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cOAlition S


With scientific discoveries increasingly growing, the need to universalise the research findings has never been more urgent. To have access to easily obtainable, and most importantly free, reliable information, was the goal that in 2016 all Member States of the European Union committed to achieve by 2020. Two years later, on September 4, this dream shifted from an unachievable ambition to reality.

The initiative called Plan S has the purpose of breaking the paywalls of many peer-reviewed journals and releasing high quality research for anyone to reuse and distribute. This long-awaited initiative came as a result of the iniquity of the status quo. Since the governments are making a tremendous financial investment in research, it seemed only fair for this collective knowledge to be used for the public good. The European Commission and a alliance between 11 national research funders are taking a step forward righting these wrongs and will enact the policy on the first day of 2020

Timeline of the OA movement

  • (2002) The Budapest OA Declaration aspires at uniting the research provided by scientist and scholars with the advancement of technology. Its goal is to distribute peer-reviewed journal literature free of cost, as well as permitting scholars and scientist to access it. The motivation behind this was to stimulate research and improve education by removing access obstacles. This free method of unrestricted online availability they called the Open Access. Its purpose is to encourage readers to access and make use of relevant literature.
  • (2003) The Berlin Declaration on OA adds additional pronouncements to the ones made in the Budapest declaration. One of which states that the OA should not be only about enabling one to use scientific and scholarly work free of charge, but also to allow them to use, copy and distribute it. 
  • (2012) The Finch Group report focuses on giving recommendations for British research funders with regards to the implementation of OA, and advocates for a gold OA over a green OA.

The OA has been viewed as a scholarly literature supply boosting method over again. Until recently most scholarly literature were closed-access, available only for the institutions that had the means to pay for its usage. Nonetheless higher literature prices have led to limited purchasing power by the libraries which resulted in a drop in literature stock. 

Fast-forward a few years, a coalition of 11 national funding agency and the European Commission launch a new initiative, designed by Marc Shiltz, the President of Science Europe, and Robert-Jan Smits the Open Access Envoy of the European Commission. The funders engaged in this coalition, now known as cOAlition S, will join forces to coordinate the swift implementation of the Plan. 

The plan has 10 principles, with the key principles stating that “ After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access journals or on complaint Open Access Platforms”. It also puts an emphasis on authors retaining the copyright if their publications with no restrictions. 

Although this initiative was long awaited and is deserving of praise, there are people being skeptical about it’s feasibility. Peter Suber, a known advocate of the OA movement, has expressed certain concerns regarding Plan S. Although agreeing that such a plan will be of great aid to both research and researchers and that it will finally be able to serve public interest instead of private interest (of the publishers), there are a few questions that remained unanswered by this programme.

The plan states that the access to research publications cannot be monetised in any way but it also says that publishers may charge fair value for their services in a transparent way. It also says that hybrid subscription journals should be abolished, while saying they are merely non-compliant and will need a short period in order to be completely eradicated. The length of this “short” period is, for the moment, unknown. 

Excluding these few worrying thoughts expressed by Suber, Plan S is the strongest call for OA that we have had in over a decade. Moreover, it is not just a mere encouragement, it is a plan for a mandate, and this is an unprecedented situation and a big victory for all OA supporters.