We’ve worked hard to ensure the results given within the Journal Checker Tool (JCT) are as accurate as possible at this point. However, not all of the data being used by the JCT is ours to update. The tool is a partnership between data sources, with data updates being made in the data sources themselves. The JCT helpdesk will help to coordinate data update requests, but for some changes, particularly at the portfolio level, updates need to be submitted directly to the original data source, including e.g. DOAJ or the ESAC registry. 

It’s in our collective interests to ensure that all the data used by the JCT is as fresh and complete as possible. We ask that publishers, consortia and institutions review their data within our sources such as DOAJ, our transformative agreement index and Shareyourpaper.org permissions to ensure that it reflects the current picture – something we know we don’t have right now for all journals. By taking action in the coming weeks, you are supporting researchers in enabling immediate access to research when Plan S launches on 1 January 2021. 

Fully open access journals

Our data source for fully open access (OA) journals is DOAJ. If a journal isn’t indexed in DOAJ it won’t appear within the JCT. That’s the first thing for publishers to check for their fully Open Access (OA) titles. DOAJ has its own editorial process for determining whether or not a journal can be indexed in it and this process takes time. Most applications are processed in under 3 months but it can take up to 6 months in some cases. Publishers should start to submit their applications to DOAJ once they meet DOAJ’s Basic criteria. Once you are ready to apply, the application form is here: https://doaj.org/application/new. The JCT has access to data on titles that are in the process of applying to DOAJ. 

The JCT will use the metadata held within DOAJ about a journal to determine whether it enables researchers to comply with Plan S. For example, we will look at whether the licence recorded within DOAJ is CC BY or equivalent. If not, then the journal will be identified as not being compliant. Therefore a publisher should check whether the licence options recorded within DOAJ for their titles show the most permissive licence. DOAJ are shortly to launch a new website and application form, with an updated metadata schema. DOAJ has published instructions on how publishers can update their records

Journals under Transformative Agreements

We have built an index of Transformative Agreements (TAs) that have been registered within the ESAC Registry of Agreements. This index features information on the journals included within the agreement and the institutions that have subscribed to it. Agreements are listed within the index by their ESAC Registry Agreement ID, and the data can be downloaded from the JCT website for easy validation.

If you need to register your agreement in the ESAC Registry, you can do so here. Once uploaded to the registry it will be picked up as part of our TA data management process, which involves regular review cycles of agreements within ESAC and looking at the journals/institutions within each individual agreement. Consortia or publishers who wish to submit or update batches of data within the TA index should email jct[at]cottagelabs.zendesk.com


There are two routes to compliance through self-archiving within the JCT. The primary route is the journal’s own self-archiving policy, via the data source Shareyoupaper.org Permissions. Policies are monitored automatically and updated as required. However, if you would like to manually request an update you can do so here. If you’d like support and feedback while updating your policy, you can reach out to their team here.

If the data within Shareyourpaper.org Permissions does not reveal a policy that enables researcher compliance, then the JCT will look at whether the cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy could be used as a route to compliance. Here the JCT will check if the funder of the research has implemented the Rights Retention Strategy. If so, Self-archiving via Rights Retention will be shown. For more information on Rights Retention see the related blog post: “4 things you should know about the Rights Retention Strategy and the Journal Checker Tool”. 

Transformative Journals

Transformative Journals are subscription journals that have committed to transitioning to fully open access according to the criteria set out by cOAlition S. A list of currently approved transformative journals are available from the cOAlition S website and in csv format from the JCT website. Subscription journals who wish to be considered as transformative journals by cOAlition S, and thus the JCT, should apply here. cOAlition S will process applications upon receipt, with data transferred to the JCT within a fortnight once an application has been approved.

[New] JCT: update schedule 

The table below shows the update schedule by which changes to publisher policies – and development on new cOAlition S approved arrangements – are made visible in the JCT. These timeframes may be affected by public holidays and the amount of data being handled at any one time.

Item Frequency
Transformative Journals Once cOAlition S has approved a TJ application – and notified the publisher of this outcome – this information will be visible in the JCT within 10 working days
Transformative Agreement The ESAC registry is crawled on a weekly basis. When we identify a new agreement, we reach out to consortia to obtain details of the titles covered by the agreements and which institutions have access. Once we have this data in the format we can use, this information will be visible in the JCT within 10 working days.
DOAJ updates Changes to metadata in DOAJ (i.e. licence information) will be visible in the JCT within 5 working days of being made visible in DOAJ.
Publisher self-archiving policy updates Changes to publisher self-archiving policies – as disclosed on the publisher web site – are identified by Shareyourpaper.org Permissions and made visible to the JCT within 3 working days. Should a publisher wish to notify us of a change to the policy they should do so here. Information provided via this direct route will be made visible to the JCT within 3 working days.

