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Plan S insists it won’t fund lagging transformative journals

Leader of open-access initiative “disappointed” some publishers have not provided journal data

A leader of Plan S has said the open-access initiative will not support journals that commit to making more of their content openly available but fail to show they have achieved the required milestones for doing so.

Under Plan S, funders are requiring researchers they support to make resultant papers openly available immediately and under certain other conditions. One kind of venue that may be acceptable is ‘transformative journals’, which mix open and paywalled content but have pledged to increase the share of content they publish openly.

Some funders will financially support journals that have committed to make this transformation at a rate required by Plan S. The requirement is to increase the share of open articles by whichever is largest out of an absolute rate of 5 per cent per year or a relative rate of 15 per cent. The funders will stop supporting such journals altogether by the end of 2024.

Monitoring the rate until then requires publishers to provide data, but Plan S head of strategy Robert Kiley said in a blog post published on 16 August that it was “disappointing to note that [so far] three publishers have not yet supplied their year 0 data”.

He added: “Going forward we will be clearer that if data is not supplied with an agreed timeframe, these journals will be removed from the programme”, meaning they will not be considered acceptable publishing venues nor be eligible for funding.

Varied starting points

Thirteen publishers of 2,268 journals have enrolled in the transformative journals programme, Kiley said. They include “large and small, for-profit, not-for-profit, society publishers and university presses”.

But three publishers have not yet provided baseline data, Kiley reported. He said these include the company Springer Nature, which has registered 1,746 transformative journals—almost eight times as many as those registered by the publisher with the second-largest number in the scheme.

Coalition S executive director Johan Rooryck told Research Professional News that the transformative journals strategy “only makes sense if we can evaluate year-on-year progress”. He declined to say when Plan S might take action against those publishers that are not providing data. 

A spokesperson for Springer Nature said the company “continues to work with [Plan S] on this. We have over 1,700 transformative journals to analyse and report back on and we want to ensure that we get this right. We expect to have the data completed, and released, in the coming weeks.”

Kiley said the journals in the scheme “are at very different points in their transition” to full open access. Of the journals registered by the scheme’s two largest publishers that have provided data—Cambridge University Press and Elsevier—he said 65 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively, make less than 10 per cent of their articles free at present.

By contrast, he said that “most” of the journals registered by some of the other publishers “are moving at speed to transition to a fully open-access model”.

Update 18/8 – This article was updated with the comment from Springer Nature.