Two Big Funders Join Open-Access Movement
Two Big Funders Join Open-Access Movement

Two Big Funders Join Open-Access Movement

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust agree not to cover the fees that some hybrid open-access journals charge authors to make their work freely available.

Nov 6, 2018
Ashley P. Taylor

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust announced yesterday (November 5) that they are endorsing Plan S, an open-access publishing initiative, which means that they will require research they fund to be free to read upon publication, Science reports. 

In doing so, they are joining cOAlition S, an organization launched in September with the goal of making scientific publications open access. The coalition consists of 13 government research funding organizations and two charitable foundations from 13 countries and has support from the European Commission and the European Research Council, according to its website. The additions of the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust bring the total consortium membership to 15. By joining, funders commit to making sure that by January 1, 2020, grant recipients publish in open-access journals or on open-access platforms.

This policy change will prevent research funded by the Gates Foundation or the Wellcome Trust from being published in any journal that charges subscriptions or fees to view articles. It also states that the two organizations will no longer cover the fees that hybrid open-access journals charge researchers to make their content open access. 

Previously, Wellcome covered those fees for its grantees, but as of January 2020, it will no longer do so. “We’re looking to bring about a change where all research is open access,” Robert Kiley, head of open research at Wellcome, tells Science

Plan S principles ban publishing in hybrid journals altogether, Science notes. But Wellcome and the Gates Foundation will not go so far—grantees just have to pay the fees themselves.

The only way to for researchers to publish in subscription-based journals and comply with the policy is for them to simultaneously make the article available for free elsewhere, such as at PubMed Central, Science reports. Most high-profile journals, such as Science, Nature, and Cell, only allow articles to be posted for free after they’ve spent six months behind a paywall, which violates the rule of immediate free availability. 

The new policies put pressure on non-open access journals to change, Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project and the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, tells Nature. “I applaud Wellcome and Gates for taking this step,” he says.