The statement published earlier today (3rd February) by the STM Association and signed by a number of its members (and a number of non-members), continues to perpetuate a number of myths and errors relating to the Rights Retention Strategy.

From the start it is worth stressing that cOAlition S continues to engage with many of the publishers who are signatories to the letter, supporting routes which enable the Version of Record (VoR) to be made Open Access.  Funders, like Wellcome, are not only supporting Article Processing Charges in fully open access journals, but also allow their funding to be used to support transformative arrangements – such as Read and Publish agreements – and more recently, transformative journals (which a number of signatories – including Elsevier and Springer Nature – have developed). Although the Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) is indeed being implemented as of January 2021, publishers have received notice of the Rights Retention Strategy since July 2020, and cOAlition S has held various meetings with them to discuss their concerns and explain what the RSS is trying to achieve.

We agree that management and support of the peer review process require significant resources. However, while we do not underestimate the value that publishers add to the process, we point out that peer review is conducted on a voluntary basis by the research community.

We are somewhat perplexed to read that the “Rights Retention Strategy ignores long-standing academic freedoms”. As these are left unspecified, it is hard to see how that could be the case. However, we believe the Rights Retention Strategy restores long-standing academic freedoms, in that it asserts the authors’ ownership of their publication after peer review, to re-use and share as they please. It is up to the publishers to demonstrate the added value of the Version of Record, for which cOAlition S funders are willing to pay, as we have repeatedly stated.

The paper also states – without substantiating this claim – that the Rights Retention Strategy will undermine the Version of Record. Again, how exactly this will be achieved is left unspecified. We allow for publishers to formulate conditions on the relation between the Author Accepted Manuscript and the Version of Record: publishers can stipulate that reference should always be made to the Version of Record. We also believe that the authors themselves have a vested interest in referring to the Version of Record. As is well known, peak re-submissions to ArXiv happen at the time of publication, which suggests that authors are uploading the AAM or the VoR. This seems not to have affected the integrity of the VoR, nor indeed publishers’ income. So we see no reason for this gloomy and wholly unsubstantiated prediction.

Furthermore, the statement attempts to confuse authors, stating ominously that “The signatory publishers (…) urge authors to consult with their journals of choice as to what is allowed.” Authors need not do any such thing. Using the Rights Retention Strategy is an individual right that authors have to assert intellectual ownership of their work. They do not need the publishers’ permission to exercise that right. In addition, the Rights Retention Strategy is now a contractual grant condition for cOAlition S grantees. It would be a matter of significant concern if we saw the publishers encouraging cOAlition S grantees to violate their contractual obligations with their funder.

Publishers are, of course, at liberty to reject all manuscripts which give notice to the publisher of the prior right to share their accepted manuscript.  Publishers who wish to do so, should contact cOAlition S so that we can update the Journal Checker Tool with this information.

In conclusion, cOAlition S funders are prepared to pay a fair, reasonable, and transparent fee for the services publishers provide to make the VoR Open Access. And, though we believe there is added value in the VoR, to ensure this model is widely adopted, publishers need to demonstrate to the research community that the value provided by making this version Open Access is commensurate with the price charged. cOAlition S’s ultimate goal is to make sure that the publications resulting from its funding are immediately made openly available for the entire world to benefit from, free from any embargo periods or paywalls.


February 3, 2021


Robert Kiley, cOAlition S Coordinator

Johan Rooryck, Executive Director, cOAlition S

Repositories as key links in the cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy

In the previous blogs, I covered Plan S and the requirements for repositories, and the benefits of deposit & dissemination of research findings via repositories. In this piece, I focus on the cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy and how it relates to repositories. I also take a brief look into possible futures.

From 1st January 2021, the cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) will start to be implemented by funders. A key reason for adopting this initiative is to allow authors to have the widest possible range of journals to choose from for article submission and to make sure they take advantage of the benefits of OA, whilst meeting their funder’s OA requirements. The RRS is not principally about compliance – OA should never primarily be about box-ticking and compliance – it is about restoring intellectual control of works describing research findings to the authors themselves. Adoption of the RRS gives authors the security that acceptance of their article for submission ensures that they can eventually make their work OA either via the Version of Record (VoR), or the author accepted manuscript (AAM), independently of the choice of venue (fully OA or subscription journal).

