Plan S - Positive Action combined with Positive Thinking delivers success


LERU (League of European Research Universities) is fully committed to the principle of Open Access for all research outputs. Open Access is good for the researcher and good for research because it removes barriers to accessing research caused by high subscription costs. Immediate Open Access is good for research because it enables research fronts to be developed more quickly through the global sharing of outputs. These are all points made in the LERU Roadmap towards Open Access of 2011.

In 2019, the LERU vision for Open Access is even broader; LERU members envisage the creation of a global scholarly commons underpinned by the principles of Open Science. In 2018, LERU produced its Report Open Science and its role in universities: a Roadmap for cultural change. With 41 Recommendations to LERU member universities, indeed to any research performing organisation, LERU set out its vision for how universities can help create this global commons and their role in it.

Plan S, produced jointly by the European Commission and Science Europe, is an important statement on how the future of scholarly publishing can develop. LERU recognises that the move to 100% Open Access has stalled and that the payment of hybrid APCs has not led to a fully Open Access world. Open Access needs a kick for it to maintain momentum, and LERU recognises that this is what Plan S intends to deliver. For that reason, the overall initiative is a laudable one.

Implementing change is always a challenge and Plan S recognises this by presenting an Implementation Plan to cover the transition to full and immediate OA in Europe, led by research funders with a vision for the elimination of hybrid publishing in favour of 100% immediate Open Access. This is a bold vision and represents a significant change to current transition routes to full OA.

LERU members have all been consulted on the implications of Plan S for their institutions. All members fully support the move to OA and all are keen to play their part. In looking at the detailed guidance for implementing Plan S, LERU members are keen to work with Plan S supporters to make the principles of the Plan work for their institutions and researchers. In this co-operative spirit, LERU members offer 10 Recommendations below which, once adopted, would make Plan S a bold blueprint in universities for a radical change to current publishing practice. 

Open Science represents a systemic change to the way science and research are carried out. The future of scholarly publishing represents one of the 8 pillars of Open Science as defined by the European Commission. LERU welcomes all initiatives which deliver on this important agenda. In this regard, Plan S represents a notable next step in delivering the vision of an Open Science world. Like Plan S, LERU embraces that vision and offers a number of suggestions which will further support the transition in universities to immediate 100% OA which lies at the heart of the Open Science agenda. 

10 Recommendations to support the implementation of Plan S by LERU members 

1. The timescales which underpin Plan S are very challenging. Many Big Deals are multi-year deals, which are legally binding and cannot easily be re-negotiated. In addition, commercial publishers need time to adapt their infrastructure to the new publishing model Plan S presents. Therefore, the timescales for implementing Plan S should be lengthened accordingly.

2. Currently, the research produced with funding from those European funders who have signed up to Plan S represents a small % of total global research output, less than 10%. On its own, Europe is unlikely to be able to effect a transition to 100% OA across the world. The active and engaged support of countries such as China, North America and areas such as the Global South are key to ensuring its success. The recent statement of commitment to Plan S by India is particularly to be welcomed.

3. Plan S needs to be more precise about what constitutes a transformative deal so that negotiating bodies and university libraries can be clearer how they can deliver 100% Open Access as speedily as possible. Similarly, the way in which APCs will be treated under Plan S is not yet clear and further work needs to be done to enable universities to deliver the vision of global OA.

4. The balance of Plan S and the Plan S Guidance favours Gold OA journal and article publishing with APCs. New publishing platforms and/or Green Open Access repositories do not receive the same attention. Innovation funds should be offered to encourage new entrants, such as University-based OA Presses, to provide new outlets for academic publishing.

5. The demands placed on Green Open Access repositories by Plan S are considerable – e.g. storing text in XML in JATS format, which would increase university costs. This point was underlined in the COAR response to Plan S. If this requirement is maintained, it should be a requirement on publishers to provide material in these formats to institutional and other repositories. Similarly, publishers in receipt of funding should be required to oblige authors to use ORCID IDs in their manuscript submissions.

6. The academic body and Learned Societies, who play such an important role in maintaining academic standards, are keen to engage with the promoters of Plan S to help deliver a solution which works for all stakeholders in the scholarly communications landscape.

7. Researchers need clarity on how the funding agencies behind Plan S will judge the quality of  research project applications (for project proposals) and the quality of researchers (for grants).

8. Similarly, universities need clarity on the impact that Plan S will have on career progression, particularly for Early Career Researchers. DORA is a major plank in changing embedded attitudes to research evaluation. Plan S advocates DORA, but that on its own is not enough. It needs to provide practical support to enable research performing organizations to make this culture shift and to offer leadership.

9. Plan S supposes that one size fits all, whereas different approaches in different subject communities in different parts of the world would help deliver Plan S principles more effectively. An approach that works for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine will not automatically work in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

10. An encouraging Next Step would be for the promoters of Plan S to undertake further engagement with all stakeholders and to work with them, proactively to deliver a plan for a global information commons, grounded in Open Access principles, which will effect a full transition to OA.


  • Prof. Kurt Deketelaere, LERU Secretary-General, or +32 499 80 89 99
  • Dr Paul Ayris, Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services), University College London, or +44 20 7679 7834
  • Media contact: Bart Valkenaers, Policy Officer LERU, or +32 498 08 43 49