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Will Plan S Affect American Scholarly Publishing and Researchers?

Several months after European funders launched the ambitious new ‘Plan S’ initiative calling for immediate open access submissions for scientific literature starting in 2020, many researchers and American publishers have been wondering if Plan S will affect the future of American scholarly publishing and research. A Plan S initiative focused on American research and researchers would force many journals and American publishers to flip to fully open-access publishing. It would also limit the publishing choices available for American researchers.

Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s senior adviser on open access, traveled to the United States in the fall of 2018 to speak with US research funders, scientific societies and representatives of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy in an effort to win support from US policymakers. The American reaction to Plan S has, in many ways, been complicated by frustrations voiced by Americans publishers, such as the AAAS and Springer Nature, who feel publishing standards may be comprised. In addition, many American researchers and scholarly publishing professionals feel Plan S restricts an author’s freedom of choice in terms of publication of their work. At the end of 2018 an open letter containing signatures from 600+ researchers and two Nobel laureates also appeared on the Internet protesting the demands outlined by Plan S. The signees (located in countries around the world) state, “The views of researchers who will be directly affected by Plan S do not seem to have been solicited during its creation, and hundreds of them from around the world have now signed an open letter expressing their concern about its ramifications — not only for their own rights as authors and academics, but for the health of scholarly and scientific discourse worldwide.”

However, despite this reaction to limit the spread of Plan S initiatives, two large charity funders, the Wellcome Trust from the UK and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (United States-based) both announced to join the coalition in implementing support for Plan S. However, they plan to do so with the following caveat: these two funders do not follow the central tenet of Plan S which outright forbids researchers the publishing in non-compliant journals, and seeks to punish them for even trying. Instead, Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation will not cover article processing charges (APCs) for hybrid journals anymore. Scientists are free to pay the extra OA option from other sources, or negotiate with the journal a CC-BY license would allow institutional deposition under Green OA. This reaction from two leading charities points to the fact that Plan S may not be fully implemented across the globe.

Overall, the reaction to Plan S has been mixed and complicated at best in the United States. As of early 2019 it seems a similar initiative may be launched in North American, but with different variations of requirements (possibly a mix of those presented in Plan S).

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