The RRS cuts through much of the confusion, obfuscation, and – to be frank – utter nonsense surrounding copyright transfer claims made by some publishers. Take for example the incorrect claim that copyright transfer is required to ensure the widest possible dissemination of a work, as stated by Cell Press:

Upon acceptance of an article, authors will be asked to transfer copyright. This transfer will ensure the widest possible dissemination of information.

The author only needs to grant a licence to publish to the publisher for it to have the rights it needs to publish and disseminate the work (with the caveat that additional permissions and exclusive rights, if signed by an author, can be as restrictive as wholesale transfer of copyright) – it does not need transfer of copyright. Transfer of copyright enables the publisher to control the use of the article, which can include putting it behind a paywall and imposing embargoes on AAMs, which is hardly ensuring widest possible dissemination.

There is also this strange example in AAP journals (see ‘Pediatrics’) that imposes a 12-month embargo on articles which can then be followed by open access for a limited period of four years. Exactly what benefit is accrued to authors or to scholarship when access is closed down after four years is hard to imagine. The RRS eliminates this sort of absurdity and other inconsistencies that only serve to confuse both authors and readers, and prevent full, immediate, and long-term access to research findings.

cOAlition S is mindful of the choices of areas of the world where repository OA is currently the preferred and only practical option. In some countries, funders cannot afford the expensive OA options paid for by more wealthy funders of the global north. In these countries, repository OA is currently the only workable (and often preferred) solution. cOAlition S is also aware of the situation of small publishers and small learned societies. Some specialist journals might only publish a handful of cOAlition S funded papers every year. Such journals often have minimal resources, so a commitment to ‘flip’ to a fully OA journal is not always viable in the near future. In this situation, the repository OA option enables them to offer a workable immediate OA solution for their authors.

Differing views on the pros and cons of immediate repository OA have been well-rehearsed elsewhere (for example see Times Higher 23/4/19, Scholarly Kitchen 16/12/19 and 18/12/13, RSB presentation 2012,  Unlocking Research 20/5/16 and LSE blog 14/1/14), but there is no evidence so far that the OA availability of AAMs in repositories harms library subscription of the corresponding VoRs. In fact, a number of publishers already permit zero embargo for AAMs, some with CC BY licences. Emerald Publishing recently partnered with Jisc to extend its existing zero embargo policy so that OA AAMs “will be auto-deposited to their institutional repository via Jisc’s Publications Router when their institution has a subscription to the journal. Articles will be deposited based on the author’s affiliation at the time of submission, under a UKRI OA compliant licence.” I feel sure that Emerald would not have made this move if they felt it would toll the death-knell for its journals.

In recent news, AAAS Science journals have adopted a trial new OA policy that actively enables the cOAlition S RRS including for its prominent title Science. Under this new open-access policy, cOAlition S ‘authors may deposit near-final, peer-reviewed versions of papers accepted by paywalled Science titles in publicly accessible online repositories’ under a CC BY licence. cOalition S has welcomed this move. This development is particularly notable because it is in direct opposition to the direction taken by its competitor Springer Nature, which publishes the journal Nature. Although a pilot for 12 months, again, I think it is highly unlikely that such high profile journals as Science titles would have adopted the new policy and embrace the green route solution and its benefits, if its management felt that it would contribute to the downfall of the publication.

Horizon gazing

As mentioned previously, cOAlition S supports mixed models for OA. In this respect, depositing AAMs and other works in OA repositories is ‘supportive of innovation whilst also collectively managed by the scholarly community’ (COAR Next Generation Repositories Report). My prediction is that in 5 years’ time we shall be seeing much greater roles for pre-prints, micro-publishing (e.g. microPublication Biology), other forms of research description that support open science (e.g. registered reports), overlay peer review (e.g. PCI), combined with improved forms of research evaluation. I would hazard a guess that author rights retention and repositories will play a positive supporting role in getting scholarship to that point.

The many benefits of repositories

In the previous blog, I examined the cOAlition S mandate for depositing copies of articles in repositories. One of the main drivers for this requirement is a commitment to long-term preservation[1].

Moving on to the purpose of repositories[2]. Repositories – particularly institutional repositories – are much more than the rather quaint efforts to challenge major publishers that they are sometimes made out to be. They serve many important functions and, as they continue to develop, enhance the research support infrastructure of their institutions.

