In Response to Criticism the Plan S Adopts a Flexible Stance Toward Paywall-Based Journals and Hybrid Open Access

Library, University of Bergen, Norway, November 11, 2008 | © Courtesy of Arne Halvorsen/Flickr.
Library, University of Bergen, Norway, November 11, 2008 | © Courtesy of Arne Halvorsen/Flickr.

In its recently published implementation guidelines, the Plan S has translated its initial vision of the transition to Open Access into alternative pathways that create room for different journal publishing models.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

On November 27, 2018, the cOAlition S, which is behind the Plan S for switching to Open Access in multiple European countries, has published guidelines that elaborate on the initial principles of the plan, while reformulating its more contentious points. The task force behind these guidelines has been headed by John-Arne Røttingen, from the Research Council of Norway, and David Sweeney, who chairs Research England. While the Plan S does not give up on its intentions to facilitate an immediate and unrestricted access to scholarly publications from the date their papers appear in scientific journals, its vision for achieving that has changed from an a priori one, such as de facto featuring Gold Open Access as the only permissible option, to an a posteriori one. This has been accomplished by making its declared principles of Open Access independent of the models in the framework of which they are implemented.

More specifically, according to these recent guidelines, publishing with a Plan-S-compliant journal, which primarily favor the Gold Open Access model, can be substituted with depositing either a pre-print or a post-print at an Open Access repository or an equivalent platform that allows Creative Commons licensing (CC BY). In this respect, similar to the growing recognition of publications submitted to Open Access repositories by the European Research Council as valid research publications, the Plan S appears to be charting the course of co-existence with subscription-based publication models.

At the same time, this plan envisions that both journal publishers and their subscription contracts embark on a transition toward Open Access. Moreover, the stress on the immediate accessibility to either published articles or their repository versions that the guidelines continue to demonstrate may be incompatible with the business models of Green or hybrid Open Access journals premised upon exclusive access to recently published articles, which effectively justifies their institutional subscriptions or membership arrangements.

Similarly, whereas the latest Plan S guidelines suggest that the recommended amount of article processing charges will be based on independent studies and covered by universities or foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this can limit the number of fully-compliant Open Access journals in which scholars could choose to publish their findings.

For these reasons, these guidelines have been described by some as overly restrictive, since subscription-based journal will need to consent to allow their published article to appear in Open Access repositories, which is not necessarily guaranteed.

As these guidelines communicate the developing policy behind the Plan S, to come into effect on January 1, 2020, they also promise to make its goals more independent of specific models of Open Access than seemed to be the case previously.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Library, University of Bergen, Norway, November 11, 2008 | © Courtesy of Arne Halvorsen/Flickr.

This post is based on an article that originally appeared in OpenScience, 28/11/2018,

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