Open Access Plans — S, T, U, so far | SciELO in Perspective

In a few earlier posts1,2, I have mentioned, and commented on, Plan S. In September of 2018, immediately after Plan S was presented, Tim Vines published a post on The Scholarly Kitchen3 in which he argues that Plan S, based on funding open access with Article processing Fees (APCs) should be scrapped and instead, OA should be financed by submission fees. He called his idea Plan T (I guess because T follows S in the alphabet). It is an old idea, but a valid one. I have for a long time been in favor of submission charges. After all, getting a paper reviewed and accepted in a journal is like doing an exam, to get a driver’s licence, for instance. One has to pay for such an exam, whether or not one passes or fails. Tim Vines uses the example of a dental check up in his post. You don’t just pay if the dentist finds a cavity to fill or a tooth to extract….

The same day that Tim Vines’ post was published, Richard Sever (of Cold Spring Harbor Publishers and bioRxiv) reacted by firing off a tweet which said: “Plan U: just mandate preprint deposition and let a downstream ecosystem of overlays/journals with various business models evolve in response to community needs. Side benefit: speeding up science massively…”4

Now we’re talking. This is entirely in line with what I proposed in 2015 [in a blog post]5. At first, Plan U appeared on a web site,, which was anonymous, undated, and doesn’t exist anymore. However, on June 4th, 2019, a formal article entitled “Plan U: Universal access to scientific and medical research via funder preprint mandates”6 appeared in the journal PLOS Biology. There is no reason whatsoever why this Plan U should not take off, although it may initially go slowly, given the usual inertia in the scientific community at large.

Plan U offers science communication everything it needs. Rapid sharing of research results via preprints, without the sometimes high cost of APCs; options of obtaining peer review and formal journal publication afterwards. And the latter, which can be expensive, only if and when necessary for funding or career development. It even may make the differences between open access and subscription journals fairly irrelevant for the dissemination of research results, as an open access version of every article will in any way be guaranteed via the preprint….”