Open access publishing enables researchers to build on research findings without the barrier of paywalls or the need for subscription-based access. COVID-19 has turned the spotlight on the public health importance of quick and effective dissemination of research, including immediate open access to peer-reviewed research articles.
Over the past year and a half, we have consulted our researcher and patient communities to understand their views on open access publishing. As part of this consultation, we have asked them whether we ought to support and/or fully implement the open access initiative ‘Plan S’.
We strongly support the aims and many of the key principles of Plan S, in particular its goal of making peer-reviewed scholarly research articles immediately openly accessible for all. Our detailed, face-to-face consultation sessions have shown that patients and researchers also support this goal.
The guidance for implementing Plan S has been adjusted since the initial implementation plan was proposed at the end of 2018, and publishers are working to adjust their models to comply with current Plan S requirements. However, many researchers have concerns about the impact of Plan S upon implementation in January 2021, particularly concerning their ability to publish in hybrid journals. Researchers also expressed concerns over the differences in the current level of support for Plan S from funders across the globe, particularly in North America, which could disadvantage those tied to Plan S publishing requirements by their funders.
Our priority is the effective dissemination and early availability of our research for patient benefit. While we are becoming a supporter of Plan S, and adopting an immediate open access policy that will come into effect from January 2022, we are not becoming a signatory at this stage, and will still provide funding for open access publishing costs for Cancer Research UK (CRUK)-funded articles in hybrid journals.
Our next steps and other considerations:
We will update our open access policy to require immediate open access upon publication for CRUK-funded articles accepted for final publication on or after 1 January 2022. Immediate open access can be achieved either by publishing gold open access in fully open access, hybrid, or transformative journals (those that have committed to transition to fully open access) or green open access (self-deposit of the article in EuropePMC). Researchers must ensure their articles are available in EuropePMC immediately on publication. Until January 2022 our current policy will still apply.
We will continue to provide funding for open access publishing fees, including in hybrid journals where the article is made immediately available on publication. We will also continue to provide funds for and encourage institutional transformative deals with publishers.
Our position will have implications for the Charity Open Access Fund; we are in discussions with the other funding partners and expect to have an update in May 2020.
We strongly encourage publishers to update their journal models in line with Plan S requirements. As the owner of the British Journal of Cancer (BJC), we will work with its publishing partner Springer Nature to seek a route to compliance for the BJC, whilst ensuring the future sustainability of the journal.
We will continue to monitor developments among publisher responses and transformative agreements and will consider at a later date whether to become a full signatory to Plan S.
We encourage other funders to signal their support for Plan S and work with institutions, researchers and publishers to create immediate open access publishing options for authors.