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Confused about Plan S and Open Access publishing? Don’t worry: You now have time

  • Charlesworth Author Services
  • Open Access

Confused about Plan S and Open Access publishing? Don’t worry: You now have time

Plan S delayed until January 2021.


Unless you’ve been working as a resident professor on The University of Distant Desert Island or at Rip Rip Van Winkle International School, you will by now have heard about ‘Plan S’. This concept, formulated by the research funder consortium cOAlition S, aims to ensure that all government-funded research is fully Open Access (OA) by January 2020.


At least, that was the original plan.


Plan S has now been delayed by a year, with the formal starting point for mandates now January 2021. In a series of revisions made to the Plan S implementation guidance following consultation with academic researchers as well as journal and publishing stakeholders, the cOAlition S consortium announced this date change at the end of May, noting that their revised timetable now “provides more time for researchers, institutions, publishers and repositories to adjust to the required changes and for funders’ policies to develop and take effect.”




We talk to researchers and stakeholders around the world and a good deal of confusion still reigns with regard to Plan S, especially its impacts on young researchers. Perhaps this delay will turn out to be for the best? The Publishers Association, for example, recently warned that "very significant concerns around the scale, speed and potential unintended consequences of its implementation remain", while the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) described the cOAlition S revised timeline as "still very ambitious."


The concept underlying Plan S is quite simple and easy to understand: all research funded by government agencies must be published in fully OA outlets. However, researchers always raise two significant basic issues: (1) the cOAlition S consortium originated within the European Union and not all governments around the world have signed up to this controversial initiative, and; (2) it’s still not clear exactly what’s meant by OA. Which journals are OK for my papers and which are not?


The cOAlition S consortium has changed its mind a few times over the last year regarding exactly which sorts of journals are acceptable and which are not while academic publishers have scurried to lobby and ensure that their journals are compliant: but with a huge range of OA outlets of various forms on the market, researchers are confused. If I win a research grant from my national government, what does this mean for me and my team? Where will we be allowed to publish our work? Are these guidelines mandatory, or just guidelines? Who will pay the article processing charges (APCs) that are often levied by OA journals? As things stand, there is a concern that scholarly societies, especially smaller ones, could stand to lose out, as they rely on journal subscription fees for their very survival. Many might simply vanish, removing one key part of the academic research community, or they might be bought up by larger publishing companies in order to survive.


The team at Charlesworth Knowledge are here to help. Why not get in touch if you have questions about Plan S in particular, or OA publishing in general? Our training workshops on writing, publishing and open research have been designed to help you with these issues – maybe your institution or research department could benefit from our expertise? Find out more at www.cwauthors.com/cwknowledge.


Charlesworth Author Services are designed to support researchers in achieving their publishing goals, helping to ensure you get your work published in the best possible journals, OA or otherwise. We offer flexible packages for world-class English language editing services by academics who are experts in their field, including cover letter editing and pre-peer review scientific review services if required. Take at look at our author services in full at www.cwauthors.com

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