Survey: Plan S and Open Access

Read the SSHM EC’s response to the Plan S consultation, incorporating member responses to our survey in January 2019


Planned changes to open access publishing policies by European research funding bodies will affect many of our members, either directly if they receive funding from these organisations, or indirectly because of the implications for journals and learned societies.

Plan S is an Open Access initiative launched in September 2018, which aims for full and immediate Open Access to publications from publicly funded research and comes in effect on January 1, 2020.

The coalition of research funders that have committed to implement Plan S, known as cOAlition S, includes major UK research funders such as UKRI and the Wellcome Trust, and is supported by the European Research Council (ERC).

cOAlition S defines compliance with Plan S as follows: “All scholarly articles that result from research funded by members of cOAlition S must be openly available immediately upon publication without any embargo period. They must be permanently accessible under an open license allowing for re-use for any purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship. cOAlition S recommends using Creative Commons licenses (CC) for all scholarly publications and will by default require the CC BY Attribution 4.0 license for scholarly articles. Scholarly articles are compliant with Plan S if they are published in compliant Open Access journals or on compliant Open Access platforms. In addition, cOAlition S will, under specified conditions, accept deposit of scholarly articles in Open Access repositories and, in a transition period, publishing Open Access in subscription journals (‘hybrid Open Access’) under transformative agreements as means to achieve compliance with Plan S.”

One of the most important funders to the field of history of medicine in the UK, The Wellcome Trust has revised its Open Access policy accordingly. The most significant change in the policy is that researchers funded by the Wellcome Trust will be obliged to make their publications “freely available through PubMed Central (PMC) and Europe PMC by the official final publication date, and published under a Creative Commons attribution licence (CC-BY)”. The Trust will no longer provide funds for OA publications in hybrid journals (journals that contain both OA and subscription content). They will keep providing “fair and reasonable” article processing charges for articles published in fully OA journals or platforms that “are indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (or follow any other criteria that cOAlition S may set out in future for open access journals and platforms to be compliant)” and “have an agreement with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to deposit the version of record in PMC and allow that content to be shared with Europe PMC“.

Whilst the SSHM Executive Committee is broadly in support of the principle of open access, we are concerned about how new policies are implemented that determine where funded research is to be published, and the lack of a funding model or financial recognition of the role of publishers, the impact of this on learned societies, and the impact on individuals’ careers and choices. We were keen to find out what our members and the wider history of medicine community think about the proposed changes which will affect our community in 2020 and beyond and thus asked for responses to a survey, which closed in January 2019.

You can still share your thoughts with us by email:

Other useful resources

cOAlition S: About Plan S

Royal Historical Society Briefing Paper: Plan S and UK Learned Societies

UKRI Open Access Update

Wellcome Trust Open Access Policy

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