The advantages and benefits of repositories are numerous:

  • Repositories maximise visibility, dissemination and use: for example, Harvard DASH repository recently reached 40 million downloads (15/12/2020).
  • Repositories enable metadata harvesting of their content which amplifies visibility and discoverability, especially by aggregators such as BASE, OpenAIRE, and CORE which recently reached 30 million visits per month.
  • Repositories provide additional publicity for individual works and usually include item record DOI links to the publisher’s version.
  • “Try before you buy.” Many people and organisations do not have paid access to articles: charities, businesses, retired researchers, patients, the general public, and so on. In addition, many universities have limited subscriptions. Repositories enable these users to decide if it’s worth them spending £30 – £40 or so on the publisher’s version of record (VoR). This function is especially useful when running a major (i.e. potentially expensive) literature search.
  • Repositories impose no additional costs or limits on supplementary supporting content, including word count, extra pages, colour diagrams and images, etc. that were not able to be included in the publisher’s version of record (VoR). For example, as stated in a recent Tweetthere is a lot more work that we wish we could have cited. But honestly, it’s tricky with the journal’s very tight length restrictions, so we had to cut quite a lot of text/discussions, refs, etc., unfortunately.” Additional supporting content can be archived along with the paper.
  • Trustworthy repositories make a commitment to digital preservation or, at the very least, a robust exit strategy.
  • Repositories are not limited to author accepted manuscripts (AAMs) – open access versions of record and other versions can be deposited as preferred.
  • Repositories provide control of the scholarly corpus that is not dependent on commercial priorities or whims.

In addition, institutional repositories (IRs) provide the following benefits:

  • The repository acts as a ‘shop window’ of the organization’s research.
  • All research item types can be deposited including research theses, conference papers, posters & presentations, book sections, reports, working & discussion papers, and increasingly data, etc. It is this feature that makes the repository the organization’s research archive and ‘shop window’.
  • IRs are particularly useful for publicising individual book sections and chapters that are ‘hidden’ within an edited volume.
  • They keep a local copy for the institution. In my opinion, it is shocking that, in the past, HEIs have not habitually retained local copies of the works published in their own names – their own ‘crown jewels’ of research findings. Why would the responsibility for these valuable works have been cast to the four winds and a variety of external third parties, without keeping a local copy as well?

cOAlition S encourages high standards for repositories

By including repositories as a major strand for OA, cOAlition S is keen that high standards are maintained, implemented and, where relevant, aspired to. To this end, the group is in close contact with COAR (Confederation of OA Repositories) and other repository standards ‘influencers.’

Scholarly communications infrastructure, particularly in relation to metadata, is something of a leviathan. However, when it is universally implemented meeting common standards, it has the potential to simplify and improve research dissemination and discovery. This is especially true as persistent identifiers (PIDs) are becoming ubiquitous (see for example project FREYA that aimed “to build the infrastructure for persistent identifiers as a core component of open science, in the EU and globally”). In the Plan S technical requirements for repositories, cOAlition S encourages widespread adoption of common, interoperable, and machine-readable PIDs that comply with commonly adopted community standards, as well as other descriptive and administrative metadata.

To assist repositories in meeting these high requirements, cOAlition S has provided FAQs and practical advice for repository managers. cOAlition S is working with the repository community so we pull in a common direction, and the group deeply values collaboration with COAR, CORE, and representatives from repositories in France, Finland, Jisc (UK) and other countries.


In the final blog, I shall describe how the cOAlition S rights retention strategy fits with the repository route to OA.


[1] On this topic I recommend reading the final chapter (Why we will always need libraries and archives) of Richard Ovenden’s recent work ‘Burning the books: A history of knowledge under attack.’ John Murray Publishing 9781529378757

[2] I should state my personal bias here as a former repository manager from 2004, at both LSE and at Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

cOAlition S funders’ repository requirements: unity in diversity

When Plan S was launched in 2018, it gained a reputation as a Gold Open Access (OA) initiative focused on paying for Article Processing Charges (APC). See for example “Plan S: A mandate for Gold OA with lots of strings attached.” That may have been fair criticism at the time. However, Plan S was revised in 2019 in response to community feedback (>600 responses). As a result, greater emphasis was given to Open Access via repositories.

