Members of the International Cooperation Caucus may have heard of Plan S, but have your faculty and students? It's a major change in scholarly communication, even if it is largely European at this point with implementation a few years off (possibly in 2021). But it is already affecting the research community including libraries, and with large international publishers involved, its impact has started to reach across the Atlantic.
Plan S was announced in 2018 by cOALition S, an organization consisting of major funding agencies with support from the European Research Council and the European Commission, and whose goal is to make scholarly information fully open. The initiative is bound by 10 principles and taken together, require Plan S authors (those with financial support from the Plan S agencies) to publish in open access journals while allowing authors to retain copyright to their works.
Of these principles, the most controversial for publishers has been the exclusion of hybrid journals (considered to be "double-dipping") as a publication venue. One way to work around the hybrid ban is for publishers to enter into "transformative agreements" that allow libraries to offer users to read articles from any of the journals as well as publish in them. These agreements between research institutions and publishers like Springer, Wiley, and Taylor & Francis are being signed now and in some cases, already in effect. But transformative agreements are not a solution for every publisher - for example small society publishers are not in the position to effectively negotiate a contract.
While implementation is still a few years away, discussion with fellow librarians, faculty and students should start today. Here are a few questions to contemplate:
- Will Plan S achieve what it intends, namely full open access to scholarly works? Is there another way?
- How will the hybrid ban limit the potential pool of publication venues? In particular for non-Plan S authors with little funding, will there be fewer suitable journals they can publish in?
- What cost shifts will libraries experience?
- If a co-author has funding from a Plan S funder, will it be disruptive to the author team to have to select a journal that is compliant?
- The current practice is for authors to transfer copyright ownership to publishers who can in turn make a profit from these works (full articles, images, data). As an increasing number of authors retain copyright under Plan S, will it have a positive creative effect on use of their original or derivative works since authors are primarily motivated by non-financial benefits, such as education and research?
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