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Since cOAlition S released the revised Plan S principles and implementation guidelines, there has been much discussion among the journal publishing community about the available Plan S compliance routes and technical specifications. While the new guidelines hold fast to the original Plan S vision, still requiring that all Plan S-funded research be made fully and immediately open access with no long-term hybrid publishing options, they also introduce some significant changes. The new guidelines include extended support for transformative agreements, a clearer Green OA compliance route, and modified technical requirements. The revised guidelines also state that Plan S will go into effect on the first of January 2021, giving publishers an extension from the original 2020 deadline.

For publishers that wish to comply with Plan S, there are many factors to weigh and next steps to be decided. Even with the year extension, Plan S is not far off. Many will have to revisit their journal publishing models to determine which of the three Plan S routes will work for them:

  1. Open Access publishing venues (journals or platforms)
  2. Subscription venues (repository route)
  3. Transition of subscription venues (transformative arrangements)

And all journal publishers, even those already publishing fully open access, will have to make sure that their journals adhere to the Plan S implementation criteria.

In this post, we round up some current and forthcoming resources to help journal publishers determine the best Plan S compliance route for their needs and fulfill the implementation guidelines.

Plan S compliant publishing models and transition options

The question at the top of most journal publishers’ minds is which Plan S routes will work for them. One group that has expressed particular concern about this is scholarly societies. Many societies that have long relied on journal subscription revenues to help fund their operations are now questioning how they can segue from subscription models to fully open access publishing. While transformative agreements are one compliance option, many societies argue that they are not positioned to enter such agreements in the same way as corporate publishers and that they need more support.

Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S,” a project commissioned by Wellcome, UKRI, and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), which is being led by Information Power consulting, promises to help address these concerns. The project is currently underway, starting with a background study to identify the key challenges that Plan S presents for learned societies as well as a discussion of potential options for learned societies to transition to Plan S compliant open access publishing business models. Those initial project outputs are available here.

Now that the background analysis is complete, Information Power has moved to the next phase of the project—working with learned societies to understand which open access models have potential for different society structures. The culmination of the project will be planning pilot programs for two learned societies, looking at the costs and revenue from their publishing operations to determine which alternative publishing options would work for them and what would be required to make such a shift in real life. Information Power then plans to release a summary report on ways societies can achieve Plan S compliant open access while remaining financially sustainable.

Information Power held a project update webinar in early May and has since made the presentation slides available here. The slides include an overview of the project and the research that Information Power has done so far, including a survey of 26 library consortia on their willingness to work with learned society publishers.

The final “Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S” report will be published in July 2019, and all materials will be available under a CC-BY license. This is a report to watch for that will yield specific examples and insights.

Separately, The Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) also has a webinar on the horizon that looks to be a valuable Plan S resource, “What You Need to Know About Plan S.” The webinar, scheduled for the 17th of September, will feature viewpoints from commercial and society publishers as well as researchers. Participants will discuss the revised Plan S guidelines and how they believe Plan S will impact the scientific publishing landscape.

Plan S Metadata guidelines and best practices

Moving from high-level Plan S publishing pathway options, one of the more technical criteria that Plan S will require all journal publishers to fulfill, regardless of their open access publishing model, is having rich machine-readable metadata. In order to be Plan S compliant journals must produce metadata files in standard interoperable machine-readable formats that include cited references, complete funding information, and copyright license information.

A recent report surveying executives from 25 leading publishers found that all rated metadata as a top concern, but the majority expressed that they have limited capacity to address metadata needs. In addition to boasting a pretty awesome pun in its title, an upcoming webinar from the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), “I Never Metadata I Didn’t Like,” promises to address some of publishers’ key metadata questions and concerns. The webinar, which is scheduled for the 27th of November, will feature accounts from journal publishers on how they’ve improved their metadata outputs and lessons learned.

In the meantime, if you’re a Crossref member, they’ve just released a new free tool that you can use to gauge the quality of your journals’ metadata called “Participation Reports.” Members just have to type their name into the search bar to pull up their full Participation Report. Crossref’s head of metadata Patricia Feeney shared more details about the free tool and some general metadata best practices in a recent interview.

Plan S compliant peer review and journal policies

Plan S also includes peer review and overall journal policy specifications. Of the implementation guidelines, these should be among the most direct to meet, but they will still require attention to detail. Plan S states that all journals must have a clear peer review policy in place as well as policies around any journal fees. All policies must be detailed on the journal’s website and meet the standards of the journal’s discipline. Plan S specifies that journals should comply with the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines. Journal publishers can find the full COPE Core Practices guidelines here, which cover quality standards for journal peer review processes and ethical policies.

Another resource that overviews publishing best practices in line with the Plan S implementation guidelines is the “Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing,” which is a set of standards co-produced by COPE, the Directory of Open Access Journals, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, and the World Association of Medical Editors. The principles cover every aspect of journal publishing, from author fees to advertising, and are well worth a read even for seasoned publishers.

These are just some of the resources available to help journal publishers understand and approach the transition to Plan S. We hope you find this roundup useful and invite you to share additional resources in the comments section!