EU and national funders launch plan for free and immediate open access to scientific journals

The architect of ‘Plan-S’, Robert-Jan Smits, hopes to force a major change in the business model of academic publishers. The effect will be similar to the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges in Europe, he says

The European Commission and a group of national research funders have laid out a controversial and perhaps precedent-setting plan to make thousands of research papers free to read on the day of publication, in a move that could force a major change in the business model of science publishers.

The initiative, ‘Plan-S’, brings together eleven top national research funders, plus the European Research Council, in an effort to release some of the world’s highest quality and highest impact research from behind journal paywalls.

Under the initiative, funding agencies including UK Research and Innovation, Science Foundation Ireland and the Research Council of Norway will require grant holders to publish only in journals that offer immediate open access, and under a licence that enables anyone to freely reuse and distribute the material.

The European Commission and coalition of national research funders in Austria, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK will implement the new policy from 1 January 2020.

The idea is to open up publicly funded research to everyone, not just the well-resourced, says the architect of the plan, Robert-Jan Smits. “The solution for opening up research is in the hands of funders. They hold the key,” he told Science|Business. The EU’s research commissioner, Carlos Moedas, congratulated the funding bodies that committed to Plan-S “and strongly encourage[d] others to follow as soon as possible”.

Smits hopes the plan will increase the pressure on a handful of influential science gatekeepers, such as Elsevier, Wiley and Springer, which stand accused of limiting the flow of scientific information through the high subscription rates of their journals. Following almost eight years as EU’s most senior civil servant in research, Smits was appointed special envoy on open science within the European Political Strategy Centre, the Commission’s in-house think tank, in February. He developed the open access plan with Marc Schiltz, president of Science Europe, a body representing national public research funders….

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