Put simply, Plan S has as its core principle that the results from research funded by its organisations must be published in immediate OA with a public open licence. That can be achieved via one of three routes. One of those three routes to OA is publication in a subscription journal with a copy of the peer reviewed work (Author’s Accepted Manuscript – AAM) made immediately available in a repository. This is commonly referred to as ‘Green’ OA. Plan S also states that “cOAlition S strongly encourages the deposition of all publications in a repository, irrespective of the chosen route to compliance. Several cOAlition S members require deposition of all attributed research articles in a repository.”

cOAlition S requirements and repositories

cOAlition S is a global alliance, and intends to increase global spread and reach for OA. The group also aims to promote a diversity of OA models. cOAlition S comprises a diverse set of organisations that are in the process of aligning their OA policies with Plan S principles. Individual policies may result in slightly differing preferences for deposit in a repository. For example:

  • European Commission: Horizon 2020 OA policy: Mandatory for all articles. “Beneficiaries must deposit a machine-readable electronic copy of the published version or final peer-reviewed manuscript accepted for publication in a repository for scientific publications. This must be done as soon as possible and at the latest upon publication. This step applies even where open access publishing (‘gold’ open access) is chosen to ensure that the article is preserved in the long term.”
  • Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) Open science policy: Mandatory for all articles. “As part of the ANR’s contribution to … open science, and in line with the National Plan for Open Science, the funded project coordinator and partners must undertake to submit the scientific publications (full text) resulting from the research project to an open archive, either directly in HAL [French national repository] or via a local institutional archive, in accordance with the conditions in article 30 of the French “For a digital republic” act.”
  • Wellcome Trust OA policy from 1st January 2020: Mandatory for all articles. “All research articles supported in whole or in part by Wellcome must be made freely available through PubMed Central (PMC) and Europe PMC by the official final publication date…

Such mandatory requirements for all articles find their origin in the Berlin Declaration on OA which is cited in Plan S (my emphasis):

A complete version of the work … is deposited (and thus published) in at least one online repository using suitable technical standards … that is supported and maintained by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving.”

This requires distributed control or governance of the repository and its content; governance that does not prioritise commercial considerations (e.g. shareholder dividends); openness and sharing in all aspects; and focus on longevity. There are examples of different types of repositories that fulfil this remit, including subject repositories (e.g. EPMC), general open repositories (e.g. Zenodo); National/Regional repositories (e.g. La Referencia, HAL or Jisc Research Repository); Institutional repositories owned and managed by a Higher Education Institution (HEI) (see OpenDOAR). Such repositories tend to publicly state a commitment to longevity and/or an exit strategy (to be implemented if the service were to close for any reason). For example, see the Zenodo terms on ‘Longevity,’ ‘Retention’ and ‘Succession’ and HAL which sends files to the publicly owned CINES for long-term archiving. This chimes with the cOAlition S priorities for openness combined with a clear commitment to longevity and preservation.

Even with a preservation policy, a repository might include terms and conditions that appear to conflict with that policy. For example, in Figshare (my emphasis):

While Figshare is not responsible for any User Submission, it reserves the right to remove or block any User Submission from the Service at any time, without notice and for any reason.


Figshare reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to change, suspend, or discontinue any part of the Service at any time without notice to you. This may involve the removal of any Content from the Service.”


In the next blog, I shall explore why cOAlition S wishes to reap the many benefits of repositories.

Having worked to promote openness of research findings for some considerable time, it’s great to come across examples that illustrate why you’re making all the effort. The Journal of Patient Experience (published by the Association for Patient Experience/SAGE) uses a publication model that demonstrates an excellent use case for openness. This journal describes itself as: Giving voice to our patients and our providers, the Journal of Patient Experience (JPE) is an open access, peer-reviewed journal which focuses on presenting advances and applications that impact the patient experience.

It would be difficult to find an aim of an academic journal that is more relevant to the general public. The journal states that it is: “dedicated to presenting advances and applications that impact the patient experience. It also serves as a forum to share ideas from industry leaders, caregivers, patients and family members. The Editorial Board believes that incorporating the patient and family perspective to share experiences is important and also feels that patients may have unique perspectives on how healthcare might use patient advisory councils, rounding, access, and transparency (to name a few) to enhance compassionate care of the future.”

