The close of 2018 brought promising news for supporters of Plan S, a European initiative striving to make all publicly funded research freely available by January 2020. Librarians and funders in China have pledged to make the results of publicly funded research free to read immediately upon publication. The announcement, made at the Open Access 2020 (OA2020) conference in Berlin, provided a significant boost for the open access movement.
According to a news article in Nature, position papers from China’s National Science Library (NSL), National Science and Technology Library (NSTL) and Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) have expressed support for Plan S “to transform, as soon as possible, research papers from publicly funded projects into immediate open access after publication”. Xiaolin Zhang, chair of the Strategic Planning Committee of the NSTL, stated that it is “economically and politically” wrong that China must effectively ‘buy back’ publicly funded research from publishers. At OA2020, Zhang provided assurance that open access is a matter of priority in China, and confirmed that the government will now encourage Chinese funders, research organisations and academic libraries to make the results of publicly funded research freely available to read and share as soon as possible.
Although it was known that China was considering backing Plan S, the confirmation was somewhat unexpected by key stakeholders. Robert-Jan Smits, chief architect of Plan S, commented that their joining “so soon and unambiguously is an enormous surprise”. When and to what extent China will begin implementing new policies is yet to be confirmed. Nevertheless, Smit described China’s commitment as a “crucial step forward for the global open access movement” and revealed that two more non-European countries are expected to sign up to Plan S imminently.