Plan S and the Microbiology Society

You might recently have heard about Plan S, a new initiative from a group calling themselves cOAlition S, which includes the European Research Council, UK Research and Innovation, Science Foundation Ireland, Wellcome, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many other European national research funding bodies. The stated aim of Plan S is that:

“After 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.”

The Microbiology Society publishes a small portfolio of journals as part of our mission to advance the understanding and impact of microbiology. Our author base is truly global, with thousands of authors from more than 75 countries publishing in Society journals in 2017, and through all the Open Access debates of the last two decades we have stood firm on the point that authors must be able to publish in our journals regardless of their funding status or ability to pay. This post outlines what Plan S is, where it aligns with the Society’s existing policies, and the points which create some challenges for us as a publisher. We hope that our members and readers of this blog will use it as a starting point in learning about Plan S. We are consulting widely with other society publishers, with funders, and with libraries to inform our responses to Plan S, and very much want to hear from members, researchers, authors, and reviewers. Please get in touch with Tasha Mellins-Cohen, our Director of Publishing, to help us ensure your views are represented.

Of the ten principles of Plan S, the following six are applicable to the Society’s journals:

  1. Authors retain copyright of their publication with no restrictions. This is something that the Society’s journals have been offering for several years, and we are delighted that cOAlition S have endorsed the concept.
  2. Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or universities, not by individual researchers. This is very much in line with the Society’s belief that ability to pay should not be linked to ability to publish.
  3. When Open Access publication fees are applied, their funding is standardised and capped. At the time of writing this blog post, the cap on publication fees had not been defined by cOAlition S – we look forward to finding out what the cap might be in due course.
  4. The Funders will ask universities, research organisations, and libraries to align their policies and strategies, notably to ensure transparency. The longer-form text of Plan S includes a commitment to DORA, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment. The Society sees the principles of DORA as being very much in the interests of researchers and became a DORA signatory in early 2018.
  5. The importance of open archives and repositories for hosting research outputs is acknowledged. The Society’s journals encourage all authors to deposit Open Access versions of submitted articles in pre-print servers like bioRxiv, and to deposit an Open Access copy of accepted articles in a repository on the day of publication. We see these mechanisms for ‘Green’ Open Access as an excellent, fee-free complement to Open Access in journals.
  6. The ‘hybrid’ model of publishing is not compliant with the above principles. This principle is a source of some concern for the Society, as for many publishers, because four of our journals operate on the hybrid model. One Plan S signatory – Wellcome – has publicly stated that they will permit Wellcome-funded authors to publish in the Society’s journals because of our existing policies on Green Open Access. At the time of writing, no other member of the cOAlition had confirmed their position in this respect; we are keen to have an answer from them and will of course share the information once it is received.

Find out more about Plan S at
Find out more about DORA at
Find out more about the Society’s OA position at

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