Unraveling The System-Level Effects Of The Plan S Model
Open Access Academic Publishing

Unraveling The System-Level Effects Of The Plan S Model

Kanu Priya
Kanu Priya


  • Plan S is a major open-access initiative launched in 2018 by the "cOAlition S."
  • Plan S has been backed by more than many signatories
  • The Plan S initiative is part of a broader movement called Open Access (OA)
  • OA has accelerated the publishing industry in not one, but diverse disciplines.


Plan S | cOAlition S | Publishing | Research | Open Access


Controversy has raged for years about how to make research published by public-sector researchers more widely available. The current Plan of action, a journal publication with a restricted access license, has been attacked for being too restrictive and expensive. As a result, access to much of that research has been effectively blocked by publishers who put up paywalls, charging the public money to read the results of that work. The European Commission has recently launched a radical initiative to provide public access to all scholarly publications. The idea sounds simple enough: all the papers people pay for should be open access and available on the web. The movement aims to push back the paywall that prevents most research from entering the public domain, and it is a campaign for rapidly expanding open access to scholarly publications. The 11 European countries, including Britain, France, and the Netherlands, have signed up to what is called "Plan S." Plan S is promoted by RCUK, the Research Council of the United Kingdom, and its primary intent is to "make all outstanding research articles open access by default." This article provides a close-up on Plan S and explores how open science will shape innovations.


Plan S is a major open-access initiative launched in 2018 by the "cOAlition S" ( a consortium of international funders) to enhance and optimize scientific publishing. It requires that all publications from research funded by affiliated research funders are made available with open access. In addition, Plan S requires that, from 2021, publications that end up being research funded by public grants be published in the compliant open access journals or repositories. Significant publishers have been planning to accommodate this by offering open access options to authors. "Publishers won't disappear overnight, but they will be under pressure," says Lamy, specializing in open access and a member of the cOAlition S steering committee.

They essentially mean that researchers will need to move their publications away from publishers, such as Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer Nature, which dominate most scientific publishing, and towards open-access journals that don't charge readers.

"With effect from 2021, all scholarly publications on the results from research funded by public or private grants provided by national, regional, and international research councils and funding bodies, must be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo."

β€” Plan S

cOAlition S aims to fast-track the transition to a scholarly publishing system characterized by immediate, free online access to academic publications. Plan S has been backed by many signatories, including the European Research Council, World Health Organization, Wellcome Trust, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The implementation of Plan S will lead to greater transparency in APC spending, a reduction in publishing in predatory journals, and greater visibility and impact for journals that are only published OA. In addition, a free-to-read model means researchers don't have to pay the publishers who host their articles.

Implementation and Compliance of Plan S

Implementation-and-Compliance-of-Plan S
Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/2019_Requirements_for_Plan_S_compliance_in_one_page_by_Philipp_Zumstein.png

The Plan S initiative is part of a broader movement called Open Access (OA), which advocates making available research results online. OA advocates argue that although scientists have long had the freedom of sharing information through peer-reviewed articles, the for-profit publishing industry is increasingly placing access restrictions on the ability to access the content. The Plan is built around ten principles and aims for full and immediate Open Access upon publication without any embargo period.

Why Does Open Access Matter?

Open access has become a truly global movement. Whereas earlier the debate was limited to a handful of academics and librarians, now it is an issue that has found strong resonance amongst policymakers, publishers, and governments. The genesis of Open Access (OA) can be traced back to the early 1990s. It has since then evolved into a complex movement involving large consortia of research funders, universities, and research libraries.

"I think Open Science has huge benefits; the more people you reach, the better. Science should be as transparent and accessible as possible because it should be reproducible and confirmed by others; that is what gives science its power."

β€” Elias Nerad, PLOS ONE Author.

By supplying instant and unhindered access to the latest research, we can fast-track discovery and build a more equitable system of information, data, and knowledge that is open to all. Journal access has been a critical concern for clinicians and practitioners since they usually don't have the resources to pay for colossal copyright fees. Open access publishing makes it feasible for more scholars to access and cite the information. As a result, OA has accelerated the publishing industry is not one but diverse disciplines…

The Rise of Open Access

Source: https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4375/fig-2β€Œβ€Œ

A Diverse Opinion On Plan S

While some journals are relatively selective and thus have higher publication fees, some are also less selective and thus have lower publication fees. It would probably lead to a homogenization of the publishing atmosphere and would mean lesser choices for authors. Still, it will ensure that all publications resulting from publicly-funded research are made available for free online. Still, scientists would be allowed to publish in as many journals as possible, including for-profit open-access journals. It can be done by depositing their publications in open-access repositories and making their abstracts freely available on research portals. Finally, plan S is not demanding that all journals adopt a new business model. Some journals will continue to charge subscription fees, and others will adopt a different business model.

But Plan S is trying to establish a common understanding of a hybrid model and help define its principles.

"Plan S could result in a two-tier publishing system -- creating one set of rules for European researchers and another for researchers from elsewhere; European funders have the right to impose whatever conditions on their funding they wish."

β€” Rick Anderson, associate dean for collections and scholarly communications at the University of Utah.

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