Thought Experiment on the Impact of Plan S on non-Plan S countries and Japan

Author : Miho Funamori

In September 2018, a consortium of eleven European research funding agencies known as cOAlition S announced “Plan S,” which requires full and immediate Open Access to all research publications stemming from projects funded by the agencies.

The goal of making research output openly available to all has been generally welcomed; however, the strict requirements of Plan S, which take effect on January 1, 2020, have drawn criticisms from various stakeholders. Researchers from affected countries considered it a violation of their academic freedom, as they will be forced to publish only in conforming journals.

Publishers, especially those publishing high profile journals, claim that it will be impossible to sustain their business if forced to convert to Open Access journals and to rely solely on article processing charges. Institutions operating their own Open Access platforms or Open Access repositories view the requirements as well-intended but difficult to meet.

Despite the turmoil, little has been heard from non-Plan S countries, especially from non-English speaking countries outside Europe. There have been scarcely any comments or analyses relating to the impact of Plan S on these non-Plan S countries.

This paper aims to fill the gap with a thought experiment on the impact of Plan S requirements on various stakeholders in these non-Plan S countries. The analysis concludes that non-Plan S countries are indirectly affected by Plan S by being forced to adapt to the world standard that Plan S sets forth.

As many non-Plan S countries lack support for this transition from their respective funding agencies, they will be seriously disadvantaged to adapt to the new standards. The article processing charge for publishing in Open Access journals and the strict requirements for Open Access platforms could suppress research output from non-Plan S countries and reduce their research competitiveness.

Local publishers, whose financial position in many cases is already precarious, may be forced to shut down or merge with larger commercial publishers. As scholarly communication is globally interconnected, the author argues the need to consider the impact of Plan S on non-Plan S countries and explore alternative ways for realizing full and immediate OA by learning from local practices.

This analysis uses Japan as an exemplar of non-Plan S countries. Its distinctiveness is specified where applicable.