The first of our daily blogs for Open Access Week features the newest policy development in open access, Plan S.

Beth Montague-Hellen, Senior Research Librarian for Engineering, gives first thoughts and reactions…

On 4th September 2018 cOAlition S, a group of research funding agencies from across Europe, released Plan S, a set of principles around open access funding. These principles describe how cOAlition S believes open access publishing should move forward into a more radical era, and all researchers who are funded by one of the members of this group, which includes UKRI, will have to comply with the policy.

On first reading, it was shocking – particularly to the big publishers. Springer Nature released a statement that Plan S “potentially undermines the whole research publishing system”. But does it really undermine publishing? What are the big changes and do these have the power to change the landscape?

It’s important to remember that in the UK, unlike some other countries with funders in cOAlition S, we already have open access mandates in place. All outputs for REF 2021 need to be made either green or gold open access, and researchers who are funded by UKRI grants have a further set of regulations they already need to follow.

Plan S tightens these mandates further, but currently only for those researchers who are funded by UKRI grants. One of the largest changes is likely to be that hybrid journals (journals which still rely on a subscription funding model but which will also allow you to pay for your article to be made gold open access) are no longer an acceptable route through which to publish, although a transition period will be allowed.

Is the banning of hybrid journals by Plan S likely to change, or as Nature would have it ‘undermine’, the entire publishing system? It’s hard to know. Although there are funders from across Europe signed up to the plan, many national agencies have yet to join. Without a large coordinated effort is it possible to change the landscape? Will publishers just be able to carry on as usual by publishing articles from outside of Europe? If so, European researchers will be restricted in their publication choices, but with very little impact on the publishing landscape.

However, if cOAlition S gains followers, if more agencies sign up, if Universities decide to widen the policy to include more of their researchers, then maybe a sea change is on the horizon. Publishers allowed UK authors to set shorter embargos on green open access articles in response to REF 2021 mandates rather than lose their business, perhaps Plan S will force big publishers to similarly change their practices.

If you’d like to air your views on Plan S or ask what it might mean for you, then join us for a live Twitter chat on Plan S today 12-1pm. 

Posted in AcademicsResearch Support