The process surrounding scientific research hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years or so. Studies take place in private, before getting peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals that, in many cases, are only accessible to other industry professionals. The European scientific community is hoping to change that with the implementation of Plan S for Open Science. What is Plan S, and how will it impact scientific research?
What Is Plan S?
First, what is Plan S? This plan, which the European scientific community introduced, wants to change the process by making research available to the public. The program includes 10 driving principles and four actions that need implementation by 2020.
Initially, by 2020, any grant-funded articles have to be made available for public consumption under a Creative Commons license, which allows other people to distribute or change the work as long as they give credit to the original author. The plan also prohibits publishing in hybrid journals, which put some articles behind an additional paywall.
The plan will also cap the fees publishers can charge, and the organizations that are providing research funding will be expected to support the Open Access platform and help it grow.
When European scientists introduced the plan in September 2018, 16 funders in 13 countries signed up, and it’s since gained attention outside the European community. China has also expressed interest in the plan.
The Impact of Plan S
What impact will this plan have on the global scientific community?
Depending on how the plan rolls out when it goes into effect in 2020, the impact could be positive or negative. Ideally, a balance between Open Access papers and those made available by the hybrid publishers will come into play. This balance will cause significant growth in the research industry, with an estimated increase of up to 2 percent per year starting in 2020.
In theory, it will also make research papers more readily available, improving the industry as a whole. Not everyone is convinced Plan S is the solution to these problems, though.
The Problems With Plan S
An open letter from researchers to Plan S has recently hit the Internet, with more than 1,600 signatures from individuals and research groups around the globe. This letter details why the co-signers think Plan S is a bad idea — because it’s going too far. The ban on publishing in hybrid journals, for example, may prevent researchers from being able to publish their papers in upwards of 85 percent of existing journals, not to mention the threat of sanctions against authors who don’t comply with the Plan S guidelines.
Researchers who oppose Plan S are calling it a violation of academic freedom and believe it will negatively impact specific branches of science. Chemistry researchers, for example, publish almost exclusively in hybrid journals. The ban against publishing in these journals and the threat of sanctions for non-compliance could cripple the researchers that use those journals to share their researchers.
It’s also possible the global community will not adopt the plan. There has been support in the European Union and China, but if other large countries like the United States don’t sign on, it could create a divide in the scientific community.
Ideally, Plan S will help make it easier to share research with other scientists and the public, but many researchers believe the plan is overreaching and could jeopardize the scientific community. Plan S may need many new revisions before it is ready for global adoption.