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Public feedback to shape Plan S implementation guidance


People Icons with Dialogue Bubbles

Plan S is the action plan of CoalitionS which aims to bring full open access to all publicly-funded scientific research by 1 Jan 2020. A call for feedback on the implementation guidance of Plan S, which closed 1 February 2019, generated a wealth of public responses from more than 600 individuals and organisations. In the spirit of openness championed by cOAlitionS, all feedback will be made openly available; however, many respondents, such as the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, have already published formal statements. Others have taken to social media platforms such as Twitter to voice their opinion. Overall, there appears to be strong support for open access, but the approach to implementation received both positive and negative responses.

A preliminary analysis of the publicly-available feedback by the Scholarly Kitchen (the official blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing) reveals broad themes related to the feasibility and validity of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach’. A move to a ‘gold’ open access model financed by article-processing charges (APCs) was considered well-suited to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, where such costs are already defrayed by research grants, but social science researchers often do not have the same funding provision. The need for a more tailored approach taking into account discipline and geographic region was echoed in a statement from the League of European Research Universities, while a representative of the American Historical Association argued that a ‘green’ open access model (where the author’s manuscript is uploaded to a freely-accessible online archive) would be better suited to the humanities.

Other debated issues included the feasibility of a fair and reasonable APC. Respondents highlighted how APCs introduce a new financial barrier for researchers from low- and middle-income countries. However, highly-selective journals such as Nature cite publishing costs as high as €10,000–30,000 per article due to time spent evaluating a high volume of rejected articles and production of non-research content such as news and opinion articles.

Concerns were also raised that full implementation in the timeframe permitted would not be feasible, proving especially challenging for smaller publishers. Responding to this point in an interview with Publishing Perspectives, David Sweeny, co-chair of the implementation task force of Coalition S, contended that Plan S would come into effect only for projects funded after the 2020 deadline, with a further delay expected before the resultant data would be ready for publication.

The response from the research community shows a high level of engagement and general enthusiasm for open access, but there is also fear that Plan S may have unintended negative consequences. An initial analysis of the feedback is planned for release this spring and will feed into an updated version of the Plan S implementation guidance.


Summary by Julianna Solomons PhD, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


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

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