Open-Access Program Plan S Relaxes Rules
Open-Access Program Plan S Relaxes Rules

Open-Access Program Plan S Relaxes Rules

In response to concerns from the research and publishing communities, the European group pushes back the deadline for its full and immediate open-access mandate to 2021.

May 31, 2019
Jef Akst

ABOVE: © ISTOCK.COM, ZOOMSTUDIO

In new guidelines rolled out today (May 31), Plan S will delay the deadline for implementing its open-access rules by a year. After much discussion, the group decided that a group of funders known as cOAlition S needed more time to implement the requirement that all research supported by them be made completely open access (OA) as soon as it is published.

“2020 was considered to be too ambitious by the research community and publishers genuinely wishing to change,” Marc Schiltz, president of the Brussels-based advocacy group that officially launched Plan S, tells Nature.

When it was announced last September, Plan S was met with criticism about the practicality of implementing such a change. The draft guidelines for how it would be rolled out received about 600 responses that helped organizers revamp the plan. “[Plan S architects] have engaged in a good quality dialogue” with those who will be affected by the initiative, Lidia Borrell-Damián, director for research and innovation at the European University Association in Brussels, tells Science.  

See “Plan S: The Ambitious Initiative to End the Reign of Paywalls

The biggest change is the one-year postponement of when the full open-access mandate of Plan S will take effect; it will now apply to 2021 research proposals, which will start to affect publications over the following years. In addition, Plan S organizers have scrapped the proposed limit to the amount of money funders will provide for journals’ OA article-processing charges (APCs). The new guidelines also discuss ways in which researchers can comply with Plan S and clarify the initiative’s stance on publishing practices such as hybrid journals that charge both subscription fees for readers and APCs for researchers who choose to publish OA articles.

On the whole, cOAlition S “really seem[s] to have listened to the research community. There are no major sticking points anymore,” Gareth O’Neill, a linguist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, tells Science. “Now, we’ll watch them, see what works and what doesn’t, and hold them accountable.”

Not everyone agrees with O’Neill. Uppsala University structural biologist Lynn Kamerlin, who coauthored a November 2018 open letter that called Plan S “too risky” and now has some 1,800 signatories, calls the changes “cosmetic and trivial.” Kamerlin tells Science, “They more or less ignored the critique.”

“It gives more breathing space to those who have to effect this transition,” Paul Ayris, director of library services at University College London, tells Nature. “But 2021 will still be a challenge.”