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Library Research Support: Open Research: Plan S

This guide is intended to provide advice and support on open access research, including guidance around Durham Research Online (DRO), open access publishing, research data management and related topics.

Plan S: What you need to know

What is Plan S?

What is Plan S?

“With effect from 2021, all scientific publications on the results from research funded by public or private grants provided by national, regional and international research councils and funding bodies, must be published in Open Access Journals, on compliant Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo.”

10 Principles of Plan S (Revised: 31st May 2019)

Announced in September 2018, Plan S is a statement of intentions from an international consortium of research funders (cOAlition S) looking to accelerate the transition to full and immediate open access for research publications. It puts forward a number of fundamental principles for developing Open Access to publications more fully.

Key points to note:

  • There must be immediate and free access to research publications from the date of publication, without any embargo on access.
  • Research outputs must be available under an open licence (such as the CC-BY or CC-BY-SA licence).
  • The hybrid model of open access publication (where an author can opt to pay for a specific article to be open access within an otherwise subscription only journal) will no longer be supported by funding from member organisations.
  • There must be transparency around the costs of APCs.

Plan S Principles

In addition to the core statement of Plan S intentions, the Plan comprises 10 agreed principles:

  1. Authors or their institutions retain copyright to their publications. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY), in order to fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;
  2. The Funders will develop robust criteria and requirements for the services that high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms, and Open Access Repositories must provide;
  3. 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;
  4. Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or research institutons, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all researchers should be able to publish their work Open Access;
  5. The Funders support the diversity of business models for Open Access journals and platforms. When Open Access publication fees are applied, they must be commensurate with the publication services delivered and the structure of such fees must be transparent to inform the market and funders potential standardisation and capping of payments of fees;
  6. The Funders encourage governments, universities, research organisations, libraries, academies, and learned societies to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;
  7. 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 will be longer and requires a separate due process;
  8. The funders do not support the ‘hybrid’ model of publishing. However, as a transitional pathway towards full Open Access within a clearly defined timeframe, and only as part of transformative arrangements, Funders may contribute to financially supporting such arrangements;
  9. The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliant beneficiaries/grantees.
  10. The Funders commit that when assessing research outputs during funding decisions they will value the intrinsic merit of the work and not consider the publication channel, its impact factor (or other journal metrics), or the publisher.


Why Plan S - the Funder's perspective

cOAlition S have set out their reasoning for the approach they have taken, which revolves around four key issues:

  • Barriers to access: "Publication paywalls are withholding a substantial amount of research results from a large fraction of the scientific community and from society as a whole."
  • Responsibility for appropriate use of public funds: "As major public funders of research in Europe, we have a duty of care for the good functioning of the science system (of which we are part), as well as a fiduciary responsibility for the proper usage of the public funds that we are entrusted with."
  • Failure to make significant progress in addressing these concerns: "negotiation teams in several countries (e.g. Germany, France, Sweden) are struggling to reach agreements with large publishing houses."
  • Reduce Complexity: To align and jointly establish criteria, requirements and provision of funding to support the principles of Plan S across all funding bodies, institutions and research organisations.

Key issues of concern for funders have been:

  • The unsustainable rising costs of scholarly publication for funders and universities: data from RCUK and Wellcome has shown an above inflation increase in both the average APC (from £1,580 in 2013/14 to £1,988 in 2016/17) and the relative costs for APCs in Hybrid journals (data from the Wellcome Trust suggested these were on average 24% higher than those in fully open access journals in 2016/17).
  • The growing dominance of the Hybrid model (69% of Wellcome Trust spending on open access went to Hybrid journals in 2016/17)
  • The move by some large academic journal publishers to remove author options to choose free green open access by increasing journal embargo periods, forcing some authors to pay for gold hybrid open access.

Plan S - How to Comply

Plan S: How to Comply

Whilst the Ten Principles published focus on publishing in fully open access journals, the implementation guidance published on November 27th 2018 identified three routes by which authors and journals could comply with the requirements:

  • Publishing in fully open access journals
  • Publishing in any journal, and making your accepted manuscript available from an open access repository
    • To be compliant, this had to be without embargo and under a CC BY licence (See Rights Retention)
  • Publishing in any journal which was covered by a Transformative Open Access agreement (setting out a clear route to how the journal would be fully open access in the future).

What about REF?

UKRI has signed up to Plan S, and is the UK body which brings together the seven UK Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England, the body which has responsibility for the UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF).

However, it has been confirmed that the current REF OA requirements will not change for REF2021:

For those responsible for writing the REF5 Environment Statement for their Unit of Assessment, it may be worth considering the principles outlined in Plan S and what preparations are being made within the Unit of Assessment to support this as part of transitioning to an open research environment, as included in the REF guidance on submissions.

UKRI Open Access Review: UKRI is reviewing its open access policies. A consultation in early 2020 included a number of high-level questions to help inform the development of the OA policy for research outputs submitted to the UK-wide REF exercise following REF 2021 (REF-after-REF 2021). As far as possible, the funding bodies and UKRI are seeking policy commonality to aid compliance and promote OA. The intention is that compliance with UKRI's OA policy will result in compliance with the OA policy for the REF-after-REF 2021.

