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Scholarly Communication


Plan S is a manifesto for full and immediate Open Access set out by a coalition of research funders.  Plan S has one goal (full and immediate Open Access to publicly funded research outputs) and ten supporting principles.  There is also a detailed road map, as set out in the revised implementation guidance, issued on 31 May 2019.  Whether all cOAlition S funder members will follow the same path towards the goal, remains to be seen.  In particular, in the UK, the approach taken by UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) will condition local institutional implementation plans.  However, whilst it is important to recognise that there is some degree of uncertainty around the implementation of Plan S, we still need to plan ahead in readiness and anticipation of the changes required by our research funders.  The FAQs and answers below will be expanded as more information is available.  They are based on Plan S implementation guidelines as available at the time of writing.


Last updated: 16 July 2019




What is Plan S?

Plan S is a set of measures to enable the implementation of full and immediate Open Access to the outputs of publicly funded research by 1 January 2021.  Plan S was launched on 4 September 2018, by a group of research funding organisations, with support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (cOAlition S).  The current list of participating funders and supporters of cOAlition S is available from the Plan S website.


When does Plan S come into effect?

Implementation timelines will vary among cOAlition S members, having impact on either, 1) existing grants, 2) new projects/grants, or as a minimum, the Plan S principles will apply to calls published, or application deadlines, after 1 January 2021.


Which research outputs are in scope of Plan S?

All peer-reviewed publications that are based on results from research funded fully or partially by cOAlition S members, published as of 1 January 2021, are in scope.



Articles From 1 January 2021
Monographs and book chapters Not yet required, but expected in future.  Implementation guidance will be issued by the end of 2021
Research data cOAlition S strongly encourages research data and other research outputs to be made as open as possible and as closed as necessary
Preprints The early sharing of research results thorugh preprints is also strongly encouraged



What are the Plan S requirements?


All scholarly articles that result from research funded by cOAlition S must be openly available immediately upon publication without any embargo period.  The publication must be permanently accessible under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) by default, however, the implementation guidelines suggest there will be some degree of tolerance for which licence is applicable.



How do I comply with Plan S? requirements


Once Plan S comes into effect, authors may choose one of three routes in order to comply with Plan S requirements.  These are:

  1. Publish in a Plan S-compliant Open Access journal or platform with a CC BY licence.
  2. Deposit a copy of the Author's Accepted Manuscript (AAM) in a Plan S-compliant repository, wiht no embargo and under a CC BY licence.
  3. Publish Open Access wih a CC BY licence in a subscription journal that is covered by a Transformative Agreement.


What about publication costs under Plan S?


We expect the funding arrangements for the three routes to compliace to be:


  Open Access publishing venues (journals or platforms) Subscription venues (repository route) Transition of subscription venues (transformative arrangements)
Route Authors publish in an Open Access journal or on an Open Access platform Authors publish in a subscription journal and make either the final published version (Version of Record (VoR)) or the Author's Accepted Manuscript (AAM) openly available in a repository without embargo Authors publish Open Access in a subscription journal under a transformative arrangement
Funding cOAlition S members will financially support publication fees.  But only up to 2024?? cOAlition S members will not financially support 'hybrid' Open Access publication fees in subscription venues cOAlition S funders can contribute financially to Open Access publication under transformative arrangements, until 31 December 2024.  Funding will cease afer this date



I want to publish in my journal of choice, but it is not an Open Access journal, or a journal under transformative arrangements. What do I do once Plan S comes into effect?


Authors will still be able to meet the requirements of Plan S, by depositing a copy of the author's accepted manuscript version of their article in a repository, such as Apollo.  The publishing agreement must allow authors to:


1) retain copyright of the work,

2) make the accepted manuscritp immediately available (i.e., no embargo), and,

3) make the accepted manuscript available under an open licence (CC BY 4.0 will be required by default, with some exceptions and by prior agreements with the funder). 


The University will work with a range of stakeholders to develop mechanisms to support authors negotiating their publishing agreements.


What are Open Access platforms?


For the purpose of Plan S, Open Access platforms are publishing platforms for the original publication of research outputs (such as Wellcome Open Research or Gates Open Research).  Platforms that merely serve to aggregate or re-publish content that has already been published elsewhere are not considered as such.  See also Are preprints compliant with Plan S?



What are journals covered by Transformative Agreements?


Subscription or hybrid journals covered by a Transformative Agreement are journals that seek to shift from subscription-based reading and towards open access publishing.  These agreements may be with an individual library - like MIT and Royal Society of Chemistry; a library system - like Cambridge University Press and University of California; or a library consortia - like JISC/Springer Nature and VSNU-UKB/Springer Nature.  Transformative agreements typically include a number of components including costs, copyright, transparency and transitional arrangements.  cOAlition S will acknowledge existing transformative agreements.



How will I know if the journal / platform I intend to publish with is Plan S compliant?


The implementation guidance states that cOAlition S will work with a number of partners to establish mechanisms for identifying and signalling whether journals/publishing platforms, repositories and transformative arrangements respectively fulfil the cOAlition S requirements, and will support the development of a tool that researchers could use to identify venues that fulfil the requirements.  Whilst the details of how this will be managed are not clear at this stage, Plan S implementation will be from 1 January 2021, so we expet that said mechanisms, tool, and/or further guidance will be availalbe before then, to allow individual researchers and research institutions to submit articles for publication in venues that are Plan S-compliant.



My research is supported by one of the cOAlition S funders, what do I do?


At the moment, nothing.  Until funders incorporate Plan S requirements into their grants, researchers do not need to meet Plan S requirements.  In the meantime, you are advised to continue managing any grants you hold as stipulated by your funders, such as submitting claim forms, reviewing payment schedules, submitting reports, and making the findings of your funded research open access as required under existing rules.



Will Plan S and the REF 2021 requirements and timelines conflict?


No, Research England has stated that Plan S will not affect the REF 2021.  See RE's post from October 2018 here.  The date Plan S comes into effect (1 January 2021) is after the submission deadline for the REF 2021 on 27 November 2020.  Although UK Research and Innovation is one of the national funders of cOAlition S, the key principle of cOAliation S is in line with the UKRI's intention that, by 2020, the UK will be publishing almost all of its research outputs open access, which means neither the requirements nor the timelines will conflict.



Are preprints compliant with Plan S?


Under Plan S, the posting of preprints in a repository or a preprint server under a CC BY licence is strongly encouraged.  However, the posting of preprints is not sufficient to be compliant with Plan S.  While preprints-sharing is appreciated, preprints do not replace the final peer-reviewed version accepted by the journal.  See also 'How do I comply with Plan S requiremens'.



What will happen if I do not / cannot comply with Plan S requirements?


cOAlition S funders will monitor compliance, and apply sanctions, which could include:  withholding grant funds, discounting non-compliant publications as part of a researcher's track record in grant applications, and/or excluding non-compliant grant holders from future funding calls.


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