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Open Access & Institutional Repository: 1st Open Research Symposium - Plan S

Plan S Symposium & Panel Event

Plan S is an initiative to make publicly funded research open access immediately upon publication.

The Plan will have an effect on the journals we edit and publish in. The University of Southampton hosted an event in the Nuffield Theatre on 25th April 2019, aimed primarily at Academic Editors but also accessible to other interested parties which informed and stimulated debate about the plans supported by UKRI, Wellcome, NIHR and other international funding bodies.

The speakers kindly allowed their presentations to be recorded and made available to University of Southampton staff and students.

Please note that the symposium took place before the release of the revisions to the Plan S principles and implementation guidance. To confirm, Plan S will take effect from 2021, not 2020 as was originally proposed.

cOAlition S released a work plan of Priority Actions for Plan S in June 2019. We will keep you informed of key developments relating to Plan S and the UKRI Open Access review as they arise but as always if you have any questions, please contact your Research Engagement Librarian.


Description of the Symposium


The event aimed to inform interested parties, especially editors, about key insights into Open Access publishing. We had representatives from Wiley and the Royal Society of Chemistry to present on their experiences as well as Prof Calder from the Faculty of Medicine. A light lunch and tea/coffee were provided.

Dr Steven Vidovic – Open Research Development Manager. Library, University of Southampton. Twenty minute introduction to the Symposium and Plan S overview.

Kathryn Sharples – Director of Publishing Development. Wiley. Talking to Open Access and publishing business models.

Prof. Philip Calder – Professor of Nutritional Immunology and Head of Human Development and Health. Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton. Talking to developments in academic journals publishing and journal metrics.

Dr May Copsey, Executive Editor Chemical Science & Dr Andrew Shore, Executive Editor RSC Advances Royal Society of Chemistry. Talking to the RSC’s position on Plan S and managing open access journals through change. Managing change in an Open Access world: an Editors perspective.

Panel Question Time

The Panel Event was chaired by Steven Vidovic. The Panel comprised: May Copsey and Andrew Shore, RSC (Physical Sciences); Philip Calder, Medicine, Southampton (Medicine); Kathryn Sharples, Wiley (Publishing); Wendy White, Library & Arts, University of Southampton (representing Social Sciences and Humanities).

Who was this event for?

Anyone that:

  • is an academic editor;

  • writes and publishes articles;

  • is a member of a learned society which publishes;

  • receives funding from a funding body or charity under UKRI and COAF.

What is Plan S

On 4th September 2018, 11 European funding councils (now 14 + charitable foundations) announced that they had formed cOAlition S and released Plan S. The plan, which can be found here is a set of principles and an overarching statement that, in essence, says all publicly funded research will be immediately open access (OA) by January 2021. Additionally, the principles say:

  • self-archive (i.e. green open access) with no embargo when publishing in a subscription journal;

  • publishers should cap OA article processing charges (APCs), with transparent valuations;

  • the hybrid model is not an acceptable model to engage with because it charges for both OA and subscriptions;

  • Authors retain their own copyright.


Recordings of the presentations

These recordings are available to University of Southampton staff and students.

Questions and Answers raised at the Symposium

The Panel Q&A session was not recorded. The following questions were raised during the Symposium and by researchers at other times. If you have further questions, please contact your Research Engagement Librarian or email 

What is a hybrid journal?

Hybrid journals are subscription journals that also contain some open access content. Authors typically have the option of paying a fee (an Article Processing Charge, APC) to make their article openly available to everyone. Subscription content remains behind a paywall and is only available to subscribers. The publisher receives income both from subscribers and from some authors, referred to as double-dipping where there is no financial offsetting arrangement. Plan S will only allow publishing in hybrid journals that have transformative agreements to become fully open access during a 3-year transition period.

What is an APC?

An Article Processing Charge (APC) is a fee charged by publishers to make individual articles open access. Some publishers charge extra for a CC BY licence, required by many funders. The average APC reported by UKRI for 2016/2017 was £1,988 with hybrid journals (£2,101) charging more than fully open access journals (£1,654), wile the Wellcome Trust reported an average APC of £2,424 for 2017/2018 . The most expensive APC we can find in July 2019 is Cell (a hybrid journal published by Elsevier) at $5,900. Some publishers also charge additional page charges, colour charges and other publication fees.

