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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 publishers’ minds is — which Plan S route will work best for my journals? 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, which is currently underway, started with a background study to identify the key challenges that Plan S presents for learned societies. Information Power has since released a discussion document with the findings of the background study and an initial assessment of potential options for learned societies to transition to Plan S compliant OA publishing business models. The next phase of the project is working with learned societies to understand which OA models have potential for different society structures and within different disciplines. Information Power plans to release a summary report on ways societies can achieve Plan S compliant open access while remaining financially sustainable. This is a report to watch for that will yield specific examples and insights.

The “Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S” project was also featured in a recent OASPA webinar titled, “How should Scholarly Societies transition to Open Access?” — the full recording of which is available here. The webinar examined the question of how societies should approach OA by looking at the past, present, and future of society publishing with the following speaker lineup:

  • Aileen Fyfe, historian of academic publishing and professor at the University of St Andrews, spoke about the history of scholarly society publishing and turning points in the 20th century that resulted in the society publishing landscape of today
  • Stuart Taylor, publishing director of The Royal Society, discussed the Royal Society’s OA publishing efforts and how societies might work together towards common OA goals
  • Alicia Wise, director of Information Power consulting, shared the latest findings from the “Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S” project and next steps
  • Rachael Samberg, UC Berkeley Library’s scholarly communication officer, introduced “Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access“ (TSPOA), a group of libraries, publishers, and academic institutions working to compile resources to support society publications in the transition to OA

The webinar provided a deep dive into the challenges and opportunities faced by scholarly societies in the wake of Plan S and the present OA 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 course 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 course, 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.

Quick note: If you use Scholastica for open access publishing, you’re a few steps ahead in terms of meeting the Plan S metadata requirements. Scholastica automatically produces machine-readable metadata files for all articles published using our open access publishing platform in standard interoperable formats, per the Plan S guidelines, including cited references, copyright license information, and complete funding information. You can learn more about how Scholastica is helping OA journals produce machine-readable metadata here.

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.

Additionally, Scholastica put together a blog post guide to writing journal peer review policies that outlines the primary elements to include in journal peer review policies and best practices to follow. We also created an “Academic Journal Peer Review Policies Checklist“ that you can use to ensure you don’t miss any core information.

Opportunities in the transition to OA publishing and Plan S

Finally, while there are many complex questions for journal publishers to address in the transition to OA, there are also many new publishing opportunities that OA presents. An upcoming SSP webinar, “Plan S: Opportunities for the Future of Scholarly Publishing,” will focus on the possibilities of OA publishing, including broader research dissemination and impacts.

The webinar will be held on the 17th of September 2019 and feature:

  • Stephanie Diment, Director, Open Research, Wiley
  • John Willinsky, Director of Public Knowledge Project, Khosla Family Professor, Stanford University
  • Harold Varmus, MD, Lewis Thomas University Professor, Weill Cornell Medicine, Senior Associate Member, New York Genome Center

As the community discusses possible OA publishing opportunities, there are also many examples of scholarly societies and institutions publishing fully OA journals with positive results. In a recent interview, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s managing editor Emilie Gunn shared how ASCO successfully launched its first fully OA journal, the Journal of Global Oncology through a combination of grant and APC funding.

These are just some of the resources available to help journal publishers in the transition to Plan S. We hope you find this roundup useful and invite you to share additional resources in the comments section! To learn more about how Scholastica is supporting sustainable open access publishing and helping journals fulfill the Plan S implementation guidelines, visit our Product Roadmap: Plan S, Core Open Access Publishing Standards & Scholastica.

Update Note: This post was originally published on the 25th of June 2019 and updated on the 4th of September 2019.