I am no healthcare expert so cannot comment on the quality of content, but my point is that this particular publication has OA at its very core, so that both health care providers and Joe and Josephine Public can access and read content. This enables providers and receivers of health care to work collaboratively to enable the best possible care for patients. In the words of the Association for Patient Experience, for patients to be “informed, engaged and proactive” and providers to have “information, education, networking opportunities, and related resources focused on best practices” resulting in better care.

We have come a long way since the comment made by Dr John Jarvis, Senior Vice President, Europe, Managing Director, Wiley Europe Limited, at the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee hearing on scientific publication of 2004: “Speak to people in the medical profession, and they will say the last thing they want are people who may have illnesses reading this information, marching into surgeries and asking things.”

To the credit of the committee, its response was: “We are convinced that it is better that the public should be informed by peer–reviewed research than by pressure groups or research as it is reported in the media.” [1].

As a resource directly targeted at patients, amongst others, this journal, therefore, must be freely accessible, and free any author from publication cost (whilst retaining quality via peer review). To this end the journal is peer-reviewed, fully OA, authors retain copyright, works are published under open licenses, and its publishing costs are sustainably funded by the Association for Patient Experience. As such, it is a model example of “diamond” OA:

  • Open access article processing charge (APC) information. This journal is financially supported by the Association for Patient Experience and therefore does not charge an article processing charge for open access publication.
  • Authors retain copyright under a Creative Commons License

cOAlition S organisations are pressing these exact same qualities for all research publication via Plan S. cOAlition S has commissioned a study to explore collaborative non-commercial publishing models for Open Access (aka ‘diamond’ OA). The results of this study are due by the end of December 2020, and will inform cOAlition S policy in 2021.

One other thing to note about this journal is that there are “No page charges and authors can publish full data sets, figures, tables, etc“. The absence of page and other publishing charges is notable: such additional charges are often forgotten in discussions around APCs and OA prices and charges.

In conclusion, in these COVID-ridden times, prompt and easy access to reliable health information for all has never been a more prominent and beneficial issue. Publishing venues that enable authors to publish without charge, and researchers, caregivers, patients, and their families to access this information without charge, highlight that anything other than the model demonstrated by the Journal of Patient Experience should be considered unjustified.


[1] Scientific Publications: Free for all? House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Tenth Report of Session 2003-04 Volume I: Report, Para 39

 – The following post was originally published on the OASPA blog available here – 


We thank OASPA for the opportunity to respond to the blog post, signed by 11 publishers who argue that the cOAlition S’s Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) will undermine progress to a fully OA world.

From the start we would like to make clear that we agree with the authors of the post that the Version of Record (VoR) is preferred to the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM).

We make this position clear on our website and in all the communications we have done around the Rights Retention Strategy.  Moreover, the Journal Checker Tool – a web-based tool to help our funded researchers understand how to comply with our OA policies when seeking publication in their journal of choice – indicates that publication routes which enable the VoR to be made OA are preferred.

Perhaps the most significant demonstration of this position however, is the fact the cOAlition S organisations are providing significant funding to support OA publications costs.  By way of example, in this financial year UKRI, Wellcome and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are providing more than £36m to support OA publication costs[1].

The primary argument made by the signatories to the blog post is that authors, if they have a choice between making either the AAM or VoR OA, will invariably opt for the AAM on the grounds that they don’t have to pay a publishing cost.  No evidence is provided to substantiate this claim.

Moreover, this argument is far too simplistic. It ignores the fact that if an institution has participated in, say, a “Read and Publish” deal, it has already paid to make the VoR OA.  For example, Wiley, one of the signatories to the OASPA blog post, have such a deal in place in the UK which in 2020 has resulted in more than 6300 VoR articles being made OA. This equates to around 80% of UK-funded research published by Wiley in this year. In this example, both Wellcome and UKRI OA funds have been used to contribute to the “publish” pot.

The argument also assumes that researchers are paying publication fees directly, and thus would prefer to use those funds on other activities.  In practice however, publication costs are being met directly by the institution (via Read and Publish deals etc.) and/or by the funder.

Our preference for the VoR however, is not unconditional and at any price.

One of the initiatives cOAlition S is taking forward is around price and service transparency, so that purchasers can better understand the services publishers provide and the price they charge for these.  The RRS thus provides an alternative route for complying with a funders’ OA policy when the buyer of those services deems that the price for the services offered is neither fair or reasonable.