Informed by the outcomes of UKRI's review, the four UK HE funding bodies (including Research England) will launch a detailed REF-specific OA consultation no later than six months after UKRI's policy is announced, which will inform the funding bodies decisions on the OA policy for the REF-after-REF 2021.

UKRI OA Review and the REF-after-REF 2021

Rights Retention Strategy

In July 2020, cOAlition-S members published a Rights Retention Strategy aimed at providing researchers funded by a cOAlition-S funder the freedom to publish in their journal of choice, including subscription journals, whilst remaining fully compliant with Plan S.

Under this Rights Retention Strategy, cOAlition-S will give notice to publishers about these new grant conditions. Once a funder has adopted the Rights Retention Strategy, authors acknowledging funding will be required as part of their grant conditions, to ensure that upon submission of their manuscript, they have informed the publisher that they were funded by a member of cOAlition-S. cOAlition-S funders will provide templated language which can be used to provide this notification, for example:

“This research was funded in whole or in part by the [Funder name] [Grant number]. For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC-BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission”

cOAlition S: Rights Retention Graphic

"The UK-SCL is an open access policy mechanism which ensures researchers can retain re-use rights in their own work, they retain copyright and they retain the freedom to publish in the journal of their choice (assigning copyright to the publisher if necessary). Re-use rights retention enables early public communication of research findings and use in research and teaching, including online courses. Increased visibility of research outputs greatly improves opportunities for increased impact and citations. A single deposit action under the model policy ensures eligibility for REF2021 and compliance with most funder deposit criteria."

UK Scholarly Communications Licence and Model Policy

UK Scholarly Communications Licence and Model Policy

The UK-SCL is a UK-wide initiative, based upon the Harvard model licence which has been in place at over 50 institutions worldwide, some since 2008. The UK-SCL Steering Group has representatives from many UK Univeristies, including Imperial College London, UCL, Cambridge, Manchester and Bristol, as well as representation from the British Library and The Royal Society.

Further information about the UK-SCL can be found at the official UK-SCL website.

UK Scholarly Communications Licence and Model Policy @Durham

In October 2017, the UK-SCL was discussed at University Research Management Committee. The committee expressed positive support for the aspirations for the initiative, but expressed concerns over how this might be implemented within the Durham University context. An implementation group was tasked with consulting departments and identifying issues and concerns, and to recommend options for any possible implementation.

Members of the implementation group have been meeting with academic departments across the University through 2018 to present information about the UK-SCL and collect views from the Durham academic community.

In light of the announcement of Plan S, this work has paused until it becomes clearer as to the full impact of Plan S and if and where the UK-SCL has a place in supporting compliance with funder mandates.

Plan S: Revised Implementation Guidance (May 2019)

On May 31st 2019, cOAlition S published its revised principles and implementation guidance for Plan S, following consultation in February 2019. They also provided a rationale for the amendments made.

Key Points

The Durham University Plan S Working Group will consider the new guidance and provide further details following due consideration, but key changes to highlight include:

  • Timeline for implementation has been pushed back to 1st January 2021.
  • Requirements will apply to publications resulting from grants under calls published after this date.
  • The three routes to compliance remain.
  • Green OA (un-embargoed deposit in an open access repository) remains as a compliant option for authors.
  • Open Access Monographs will be part of a separate approach.
  • The CC BY licence remains the preferred option. However, cOAlition-S funders "may approve the use of the CC BY-ND license for individual articles, provided that this is explicitly requested and justified by the grantee".
  • A more prominent focus on the means of assessment of research publications, in line with the DORA Principles.
  • There will be a review of implementation in 2024.


Consultation Responses

UKRI Open Access Review

UKRI held an open consultation between 13th February 2020 and 29th May 2020. Responses were invited from inside and outside the UK, from any organisation, group or individual with an interest in research and innovation.

Durham University submitted a response to the consultation, following a series of open consultation sessions with academic staff and PGRs, which can be found below.

Wellcome Trust Consultation: responsible research assessment

In late 2019, Wellcome published draft 'Guidance for research organisations on how to implement responsible and fair approaches for research assessment', and opened this up to an open consultation. 

Durham University was one of more than 50 research organisations which submitted a response in February 2020. Our response can be found below.

Consultation on Draft Implementation Guidance for Plan S

27th November 2018: cOAlition S released its intitial Implementation Guidance on Plan S, and invited feedback from all stakeholders.

February 2019: Durham University submitted a response to the consultation, following a series of  open consultation sessions with academic staff and PGRs, which can be found below.

You can also find all responses submitted to the consultation (over 600 statements from universities, learned societies, publishers, scholarly associations, and individual scholars from more than 40 countries) here.

Wellcome Trust Consultation on Revised OA Policy

The Wellcome Trust revised their Open Access Policy in November 2018, after announcing their support of Plan S. This followed a wide consultation with their grant holders and other stakeholders. 

The consultation analysis and submissions can be found here.

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