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Open Access

Plan S

This page provides an overview of Plan S, along with FAQs. We will be updating the page as more information becomes available. If you have any further queries in the meantime, please contact

index                                                                                                        ( Image copyright Science Europe is licensed under CC BY 4.0)

What is Plan S?

Plan S is an Open Access policy framework developed by the European Commission and Science Europe.

cOAlition S states:

Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders.

The key principle is as follows: “After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

The principle is accompanied by 10 additional points.


What are the 10 additional points of Plan S?

There are ten additional points:

  1. Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY. In all cases, the license applied should fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;
  2. The Funders will ensure jointly the establishment of robust criteria and requirements for the services that compliant high quality Open Access journals and Open Access platforms must provide;
  3. In case such high quality Open Access journals or platforms do not yet exist, the Funders will, in a coordinated way, provide incentives to establish and support them when appropriate; support will also be provided for Open Access infrastructures where necessary;
  4. Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all scientists should be able to publish their work Open Access even if their institutions have limited means;
  5.  When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped (across Europe);
  6. The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency;
  7. The above principles shall apply to all types of scholarly publications, but it is understood that the timeline to achieve Open Access for monographs and books may be longer than 1 January 2020;
  8. The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged because of their long-term archiving function and their potential for editorial innovation;
  9. The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles;
  10. The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance.
Who has supported Plan S?

Plan S is endorsed by major funders, including UK Research and Innovation, the European Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

How will Plan S be implemented?

Implementation of Plan S will take place from 1 January 2020. Scholarly papers must be open access upon publication without an embargo on the release of the full-text Accepted Manuscript (or later) version. This must be available with a CC BY Attribution license.

Full details can be found at:

What does UKRI say?

Very little detail has been provided so far. On 4 September 2018 UKRI agreed to implement the ten principles of Plan S. It is also undertaking its own review of Open Access.

A press release came out on 4 September 2018 in support of Plan S. An update on UKRI’s open access review followed on 11 November 2018. Stakeholder consultation is underway, with implementation towards the end of the year. A stakeholder roundtable meeting was held in December 2018, with slides available.

What about REF2021?

It is not expected that the open access requirements informing REF2021 eligibility will change.

What does the Wellcome say?

The Wellcome Trust has endorsed Plan S.

From January 2020 the Wellcome Trust’s open access policy is changing. They state: “At its core, and consistent with our policy over the past 13 years, we want to make sure that the knowledge and discoveries which result from our funding are made freely available and used in a way that maximises their benefit to health. 

We also want our OA policy to:

  • support a transition to a fully open access world, where no research is behind a paywall
  • be as clear and as straightforward as possible to comply with
  • make sure that the costs of complying with it are fair and proportionate.”

The new policy will be largely in line with plan S. The 5 main changes are:

1. All Wellcome-funded research articles must be made freely available through PubMed Central (PMC) and Europe PMC at the time of publication. We previously allowed a six-month embargo period. This change will make sure that the peer-reviewed version is freely available to everyone at the time of publication.

2. All articles must be published under a Creative Commons attribution licence (CC-BY). We previously only required this licence when an article processing charge (APC) was paid. This change will make sure that others – including commercial entities and AI/text-data mining services – can reuse our funded research to discover new knowledge.

3. We will no longer cover the cost of OA publishing in subscription journals (‘hybrid OA’). We previously supported this model, but no longer believe that it supports a transition to full OA.  

4. Where there is a significant public health benefit to preprints being shared widely and rapidly, such as a disease outbreak, these preprints must be published:

  • before peer review
  • on an approved platform that supports immediate publication of the complete manuscript
  • under a CC-BY licence.

This is a new requirement which will make sure that important research findings are shared as soon possible and before peer review.

5. Wellcome-funded organisations must sign or publicly commit to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), or an equivalent. We may ask organisations to show that they’re complying with this as part of our organisation audits. This is a new requirement to encourage organisations to consider the intrinsic merit of the work when making promotion and tenure decisions, not just the title of the journal or publisher.

The policy does not include capping APCs.

The Wellcome Trust have produced their own FAQs.

In addition, the Wellcome Trust has suggested potential strategies for learned societies to adopt to ensure that they can adapt to calls for increased open access:

What does Plan S mean for King’s?

Plan S involves a set of principles designed to aid wider open access. Under Plan S Research publications must be immediately open access with a CC BY license attached. For Gold open access publications, Article Processing Charges (APCs) will be capped. Green open access with zero embargo will be compliant with Plan S. The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing will be non-complaint, however transformative OA models will be tolerated for an unspecified ‘short’ period. Plan S applies to all academic disciplines.

Plan S is not REF 2021. Research England will not change their open access policy for REF 2021 due to Plan S. However, funders will change their requirements. As many researchers at King’s receive funding from either the RCUK or COAF, it will be vital they check changing policies to ensure compliance with those funders.

Are there any journals I cannot publish in any more in my specific field?

There are a large number of journals that are not currently compliant with Plan S. These are often ‘hybrid’ journals ie. a subscription-based journal, which also allows authors to make individual articles gold open access immediately on payment of an article publication charge. We suspect many will be reviewing their policies in the light of Plan S. You can still publish in those journals for now, but you will need to check funder policies towards the end of the year to see how they decide to approach the issue of non-compliant journals.

