Plan S and Open Science

The publication of the 10 principles of Plan S by a coalition of research funders (the so-called cOAlition S, and with the support of the European Commission in September 2018 led to extensive debates in the scientific community. As a consequence of Plan S, all researchers are most likely now aware that Open Access and more generally Open Science is an important topic for how scientific practice will evolve, and that they, for this reason, must take part in the public debate. The debate following Plan S showed that the scientific community is however split, with strong voices supporting the plan but also strong voices opposing many of the requirements laid out in the 10 principles.

Open Access is an important topic for the scientific community, and EuChemS supports the transition to Open Access publishing. EuChemS believes that it is important that researchers have a strong voice and is actively taking part in defining the future Open Access and the future of scholarly publication. EuChemS values the attention Plan S has attracted to the field of Open Science, and for the engagement it has created among researchers across all scientific disciplines.

The 10 principles laid out in Plan S and detailed in the subsequent implementation plan were developed by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders. This in itself represents one of the major weaknesses of the plan – despite the fact that Plan S addresses core elements of modern scholarly activity and the dissemination of scientific results, researchers have not been actively involved in the process of defining its principles or the proposed implementation plan.

The open consultation on the implementation plan of Plan S that was issued at the end of 2018 was therefore not only very welcome, but essential in order to ensure that all possible consequences of Plan S could be brought forward, and that researchers could assess whether the plan is commensurate with modern scholarly activity. EuChemS published a position paper on the implementation plan for Plan S.

EuChemS’ position paper emphasised the fact that only a relatively small number of the research funding organisations worldwide stand behind cOAlition S – with the effect that were Plan S rolled out in isolation, the consequences could negatively impact the visibility of European science and scientists, hinder collaborations between researchers, and hamper the career opportunities of researchers funded by funding agencies that are part of cOAlition S.

For EuChemS, being an umbrella organisation for some 40 European Chemical Societies, of which many publish some of the leading scientific journals in the field of chemistry, it is also important that Plan S does not jeopardise these societies’ ability to maintain the high scientific standards of their journals. EuChemS believes that the implementation plan has not examined sufficiently whether high-quality scientific journals can be sustained within the constraints following on from Plan S, in particular considering that the plan is unlikely to be universally adopted. EuChemS stresses the fact that it is crucial that the important work learned societies do, be upheld in order to ensure, maintain and strengthen the connection between research and the public at large. This could be difficult to sustain if financially viable models for scientific publishing prove difficult under Plan S.

The consequences of the plan on individual researchers is also highlighted in the EuChemS position paper. It is important that any researcher may publish their findings subject to a thorough peer review process. To the extent Author Processing Charges (APCs) are introduced in order to fund scientific journals and their peer review processes, these costs must be carried by the research funders or the host institutions. Waiver programmes must also be established for researchers that are unable to pay APCs due to the lack of a support organisation or lack of funding at some institutions in low-income countries.

Enforcing Plan S without due consideration of how scientific publishing is connected to the full range of scholarly activity, may risk leaving European researchers with significant disadvantages compared to their international competitors and peers.

Moreover, scholarly publishing is in many cases closely linked to the evaluation of researchers in connection with funding decisions and job applications. This includes the funding organisations behind cOAlition S. Enforcing Plan S without due consideration of how scientific publishing is connected to the full range of scholarly activity, may risk leaving European researchers with significant disadvantages compared to their international competitors and peers.

Digitalisation is changing society at large as well as scholarly activity. The use of electronic laboratory journals and open-source code developments can help ensure scientific reproducibility and provide new means of assessing contributions to scientific work. The linking of data, programmes analysing data, figures arising from using the programmes on the data and the article manuscript into fully reproducible manuscripts[1] provides new avenues for sharing and analysing scientific discoveries beyond that afforded by the traditional printed article. Allowing for referee reports and rebuttals to follow manuscripts provides new and much-improved ways of assessing the quality of scholarly contributions. Open innovation provides new avenues for industry to tap into the full potential of society at large, and citizen science provides new opportunities for society to become engaged with scientific discoveries and societal challenges.

EuChemS embraces the many new possibilities offered by Open Science. EuChemS is also part of the High-Level expert group ‘Open Science Policy Platform’ which provides support and advice to the European Commission on how to develop and practically implement Open Science policy at the European level. EuChemS will continue to have a particular focus on bringing the perspectives of the researchers into the transformation processes that lie ahead.


Kenneth Ruud, EuChemS
The Arctic University of Norway

[1] https://elifesciences.org/labs/ad58f08d/introducing-elife-s-first-computationally-reproducible-article