What’s new in Open Access: Library guidance on Plan S, new funder policies and transformative agreements 


Guest post by Tara Healy, Open Research Specialist at University of Plymouth

If you read our previous blog, “Plan S: What is it and how might it affect me as an author publishing journals?”, you may already know a little about Plan S, an initiative to reform the academic publishing system and make research freely available at the point of publication. Following an extension of its formal commencement point, Plan S officially came into force on 1 January 2021.

Plan S was launched for consultation in 2018 by a group called cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funding organisations which includes UKRI, the Wellcome Trust, and NIHR, among others.  Each funder has committed to incorporating the Plan S Principles into their Open Access policies.

The Plan S key statement is as follows:

With effect from 2021*, all scholarly publications on the results from research funded by public or private grants provided by national, regional and international research councils and funding bodies, must be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo.”

The key principles further state that authors or their institutions should retain copyright to their publications, which should be published under an open license (preferably a Creative Commons license). Furthermore, cOAlition S do not support the ‘hybrid’ model of publishing, which is when a journal charges both subscription fees and payment for Open Access articles in the form of Author Processing Charges (or APCs). The launch of Plan S has therefore encouraged many publishers to sign up to ‘transformative agreements’ with research institutions, so as to move away from the hybrid model of publishing. You can read more about transformative agreements below.

The full, updated list of Plan S principles are available on the cOAlition S website.

How does Plan S affect me now, and what do I need to do?

Authors should pay close attention to the Open Access policies of their funders, which will inform what they need to do to ensure that research supported by their funder is compliant.

Of the members of cOAlition S, the Wellcome Trust are the first to have officially updated their OA policy in line with Plan S principles. Their new policy applies to articles submitted from 1 January 2021, and Wellcome have also released guidance on complying with their new OA policy. In a nutshell, the new policy states that published outputs arising from Wellcome Trust funding must be made freely available through PubMed Central immediately on publication, and must be published under a Creative Commons attribution license (CC-BY). This can be achieved via either the Gold or Green routes to open access, although some conditions for compliance may apply to either option.

More guidance on the new Wellcome policy, as well as other current funder policies, can be found on our new guidance on Plan S and Funder Policies. This page will be kept up-to-date as announcements are made and new policies emerge. At present, funders such as UKRI and NIHR are reviewing their OA policies, and their current policies should continue to be followed until further notice.

cOAlition S have also designed a helpful tool called the Journal Checker Tool, which is currently available in its beta form. This tool provides advice to researchers on how they can comply with their funder’s Plan S-aligned Open Access policy when seeking to publish in a specific journal.

What is the Rights Retention Strategy?

The Rights Retention Strategy was developed by cOAlition S to help to give researchers supported by its constituent organisations the freedom to publish in their journal of choice. This can include subscription journals that are not part of a ‘transformative agreement’ (see below).

As outlined above, a key principle of Plan S is that research should be made open immediately upon publication. This means that if open access is achieved via the Green route (i.e. the deposit of the Author Accepted Manuscript in a repository), an embargo must not be applied to the AAM.

The Rights Retention Strategy therefore stipulates that a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY) is applied to the AAM at the point of submission to the publisher. Wellcome have already issued a statement to be included in all submissions, in order that authors can assert the right to deposit their AAM without embargo. Where a publisher’s policy would normally not allow for immediate deposit of the AAM, the Rights Retention Strategy can therefore enable researchers to comply with their funder’s OA policy without compromising on their journal of choice.

More information on the Rights Retention Strategy can be found in our guidance on Plan S and Funder Policies.

What are transformative agreements?

A transformative agreement, also known as a “read and publish” agreement, is a contract negotiated between a specific research institution and a publisher. It is a transformation of the business model of publication. Under these agreements, payment for ‘reading’ (i.e. subscription fees) and payment for ‘publishing’ (i.e. Open Access charges) are bundled into a single contract, as opposed to the publisher charging subscription fees and APCs separately. Over a number of years, this enables the shift from being subscription-based reading to open access publishing. In the meantime, it enables members of the institution which has signed up for the deal to publish fully open access in qualifying journals at no additional cost to them.

You can read more about transformative arrangements in our guidance on Plan S and Funder Policies. The Library has also created a dedicated page for Read & Publish agreements currently in place which University of Plymouth authors can benefit from. This will be updated as additional deals are negotiated with publishers in the coming years.


The Library will continue to monitor communications around Plan S and funder policies. Please contact openresearch@plymouth.ac.uk if you have any questions or require any assistance and we will be happy to help.

Some helpful guidance and tools: 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.