For fully OA journals, the APC covers the cost of producing the article, funding peer-review management, editorial development, type setting, copy editing and hosting costs. For hybrid journals, the APC is a premium option and recovers some of the lost potential income from licencing and access fees. 

Are researchers rewarded for peer-review?

Peer-review, the process of experts in the field assessing the quality of an article to indicate to an Editor if it should be accepted for publication, is a voluntary activity. Actively reviewing for journals can help you to see cutting edge research before it’s published and helps with career development. There are several criteria set out in the Vitae Researcher Development Framework that can be improved by engagement with peer-review. Researchers can receive recognition for peer-review and generate verified records of reviewing activity for their CVs by creating a Publons profile; this also allows Editors to identify you as an expert in a specific field. Some publishers, including MDPI and JMIR, offer discounted APCs as a thank you for peer reviewing.

Is ‘green’ open access less impactful or discoverable?

‘Green’ open access relates to the self-archiving by the authors of their article in a subject or institutional repository for content otherwise only available through subscription. Publishers impose a restriction on the version of the article that can be used and often require an embargo of 6-24 months after publication before the self-archived copy can be made open access. Plan S requires publishers to amend their embargo periods to allow the record to be made fully open immediately upon publication by January 2021 i.e. all hybrid journals without a transformative agreement will need a 0-month embargo to be compliant with Plan S funder policies. There are great tools available to find legal green open access content (including Unpaywall, OA Button, Core Discovery and Kopernio)  and these are being embedded in library search tools and databases such as Scopus and Web of Science. A report from the OECD found that open access, including self-archiving, increased citation impact potential. This finding is echoed in peer-reviewed literature, including articles by Tennant et al (2016) and Zhang and Watson (2017).

What is the impact of open access on long term curation and access?

Publishers of both subscription and open access journals sign up to preservation services to ensure the long-term availability of online journal content including CLOCKSS (Controlled ‘Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe’) or Portico. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) includes the long term preservation of open access journals as one of 7 required criteria for journals to acquire the DOAJ Seal.

Do I need to publish my article in a high Impact factor journal to ensure it is graded as a 3* or 4* in REF2021?

No. The REF2021 guidance clearly states "No sub-panel will use journal impact factors or any hierarchy of journals in their assessment of outputs. No output will be privileged or disadvantaged on the basis of the publisher, where it is published or the medium of its publication." ( no 207. P49). The University has published its code of practice for the REF2021. For more information on responsible research metrics see DORA (Declaration on Research Assessment) and the Leiden manifesto.

How does Plan S affect me if I am funded by UKRI? 

UKRI is a member of cOAlition S, the consortium formed to deliver the principles of Plan S. They are currently reviewing their Open Access Policy in light of revised guidance (31/5/2019) and the new policy will be launched in March 2020. Please contact your research engagement librarian for more information. 

Am I disadvantaged as an ECR because I don’t have funds for OA? 


  1. Plan S takes ECRs into account and principles such as responsible research metrics are put in place so that they can publish in appropriate journals for their content and career stage without prejudice.
  2. If you are not funded by a cOAlition S signatory you are not bound to publish in a compliant journal, although it is best practice to do so if possible.
  3. You can self-archive in appropriate repositories where embargoes will be applied - if appropriate -  as well as using pre-print servers to promote early drafts of your work. Read here for overview on the background and the advantages this can bring to academics,
  4. The Transpose database seeks to highlight journal policies on peer-review, co-reviewing and pre-print policies to help you investigate further.

What will happen to the Learned Society journal that I publish in? It is hybrid and uses the profits from publishing articles to fund ECRs attending conferences.

There is a coalition of industry bodies collaborating to look at ways that learned societies can adapt and change. Please see discussion document. A final report will be published in July 2019.

Surely publishers will just increase acceptance rates to make more money?

There is research that demonstrates greater acceptance rates in open access journals, but this may be due to “Mega-journals” accepting all sound science with limited rejections due to scope. Plan S recognises that journals could generate increased revenue through increasing the APC or increasing the acceptance rates. With regard to the APC, the latest guidance has asked for transparent documentation of costs related to publishing and notes that a price cap may be introduced at a later stage. The Plan S guidance also calls for DOAJ to index Plan S compliant journals and DOAJ collect data on acceptance rates.