Earlier this year, Science published a guide to the new open access (OA) landscape that has emerged since the Plan S initiative came into effect in January 2021. The initiative requires research funded by cOAlition S members to be published OA, which has led to a number of subscription journals changing their OA policies.
Some journals, such as Nature, introduced a Gold OA option in which authors pay a fee to have their papers published OA and immediately available to all. The top fee charged by Nature for this option is €9,500, which has been criticised by some for being too high. Such high fees can make publication financially out of reach, particularly for early-career researchers or those in lower-resource countries, further exacerbating longstanding inequalities for authors. Therefore, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the publisher of the Science family of journals, announced an alternative Green OA policy. This option allows authors to deposit near-final, peer-reviewed versions of papers that have been accepted in pay-for-view journals in publicly accessible online repositories (previously, manuscripts could only be shared on personal or institutional webpages). Importantly, authors funded by cOAlition S organisations will retain the rights to share their accepted manuscript openly, a condition stipulated in Plan S, and a right that will not be extended to all authors. AAAS will pilot the policy for a year to determine whether the approach is sustainable.
AAAS follow other publishers and journals, including The Royal Society and the New England Journal of Medicine, which have either had a Green OA policy for some time or have introduced them in response to Plan S. Although this approach does have its advantages, such as avoiding high publication fees, some have voiced concerns. The near-final drafts of manuscripts that are archived may lack useful sections of the final version or may not include subsequent corrections or retraction notices, making it more difficult to ensure the integrity of the scientific record. Others have argued that a focus on Green OA undermines progress to full OA. Rick Anderson, university librarian at Brigham Young University commented:
“Every open-access model solves some problems and creates other problems.”
Approximately 31% of articles in Science and 35% in Nature acknowledge grants from a Plan S funder and would therefore be able to utilise the new OA options. It is hoped that shifts in OA policies, like those driven by Plan S, will allow new findings to be disseminated faster and ultimately accelerate scientific discovery.