The key principle of Plan S states that “from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.” The Guidance document defines “scientific publications” further as “peer-reviewed scholarly publications”. These are generally interpreted as peer reviewed articles published in scholarly journals or on platforms (see FAQs for the current description of a platform). As a result, particular prominence is given to journals and platforms as privileged venues for research outputs.
Scientific publishing is evolving rapidly. A number of initiatives have moved away from the notion that peer-reviewed articles must be published in traditional Open Access journals or platforms. They provide peer review services that are entirely independent from such journals or platforms. These include Peer Community in (PCI), Sciety, Next Generation Repositories, Notify Project, PREreview, and Review Commons, to name a few. These initiatives give the author the freedom to decide how and when to disseminate their peer-reviewed article.
In light of the accelerating development of these journal-independent peer-review services, cOAlition S would like to explicitly state that ‘peer reviewed publications’ – defined here as scholarly papers that have been subject to a journal-independent standard peer review process with an implicit or explicit validation– are considered by most cOAlition S organisations to be of equivalent merit and status as peer-reviewed publications that are published in a recognised journal or on a platform.
These innovative developments turn attention away from the prestige of the journal or platform to focus on the intrinsic value of the peer-reviewed article itself, in line with Plan S Principle 10. High-quality peer review services that are separate and distinct from publication services provide independence from the traditional journal format. They allow for more equitable access to research results by offering a solution to openness for all researchers. cOAlition S therefore explicitly endorses such innovations.
 ‘A standard peer review process’ is defined as involving at least two expert reviewers who observe COPE guidelines and do not have a conflict of interest with the author(s). An implicit validation has occurred when the reviewers state the conditions that need to be fulfilled for the article to be validated. An explicit validation is made by an editor, an editorial committee, or community overseeing the review process.