The RRS also provides a compliant option towards publication in OA for small learned societies and publishers, who may not have the resources to broker transformative agreements, and whose journals only feature publication of a handful of cOAlition S funded authors. In this way, the RRS enables authors to maintain their choice of journal without disenfranchising small publishers.

cOAlition S has a global perspective and is well aware that the funders’ preference for the VoR is likely to be linked to their capacity to pay. Until prices for OA publishing are globally equitable, it is indeed possible that many LMIC countries may avail themselves of the RRS route to OA.

It is also worth noting that the RRS appears to have encouraged several subscription publishers to develop Plan S-aligned publishing options, through which the VoR can be made OA. We warmly welcome this move.

However, even though Plan S was announced more than 2 years ago – and will be implemented within the next four weeks – many publishers have not developed any Plan S-aligned publishing policies.  As such, the RRS provides a means by which our funded researchers can continue to seek publication of their choice and remain compliant with their funders’ OA policy.

We also find the characterisation of repositories – a limbo where multiple, inferior versions of articles are said to languish, with no access to the underlying data etc. – to be painfully at odds with the reality of many repositories.  For example, Europe PMC – supported by several cOAlition S funders including the Dutch Research Council (NWO), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), WHO, UKRI and Wellcome – accepts AAMs and provides a number of value-added services.  These include mining the text to provide links to chemical compounds, genetic sequences, etc; linking the submission to the relevant grant ID and any preprint associated with the submission; as well as an unambiguous link to the VoR on the publisher site.

We welcome the fact that the signatories to the post are willing to “work collaboratively and constructively with all stakeholders” to deliver OA.  cOAlition S is equally willing to engage with publishers on these matters and has been doing so for many years but is eager to move past conversations into concrete action. We have supported many initiatives, including the SPA-OPS project (to help smaller and learned society publishers develop transformative agreements) and the development of the Transformative Journal model and are willing to work with publishers to explore other options, including non-APC models.

To conclude, cOAlition S organisations are prepared to pay publishers a fair, reasonable, and transparent fee for the services they provide to make the VoR OA. And, though we believe there is added value in the VoR, to ensure this model is widely adopted, publishers need to demonstrate to the research community that the value provided by making this version OA is commensurate with the price charged.


Robert Kiley, Head of Open Research Wellcome & cOAlition S Coordinator
Johan Rooryck, Executive Director, cOAlition S


[1] UKRI £24m; Wellcome £8m; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation $6m

For a long time now, researchers have all too easily handed over to academic publishers the rights inherent in their publications. These rights include not only the intellectual ownership of the researcher’s work, but also the permission to freely and immediately disseminate it without embargoes, and thus allow others to quickly build on these results. cOAlition S wants researchers to retain sufficient intellectual ownership rights to their publications. This can be difficult to achieve for individual researchers, since the cOAlition S Open Access requirement may conflict with the demands of the publishers to transfer copyright to them.

cOAlition S, therefore, wants to help researchers to always retain sufficient intellectual ownership of their work after peer review. Ideally, researchers would retain full copyright, but we will allow for copyright transfer if sufficient rights are retained to control a CC BY version of publications. The Rights Retention Strategy is designed to support cOAlition S funded researchers seeking to publish in their journal of choice, including any subscription journal. Researchers only need to fulfil two conditions: First, when they submit their articles to a journal, they have to inform the publisher that their submission is under a CC BY licence. This allows researchers to retain sufficient intellectual ownership rights to their work. Secondly, researchers have to make that work openly available on publication so it is easily accessed and built upon.

The Rights Retention Strategy gives further shape to the Plan S pledge that all scholarly publications resulting from research grants must be immediately available Open Access with a reuse licence upon publication. It makes 100% of cOAlition S funded scholarly publications available Open Access. This policy maps to Route 2 in the implementation guidance and is very close to the Harvard licence model which has been in place since 2008.

What researchers are asked to do

The idea is simple. cOAlition S Organisations will change their grant conditions so that a public copyright licence – CC BY – is applied by default to all Author Accepted Manuscripts (AAM) reporting on original research supported in whole or in part by their funding.

