Plan S delayed a year amid raft of changes

The controversial open-access initiative Plan S has been postponed for a year, to give publishers and research organisations longer to align with the intended systemic shift in academic publishing.

Revised implementation guidance for Plan S, published on 31 May, includes changes intended to address the main criticisms of draft guidance from 2018. Chief among these was that the original start date of 1 January 2020 was simply too soon for publishers and research organisations to prepare for the plan, which will require all researchers supported by signatory funders to make their work openly available immediately so that the maximum value can be squeezed from it.

“The launch of Plan S has triggered an unprecedented global debate about open access, and this in itself I think is a positive development,” Marc Schiltz, the co-initiator of Plan S and president of the association of research funders and performers Science Europe, told journalists ahead of the launch. “Based on the feedback…We have revised Plan S without compromising the fundamental principles.”

The new rules will apply to publications resulting from research funded under calls launched from 1 January 2021. But if the funders involved in the initiative want to, they can implement the rules earlier and apply them to existing grants.

Another significant change is that funders will have the option of letting researchers publish with a stricter licence than the plan’s highly permissive CC-BY default, in response to concerns particularly from social scientists about their work being misused. Permission to use a CC-BY-ND licence is foreseen on a case-by-case basis.

Funders will also not initially cap their payment of individual article-processing charges—the fees that publishers often charge for making articles available with open access instead of via subscription. Instead, they will focus more on transparency in publisher pricing, and could introduce a cap if they subsequently deem charges to be “unreasonable”.

Payment of APCs for hybrid journals that are moving away from offering paywalled publication alongside open access will be cut off on 31 December 2024, which is in line with the original timeframe of three years after the plan’s implementation. Support for hybrid journals that are not changing will end as soon as the funders begin implementing Plan S from 1 January 2021….”