December 5, 2020

A Commentary by The British Academy on Coalition S’s Final Version of Plan S

From The British Academy:

At the end of May 2019 cOAlition S issued a second, final version of Plan S, together with guidelines for implementation, in response to the extensive international reactions to the original initiative (September 2018) which announced that grant-funded research would in future have to be published immediately in an Open Access (OA) format. These guidelines were subsequently supplemented by a work plan. We earlier commented on the first version of Plan S; here we assess its successor, finding that many of our initial criticisms remain.

From the Executive Summary:

• At the end of May 2019 cOAlition S issued a final version of Plan S, together with guidelines for implementation, in response to the extensive international reactions to the September 2018 version which announced that grant-funded research would in future have to be published immediately in an Open Access (OA) format. These guidelines have subsequently been supplemented by a work plan.

We have previously commented on the earlier version of Plan S; here we assess its successor, finding that many of our initial criticisms remain.

• We welcome some aspects of the revised scheme. One is the delay of a year until 1 January 2021 before it is implemented; another is the relaxation in the technical specifications required of platforms which will host OA publications. Even here, however, concerns remain. Eighteen months is a very short period of time for essential changes in the landscape of journal publication; another is that very little is being done as yet to the development of platforms which will be essential for the success of Plan S.

Our commentary highlights three issues of particular concern.

• The first is the continuing failure by the proponents of Plan S to address its implications for issues of Equality and Diversity, and we highlight the particular problems which it may cause for Early Career Researchers, BME researchers, scholars outside universities, and retired but still active academics.

• Secondly, though we welcome the willingness to allow Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs licences (CC BY-ND) on a case-by-case basis, we believe that this should be automatic and not subject to individual application. In the view of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) scholars, ND licences are essential to prevent misrepresentation of data by third parties.

• Finally and most importantly, we are concerned about the implications of Plan S for journals in the Social Sciences and particularly in the Humanities, where most research is not grant-funded with an allowance for Article Processing Charges (APCs) and where many journals are owned by learned societies rather than international commercial publishers. It does not seem to us a sustainable position to prevent researchers publishing in what they believe to be the most appropriate journal. We are particularly disappointed by the ignoring of widespread concerns expressed about ‘hybrid’ journals (subscription-based journals which also accept APCs to publish articles immediately OA), since these make up almost nine-tenths of all HSS journals. We fear that these latest Plan S proposals will actually inhibit the further development of OA publishing and be to the detriment of HSS researchers.

Direct to Full Text of Commentary (10 pages; PDF)

See Also: Other Posts by The British Academy re: Open Access

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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