Accordingly, funded researchers, and especially those who wish to publish in subscription journals, are asked to do two things:

  • Inform the publisher that their submission is already licensed under a CC BY public copyright licence. This can best be achieved by using the following language in either the submission letter or the acknowledgements section, or both:
    “This research was funded, in whole or in part, by [Organisation Name, Grant number]. For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) version arising from this submission.”
  • On publication, immediately make a copy of the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) – or, if possible the Version of Record (VoR) – available in an Open Access repository of their choice. Many universities and funders already offer such repository services to their researchers.

Explicitly informing the publisher of the CC BY status of the submission is important because it allows researchers to retain sufficient rights ensuring that they can reuse their work in a legally robust way, whilst also allowing them to adhere to their Organisation’s Open Access policy. Making the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM), or, if possible, the Version of Record (VoR) available in an open access repository is crucial because it ensures that the researchers’ work is easily accessible for all readers worldwide, and therefore viewed more often than articles behind a paywall. In other words, both of these grant conditions of cOAlition S Organisations are entirely in the interest of researchers themselves.

What cOAlition S will do: giving publishers notice

cOAlition S has written to 150 subscription publishers, who publish the majority of research attributed to cOAlition S Organisations, to encourage them to change their existing publishing agreements. cOAlition S asks these publishers to allow all researchers – or by exception, just cOAlition S funded researchers – to make at least their AAMs freely available at the time of publication with a CC BY licence.  Publishers who are not willing to do this will be given notice that cOAlition S researchers are bound by the terms of their grant agreement to publish with a CC BY licence. Legally speaking, the grant agreement then takes precedence over any later publishing agreements that grant holders are asked to sign with the publisher. cOAlition S Organisations are ready to back up researchers in their interaction with the publishers if the publisher insists the work be removed from public view in the repository.

The broader cOAlition S policy picture

The Rights Retention Strategy is just one of three routes which cOAlition S has developed to enable researchers to continue publishing in journals of their choice while fulfilling the mandate to publish in Open Access. In addition to financial support for fully Open Access venues (Route 1), cOAlition S Organisations support Transformative Arrangements as a way to publish Open Access. Transformative Arrangements include Transformative (Model) Agreements (Publish & Read / Read & Publish deals) and Transformative Journals (Route 3). Transformative Agreements provide authors covered by such deals with a hassle-free way of publishing their research in Open Access. The Transformative Journal framework, which was adopted by Springer Nature, is yet another arrangement designed to make sure that authors can publish in Open Access in the journals of their choice. In many countries, the combination of Transformative Agreements and full Open Access publishing already delivers an Open Access potential of about 75%. Our Journal Checker Tool, available on 1 January 2021, will help researchers find out which journals allow them to be compliant with Plan S through either of the above-mentioned routes, including the Rights Retention strategy.


Johan Rooryck

Executive Director, cOAlition S

The emerging Coronavirus (COVID19) has once again highlighted the need for researchers to have unfettered access to the research literature.  A recent article in the Guardian argued that “hiding research papers behind a subscription paywall, could be killing people”, whilst a group of US patient and disease advocacy organizations stated that “information critical to health should no longer be held hostage by arcane publishing”.

However, despite such concerns and calls for change,  and after more than 15 years of Open Access (OA) mandates, declarations and discussions, some 75% of the world’s research literature is, on publication, only available to paying subscribers.

Although in the case of COVID19, publishers have been quick to provide access to previously paywalled research on this topic – for example, see responses from Wiley and Elsevier – a much better solution, and one which works across all disciplines at all times, is to support a world when all research is open access. This is what Plan S is seeking to do, and why 24 research funding organisations are supporting this initiative.

In this short piece Robert Kiley, Head of Open Research at Wellcome and interim cOAlition S Coordinator provides an update on five key activities cOAlition S is currently supporting.

1. Growing the cOAlition S membership-base

cOAlition S is a group of funding agencies which have agreed to align their OA policies with Plan S. Currently there are 24 members, including UKRI, the Gates Foundation and the European Commission, including the European Research Council. We recognise, however, that if we are to be successful in bringing about a global change in the way research is disseminated, we need more funders to support Plan S.

Over the last few months, we have secured the support of the WHO/TDR, the South African Medical Research Council and the Aligning Science Against Parkinson. We continue to work with many other agencies, encouraging them to consider the potential benefits OA can deliver.

Working with US funding agencies remains a high priority and the rumoured Whitehouse Executive Order appears to be well-aligned with Plan S. We are watching this with interest.