We are delighted that the cOAlition S funded Journal Checker Tool (JCT) is released today. Although it is in open testing mode, this is a big milestone for us: we’re releasing the tool now to give you, the Plan S community, an opportunity to road test it. 

The JCT is designed to support all researchers funded by a cOAlition S member in finding Plan S compliant “routes” through which to publish their research articles open access.  

How does the Journal Checker Tool work?

Plan S allows three routes to compliance:  through fully open access venues; through self-archiving, and through so-called transformative arrangements (which includes transformative agreements and transformative journals).



The Journal Checker Tool (JCT) allows a researcher to enter the name of their funder, the institution they are affiliated with, and the journal to which they plan to submit an article. The tool then checks if this combination of funder, institution, and journal offers any route to compliance with Plan S. It simultaneously checks 4 options:

  • whether the journal is fully open access, in line with Plan S, 
  • whether it is included within a transformative agreement subscribed to by that particular institution, 
  • whether it is a transformative journal; or 
  • whether self-archiving is an available option, either via the publishers self-archiving policy or via the cOAlition S Rights Retention Strategy (RRS)

Our current criteria for compliance centres on whether a particular journal enables a researcher to publish an article under a CC BY licence without embargo, and retain sufficient copyright to enable compliance with open access policies.




On the results page, a researcher will be shown all the available routes that enable compliance based on the combination of data they have entered. Where there are multiple routes to compliance available, it is for the researcher to choose which route to proceed by, although the JCT does visualise cOAlition S’s preference for routes that enable the Version of Record to be made open access. (See also related blog post: “4 things you should know about the Rights Retention Strategy and the Journal Checker Tool). 

Where no route to compliance is available with the combination entered, the Journal Checker Tool provides suggestions on how to edit the search – for example, seeing if a coauthor at a different institution has access to a TA – to find a combination that enables compliance. Any route that doesn’t enable compliance isn’t shown within the result. However, you can see why the JCT thinks these routes don’t enable compliance via the “Explain Result” dropdown menu.



The data used in the JCT calculation is large and distributed across the global network. The JCT relies upon data from the Directory of Open Access Journals, Shareyourpaper.org Permissions, the ESAC Transformative Agreement Registry, Crossref and the Research Organization Registry Community (ROR). To improve the performance of the JCT we use local caches of some of this data that is regularly refreshed. As part of the development of the JCT we’ve developed an index at the journal and institution level of Transformative Agreement listed in the ESAC Agreement Registry and a list of cOAlition S approved Transformative Journals. These data sources are released today as part of the beta launch, under a CC-0 licence.

The beta phase: How can you help to improve the JCT?

As mentioned, the test phase is very important in getting feedback from the community about the tool.  We’ll be using this feedback to improve the tool in the coming weeks and inform our development plans for the first half of 2021. 

A vital part of the feedback will be improving the freshness of the source data that the JCT is dependent on. Getting this information will be a continuous process: as journals change policies or publishers; as transformative agreements are signed or renewed; and as new journals are formed. We have processes in place to monitor for some of these changes, others will require action from publishers and consortia such as applying to DOAJ or depositing a new transformative agreement in the ESAC Registry. 

However, we welcome contributions from the community in this process by contacting us where they identify data issues that affect compliance results being shown. The JCT is a partnership between data sources, with data updates being made by the data sources themselves. For those looking to notify us of individual data errors please use the “Send us feedback” button on the website. For publishers or consortia looking to make changes at the portfolio level, we have a separate blog post on how to go about this.

What’s next?

The focus of the beta phase is on iterative changes to improve usability and data freshness. From January 2021, we’ll be working on new functions for the tool and building in the additional requirements that have been set out within the Plan S technical guidance

Let us use mirror journals as an example. Plan  S states that “Open Access journals must not have a mirror/sister subscription journal with substantial overlap in editorial board to avoid business models charging for both access and publication. Such journals will de facto be considered ‘hybrid’ journals.” Right now, we are not flagging these journals as non-compliant via the fully open access route, but that will change. 

Another example is customising results based on cOAlition S Organisation’s implementation roadmap. While we’ve pulled in all organisation’s names, currently the only results that are tied to funder’s implementation plans are those relating to the Rights Retention Strategy (RRS). So there is more work to do to reflect organisations implementation of Plan S.

We’ve attempted to build a tool that cuts through the perceived and real complexities within Plan S, to support cOAlition S members’ and their researchers in delivering immediate open access to research. A tool that is able to respond to changes within the scholarly publishing environment and its approaches to delivering open access. A tool that will encompass your feedback. 

We look forward to continuing this work with you and enabling the delivery of Plan S.


About the JCT development

The JCT was developed by Cottage Labs, in partnership with Antleaf consultancy, with the data providers Shareyourpaper.org Permissions and Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The project is overseen by a core team of Hannah Hope (Wellcome), Nora Papp Le Roy and Caroline Lambert (ESF) with support from the JCT Implementation Group (a subgroup of cOAlition S members).