How can I find out which of the journals in my specific field are compliant and which are not?

cOAlition S (the international consortium of research funders behind Plan S) states that ‘compliant’ journals will be identified in the Directory of Open Access Journals, so that will be the easiest way to check, although that element hasn’t been developed as yet.

How probable is it that journals in my field/from particular publishers will create OA compliant mirror journals?
cOAlition S states “some publishers have established mirror journals with one part being subscription based and the other part being Open Access. Such journals are not compliant with Plan S unless they are a part of a transformative agreement since they de facto lead to charging for both access and publishing in the same way as a hybrid journal does. Funding for publishing in such journals will only be supported under a transformative agreement.”
Who can help me in Kings if I have more questions?

If you or any colleagues have any questions, please contact We will aim to track updates from funders and publishers.

When do the rules actually apply for which funder?

 cOAlition S states that timelines will vary among member organisations. At the very least the new requirements should be implemented for new calls issued after 1 Jan 2020. The Wellcome Trust, for example, has stated that from 1 Jan 2020 all research articles submitted for publication must comply. UKRI is still undergoing consultation and the approval of their revised policy is due towards the end of the year, with implementation at some point in 2020 (date to be confirmed). No more information is available at this stage, although there seem to be assurances that it won’t affect REF2021.

Are there any transition periods?

Individual funders will need to decide any transition periods and that information is not available as yet. We do know that cOAlition S will allow authors to publish in those journals that have a ‘transformative’ agreement that has a clear and time-specified commitment to a full Open Access transition. This is their response to understanding that not all journals will be fully OA by 2020.

What, if any, are the penalties if a grant holder publishes in a particular journal? Are the exceptions?
This will depend on individual funders and this level of information has not been provided as yet.
What is King’s doing?

cAOlition S has posed two questions in its consultation which closed on 8 February 2019. College Research Committee agreed a response on behalf of King’s, which stated that we understood the intention of Plan S, but had a number of concerns, including lack of detail available and lack of consultation with researchers and learned societies.

Research Support staff will be updating the Plan S webpage regularly, as and when more information emerges. We also plan to attend Faculty Research Committees to provide more information. If you would like us to brief your or your colleagues, please contact us at

Links to further information:

Plan S:

UK Government responses:

Open access to research: independent advice – 2018
(Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 4 Feb, 2019)
Independent advice from Professor Adam Tickell (Chair of the UK Open Access Co-ordination Group) on open access to research publications.

Open Research Data Task Force: final report
(Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 4 Feb, 2019)
Overview of open research data policy and infrastructure landscape in UK.

Responses from professional bodies and groups:

A commentary from the British Academy on ‘Guidance on the Implementation of Plan S’
(The British Academy, Feb 2019)
Concerns about viability of Plan S for Social Sciences.

From coalition to commons: Plan S and the future of scholarly communication
(UKSG, 30 Jan, 2019)

Argues that Plan S principles must function as an overarching framework within which local actors retain some autonomy, and should remain open to amendment as the scholarly communication landscape evolves.

Reaction of Researchers to Plan S: Too Far, Too Risky
In an open letter, academics argue that if Plan S is enacted it limits authors’ academic freedom to choose where to publish.

Open access and Plan S: how Wellcome is tackling four key concerns
(Wellcome, 19 Feb, 2019)
The Wellcome addresses reactions to the changes it’s making to its open access policy.

Other responses:

How will Plan S impact scientific research? (EuroScientist, 24 Jan, 2019)

Plan S, it is argued, needs many revisions before it can be adopted.

Radical open-access plan could spell end to journal subscriptions (Nature, 4 Sept, 2018)
Considers how many publishers are Plan S ready and whether Plan S can be implemented.

Opinion: “Plan S” falls short for society publishers—and for the researchers they serve
(PNAS, 12 Feb, 2019)
Argues that Plan S has the admirable aim of achieving full OA across a wide swath of journal publications, but that the path currently suggested has serious drawbacks that could jeopardise non-profit science societies.

In or out, green or gold? Plan S raises questions for the REF
(Research Professional, 19 Feb, 2019)
Argues that the rules for REF will determine the fate of open access in the UK.

Plan S ‘could prove fatal’ to learned societies (THE, Oct 19, 2018) [Requires log-in off campus]
Professional societies and smaller publishers have argued that as they rely on income from subscription-based publishing models, the proposed cap on article processing charges could limit their revenue catastrophically.

Plan S: how important is open access publishing?
(THE, Jan 24, 2019) [Requires log-in off campus]
Does the demand for published research warrant the disruption?

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Baffling Funder Mandate (Scholarly Kitchen, 15 Jan, 2019)
Humorous article concerning the complexities of implementing Plan S.

Will the world embrace Plan S, the radical proposal to mandate open access to science papers?
(Science, Jan 3, 2019)
Considers the global landscape of open access and suggests that if Plan S fails to spread it may become divisive.

Scientific societies worry Plan S will make them shutter journals, slash services
(Science, Jan 23, 2019)
Scientific societies supported by journal publishing call Plan S an existential threat.

Open access – “S” club is going to show you how (Wonkhe, 4 Sept 2018)
Overview of Plan S and concerns of publishers. 

A change of plan for UK open access?
(Wonkhe, 4 Feb, 2019)
Response to report by Professor Adam Tickell.

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