2.  Supporting researchers

Some researchers have expressed concerns with Plan S, fearing that if their publication choices are reduced, then this may negatively impact on their likelihood to secure future grants and tenure.

This concern has arisen as Plan S is explicit in saying that OA publications costs (typically Article Processing Changes, APCs) for articles published in subscription journals will no longer be funded, outside of Transformative Agreements. Researchers, however, can still seek to publish in subscription journals, as long as they make a copy of their research article (either the accepted manuscript or the published version) freely available without an embargo and with an open licence.

It is also worth stressing that funders who align their OA policies with Plan S make clear that when assessing research outputs as part of a funding decision, they will value the intrinsic merit of the work and not consider the publication channel, its impact factor or other journal-based metrics.

Within cOAlition S we have also established a task force to monitor the effects of Plan S. As early career researchers feel especially affected by Plan S, representatives from the Global Young Academy, Eurodoc, Young Academy of Europe and the Marie Curie Alumni have joined this group to ensure their voice is heard.

In advance of the Plan S policy coming into effect, we will also provide a simple web-based tool in which researchers can determine how to comply with this policy at any specific publishing venue. An Invitation to Tender to build this tool has been published. We anticipate that we will appoint a contractor within the next three months and have a live service running by Autumn 2020.

3. Supporting learned societies

Plan S, with its explicit commitment not to fund hybrid open access fees, requires subscription publishers to reassess their business models. This affects all publishers but is felt more acutely by learned society publishers, many of whom rely on publishing revenue to support their other activities, such as awarding grants and organising meetings.

To help learned societies explore alternative models, Wellcome in partnership with UKRI, commissioned Information Power to look at this issue. The subsequent report and supporting toolkit identified outlined 27 potential business models society publishers could adopt.

The Transformation Agreement model – in which funding from library subscriptions and funder APCs is used to provide institutions with access to all subscription content, whilst allowing research articles authored by researchers at subscribing institutions to be made fully OA – is gaining traction. By way of example, within the past 3 months, both the Microbiology Society and the Biochemical Society have negotiated such agreements, thus ensuring that a growing volume of their published output is OA.

The Wellcome, in partnership with HHMI, has also launched the Learned Society Curation Awards which seeks to support learned society publishers who want to explore new ways of signalling the significance of published research outputs in an open and transparent manner.

4. Engaging with publishers

cOAlition S continues to engage with publishers, encouraging them to develop publishing options in line with the Plan S principles.

As discussed above this includes supporting the development of Transformative Agreements, such as “Read and Publish” and “Subscribe to Open” arrangements.

We have also developed a set of criteria to encourage individual journal titles to transform to OA. Known as “Transformative Journals” (TJ’s), any journal which commits to a set of KPI’s can continue to levy APCs and where they are fair and reasonable, expect cOAlition S members to meet these. A consultation on the proposed criteria for TJ’s closed in early January and we will report on the outcome of this before the end of March 2020.

Support for fully OA journals and platforms continues to be a key part of the Plan S strategy.  Recognising, however, that a single, global APC price for any given journal may not always be the most equitable way to cover publishing costs, we have started to discuss with a number of OA publishers the idea of linking the APC to the purchasing power parity (PPP) of different countries.

5. Developing price transparency

In 2017 it was estimated that the annual revenues generated from English-language STM journal publishing were $10bn. As around 3m articles are published every year, this suggests that the average revenue from every published article is around $3,333.

Leaving aside whether in an online world this sum is fair or appropriate, the current publishing model provides little or no transparency as to what the customers – libraries, funders and researchers – receive for this money.

To address this, Wellcome and UKRI, on behalf of cOAlition S, contracted Information Power to develop a framework through which publishers could price the services they provide. The draft framework seeks to breakdown the price charged into seven discrete “service buckets” such as “% of price from submission to desk reject or acceptance” and “% of price for peer review management”.

To determine whether it is feasible for publishers to provide this level of data and whether this information is of use to libraries and funders, the framework will be piloted in the first quarter of 2020. 10 publishers have agreed to join this pilot including Springer-Nature, Brill, PLOS the Company of Biologists and EMBO Press.

More information?

This post has just given a snapshot of the activities we are engaged with to support the implementation of Plan S.

If you have any questions or need any more information, see the cOAlition S website and use the Contact Us form for asking additional questions you may have.

Original article published on LinkedIn on February 18, 2020