Plan S

What is Plan S?

Plan S was launched in September 2018 by a coalition of European funders (cOAlition S) and aims to accelerate the transition to open access for the research that they fund. Members of cOAlition S include the European Research Council, UKRI, Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The core principle of Plan S is that from January 2021, all scholarly articles resulting from research funded by the signatories, must be open access immediately on publication. This may be achieved by publishing in open access journals or on open access platforms, or by sharing a version of the output through an open access repository (such as WRRO) with no embargo. Publications must usually be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY). Plan S will not apply to monographs and book chapters initially.

Why Plan S?

Existing funder mandates and policies have accelerated the proportion of openly available research, but hybrid (where an author can pay a fee to make an article in a subscription journal available open access on the journal website), has become the dominant form of open access publishing, particularly in the UK.

The rising cost of APCs has made the hybrid model for open access publishing unsustainable. In 2013/14 the average Article Processing Charge (APC) was £1,580 rising to £1,988 in 2016/17. However the average APC for hybrid journals in 2016/17 was £2,101, considerably more expensive than for fully open access journals where the average was £1,654 (RCUK Block Grant Analysis).

Hybrid journals also generate greater income by what is known as double dipping. RLUK defines this as where “a publisher seeks an unwarrantable increase in revenues by levying article processing charges (APCs) for publication in a hybrid journal, while not providing a proportionate decrease in subscription costs”.

At present, commercial publishers also routinely ask authors to sign away their copyright whilst imposing embargo periods that restrict access to the scholarly literature. A core principle of Plan S is that authors retain their copyright. This is vital for academic freedom as it ensures that authors retain the right to build upon and republish their own research in the future.

What do I need to do?

Continue to upload your accepted manuscript to WRRO via MyPubs as soon as you are accepted for publication to meet the open access requirements for REF2021.

For 2020/21, UKRI, the Wellcome Trust and British Heart Foundation are continuing to provide a block grant to cover APCs where applicable. See here for eligibility and availability of funds.

Individual funders will determine how the principles are applied in their own policies from 2021. The Wellcome Trust has already announced a new policy, informed by Plan S. UKRI are currently reviewing their OA policies.

The extent to which Plan S principles will affect publication routes is not yet fully known. Publishing in fully open access journals, on open access platforms or in a subscription journals which allow papers to be shared via a repository immediately on publication under the CC-BY licence (zero embargo period), will comply with the principles. You can check the current embargo for your preferred journals in SHERPA/RoMEO. Publishing in subscription journals which are part of a transformative agreement may also be permitted under the principles, and a number of publishers have begun to develop such agreements in consultation with Jisc. We will provide updates on these deals, and further details for authors who are funded by Plan S signatories, as soon as information becomes available.

Please contact if you need any further information.