Plan S: Game changer for Research Funders and Open Access

On the 4th of September a radical initiative was unveiled that plans to make publicly funded research in 11 European countries, including the UK, accessible for free by 2020.

The initiative is built around ‘Plan S’, which consists of one target and 10 principles (shown below). The core target is:


 “By 2020 scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants provided by participating national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”


Points of note:

  • UKRI is a member of the coalition

UKRI, the UK’s national research funder (formerly Research Councils UK), is one of the group of funders that has agreed to implement the 10 principles of the Plan. UKRI are currently planning a review of their own Open Access policy. Plan S will now provide the groundwork for the review and implementation of the Plan will be considered:


  • No support for hybrid publishing

Currently a proportion of Open Access publishing is via traditional subscription journals making individual articles Open by charging the author an Article Processing Charge (APC). The notion was that hybrid publishing would be part of a transition to the fully APC funded model of “gold” Open Access. There has been growing criticism that this shift is not happening and that publishers are simply “double dipping” (paid twice for the same content). At Stirling, last year nearly 30% of our APC fund was spent on hybrid publishing to meet funder requirements, with charges ranging from £240 to £4,600. Under Plan S, hybrid publishing will no longer be funder compliant.


  • Open Access repositories

Currently depositing articles in an Open Access repository, such as Stirling’s STORRE, is in line with UKRI’s Open Access policy – as long as embargo periods have not been too long. Under Plan S, no embargo period will be acceptable.  The preamble to Plan S makes it clear that research publications must be made available immediately:


“research funders will mandate that access to research publications that are generated through research grants that they allocate, must be fully and immediately open and cannot be monetised in any way”


Plan S cites Open Access platforms as one of the two methods of achieving compliant Open Access.  The expectation is that deposit of the Author’s Accepted Manuscript in an institutional repository, such as STORRE, under a CC-BY license, with a zero embargo will be compliant with Plan S. Currently, most traditional journals will not allow such deposits, so a significant shift will be required from publishers if they are to become Plan S compliant.



The 10 principles of Plan S:

  • Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;


  • The Funders will ensure jointly the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms must provide;


  • In case such high quality Open Access journals or platforms do not yet exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide incentives to establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be provided for Open Access infrastructures where necessary;


  • Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;


  • When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);


  • The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;


  • The above principles shall apply to all types of scholarly publications, but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer than 1 January 2020;


  • The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation;


  • The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;


  • The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.



Clare Allan

Senior Research Librarian