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cOAlition S: declaration for full and immediate OA announced

On 4th September 2018 Science Europe announced a new open access commitment named cOAlition S, or Plan S, signed by 11 major research funders in the EU, including UKRI (formerly RCUK). Plan S states that after 1st January 2020 all research outputs funded by the signatory funders will have to be fully and immediately open access.

The declaration makes many strong statements about the need for change in the scholarly publishing system:

[N]o science should be locked behind paywalls! (Science Europe,  Science Without Publication Paywalls)

“Monetising the access to new and existing research results is profoundly at odds with the ethos of science. There is no longer any justification for this state of affairs to prevail and the subscription- based model of scientific publishing, including its so-called ‘hybrid’ variants, should therefore be terminated.” (Science Europe,  Science Without Publication Paywalls)

The declaration goes further than most current OA policies, stating 10 ‘key principles’:

  1. Authors retain copyright and publications should be published with an open licence such as CC BY.
  2. There will be a set of criteria that journals and platforms must abide by in order to be a compliant publishing venue.
  3. Funders will provide incentives to create new OA journals and platforms.
  4. OA publication fees will be paid by funders where necessary.
  5. OA fee support will be capped
  6. Funders will expect universities and institutions to align their own policies with ‘Plan S’.
  7. There will be a longer transition period before monographs and books will need to comply as well.
  8. Importance of repositories and open archives will be recognised.
  9. The ‘hybrid’ open access model is not compliant
  10. Non-compliance with Plan S will result in sanctions. 

Science Europe states the motivation for the declaration was in part due to the slow progress in ‘flipping’ the academic publishing system to open access. They also point to the numerous and much publicised library subscription negotiations with publishers as a key factor influencing the decision.

The declaration does still place publishers and journals as central to the scholarly publishing landscape, but stresses that the business models need to shift focus from selling the results of research to providing “services that help scientists to review, edit, disseminate, and interlink their work”. (Science Europe,  Science Without Publication Paywalls)

The announcements has sparked concerns amongst some publishers, such as the Nature family of journals who still rely heavily on subscription revenue (except the fully open access Nature Communications). AAAS, whose journal Science Advances charges $6360 (inc. tax) for a CCBY article, has also voiced concerns, saying “[i]t would also be unsustainable for the Science family of journals”.(Science, ‘European science funders ban grantees from publishing in paywalled journals’)

Currently many details are not yet known however (for instance we still don’t know what the APC cap will be), and it still remains to be seen if other influential funders such as the Wellcome Trust will follow suit.

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