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Are mirror journals the solution to publishing open access under Plan S?

Broken hand mirror

With funders increasingly stipulating that researchers must publish their work open access, many journals have moved to a ‘hybrid’ publishing model, offering an open access option to authors who pay an article processing fee. This has enabled authors to publish in their journal of choice while complying with funder mandates. However, Plan S, which requires that by 2020 all researchers who receive funding from members of cOAlitionS must publish their work open access, deems hybrid open access as non-compliant with its principles. With the future of hybrid publishing uncertain, what might the alternatives look like?

In a recent blog in The Scholarly Kitchen, Angela Cochran discusses how the introduction of mirror journals may provide one solution for authors if publication in hybrid journals is no longer an option. A mirror journal is a fully open access version of an already existing subscription-only journal. It would have the same editorial board, aims and scope and peer review processes and policies, but would be a separate publication with its own International Standard Serial Number. Cochran describes the advantages of such an approach and the potential complications that may be encountered, including what would happen to the journal’s impact factor. The intention would be for the open access version to displace the subscription-only content, providing a low-risk path for the journal to flip to full open access. This was also the long-term goal for hybrid journals, although the number of journals that have actually achieved this is relatively small.

However, recently released guidance on the implementation of Plan S indicates that mirror journals will also be considered non-compliant “unless they are a part of a transformative agreement” with a “clear and time-specified commitment to a full open access transition”. The argument used in Plan S against mirror journals is the same as that for hybrid journals; they involve business models that charge for both access and publication, also known as double-dipping. The search for a solution that satisfies both authors and cOAlitionS will therefore continue.


Summary by Alice Wareham PhD, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd

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