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Research Publishing (Open Access)

Open access compliance and REF 2021

What is Plan S?

Launched in 2018, Plan S is a funder-backed scheme requiring free online access to scientific literature. Plan S requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.

What is cOALition S?

On 4 September 2018, a group of national research funding organisations, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (ERC), announced the launch of cOAlition S, an initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality. From this group Plan S was born.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is a member of cOAlition S, along with members from across Europe, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. The Wellcome Trust is also a supporter.

Plan S - Principles and Implementation

Part I: Principles

“With effect from 2021, all scholarly publications on the results from research funded by public or private grants provided by national, regional and international research councils and funding bodies, must be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo.”

In addition:

  1. Authors or their institutions retain copyright to their publications. All publications must be published under an open license, preferably the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), in order to fulfil the requirements defined by the Berlin Declaration;

  2. The Funders will develop robust criteria and requirements for the services that high-quality Open Access journals, Open Access platforms, and Open Access repositories must provide;

  3. In cases where 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 research institutions, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all researchers should be able to publish their work Open Access;

  5. The Funders support the diversity of business models for Open Access journals and platforms. When Open Access publication fees are applied, they must be commensurate with the publication services delivered and the structure of such fees must be transparent to inform the market and funders potential standardisation and capping of payments of fees;

  6. The Funders encourage governments, universities, research organisations, libraries, academies, and learned societies to align their strategies, policies, and practices, 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 book chapters will be longer and requires a separate and due process;

  8. The Funders do not support the ‘hybrid’ model of publishing. However, as a transitional pathway towards full Open Access within a clearly defined timeframe, and only as part of transformative arrangements, Funders may contribute to financially supporting such arrangements;

  9. The Funders will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliant beneficiaries/grantees;

  10. The Funders commit that when assessing research outputs during funding decisions they will value the intrinsic merit of the work and not consider the publication channel, its impact factor (or other journal metrics), or the publisher.

Part II: Guidance on the implementation

These cover: Aim and scope; Plan S compliance; Transformative arrangements; Supporting... OA journals and platforms; Transparency of costs and prices; Review; Compliance and sanctioning; Timeline.

Part III: Technical guidance and requirements

These cover requirements for all 'publication venues' (i.e. journals and publishing platforms) and for open access repositories.



Members of cOAlition S, having read the many comments made on Plan S (Brussels, 22 November 2018), approved 'draft' implementation guidance on making full and immediate Open Access a reality. Feedback to this guidance was sought and more than 600 feedback statements from universities, learned societies, publishers, scholarly associations, and individual scholars from more than 40 countries were received, making it the largest ever international consultation on an Open Access Policy.

Revisions to Plan S:

As a result of the feedback revisions to Plan S have been published (31 May 2019) along with a number of proposed changes to the original implementation guidance.  Changes include an extension to the formal commencement point for Plan S which will now take effect from 1 January 2021. This new timetable provides more opportunity for researchers, institutions, publishers, and repositories to make changes and for funders’ policies to develop and take effect.

The rationale for the revisions made to the Plan S Principles and Implementation guidance can be found here.

The Wellcome Trust have revised their Open Access Policy in accordance with the new Guidance. Further information can be found here.

Plan S rights retention strategy

cOAlition S has announced that signatory organisations will change their grant conditions to require that a CC BY licence is applied to all Author Accepted Manuscripts or Versions of Record reporting original research, supported in whole or in part by their funding. UKRI is a member of cOAlition S, as is the Wellcome Trust and Science Foundation Ireland.

The full details of this Rights Retention policy is available here:

The announcement makes clear that “this public licence and/or agreed prior obligations take legal precedence over any later Licence to Publish or Copyright Transfer Agreement that the publisher may ask the author to sign.”

cOAlition S is contacting “around 150 subscription/mixed model publishers – who collectively publish the majority of research articles attributed to cOAlition S Organisations – to encourage them to modify their existing publishing agreements to allow all authors to make their AAMs available at the time of publication with a CC BY licence.” The information provided by publishers will be added to the Journal Checker Tool.