Plan S

In September 2018 an international consortium of research funders – cOAlition S - presented Plan S, a bold initiative for Open Access publishing.
Plan S aims to accelerate the transition to a scholarly publishing system that is characterized by full and immediate, free online access to, and largely unrestricted use and re-use of scholarly publications. To fulfil this target, cOAlition S has set specific Open Access requirements for scholarly articles that result from research funded by calls published by members of the coalition from 1 January 2021 onwards.

The Dutch funder NWO is one of the funders participating in cOAlition S; the European Union is currently listed as supporter of the cOAlition, pending approval by the European Parliament to include the guidelines of plan S in the FP9 program Horizon Europe.

Open access requirements
The implementation guidance details how researchers can meet the open access requirements in Plan S. Three options are presented:
1.    Publish in compliant full gold open access journals or compliant open access platforms, with retention of copyright and under a CC BY 4.0 license. cOAlition S funders will financially support Open Access publication fees charged by these journals.
2.    Publish in traditional subscription or hybrid journals, with retention of copyright and under a CC BY 4.0 license, and make the publication available immediately through a compliant repository. cOAlition S funders will not financially support 'hybrid' Open Access publication fees charged by these journals.
3.    Publish in a journal that is part of a so-called “transformative arrangement”.

Plan S will lead to changes in scientific publishing that will evolve and crystallize between now and 2021. Aiming for minimal impact on journal choice for researchers VSNU will work to conclude transformative agreements with large publishing houses. Current and future VSNU deals are listed elsewhere on this website. In addition, university libraries are investigating the possibilities to establish transformative arrangements with small publishers and individual journals.

cOAlition S is planning to develop a whitelist-tool, enabling researchers to check Plan S compliance of journals of their interest.

Compliance and sanctioning

The members of cOAlition S will monitor compliance and sanction non-compliance. Each funder will determine how best to monitor compliance and what sanctions to introduce. Possible sanctions could include withholding grant funds, discounting non-compliant publications as part of a researcher's track record in grant applications and/or excluding non-compliant grant holders from future funding calls. NWO is currently developing their compliance policy.

Assessment of grant applicants

Funders united in cOAlition S commit that when assessing research outputs during funding decisions they will value the intrinsic merit of the work and not consider the publication channel, its impact factor (or other journal metrics), or the publisher. NWO is currently running a pilot in which there is more space for the exceptional qualities of the individual researcher. Applicants will be given the opportunity to state their top publications, what the standards are in their discipline and the extent to which they satisfy these standards.

The aim of NWO is to set up all applications in this format in the future.


If you have any questions about Plan S or the consequences it has for you, please get in touch via mail or by calling ext. 2529.