More than half ‘transformative’ Plan S journals miss first-year open access targets

The first-year target was to increase the proportion of open access research by at least five percentage points in absolute terms and at least 15% in relative terms

Figures from Plan S show that more than half of the journals that signed its ‘transformative journal’ (TJ) open-access (OA) pledge have failed their targets for the first year.

The Plan S initiative, a programme devised by Coalition S, an international consortium of 17 research funders, requires “full and immediate” open access to research they have supported.

Coalition S initially considered banning academics from using their research funding to publish research in journals that were not open access. Instead, in a reprieve, Coalition S allowed non-participating journals to publish funded research on the condition they made moves to full OA by joining the TJ model. However, the latest figures show that a year on, 56% of these hybrid journals have not met the targets.

The pledge requires journals “work to increase the share of Open Access content, year on year, in line with publicly agreed targets; and offset subscription income from payments for publishing services (to avoid double payments)”.

The first-year target was to increase the proportion of OA research content by at least five percentage points in absolute terms and at least 15% in relative terms. Sixteen publishers have enrolled 2,304 journals in the programme.

Despite these missed targets, Plan S said it does not immediately plan to bar the 56% that failed the TJ targets. Robert Kiley, head of strategy for Plan S, said missed targets are “perhaps understandable as the transformative journal model is new and may take some time to be fully established”.

Instead, Plan S said it would rigorously impose the 2022 deadline in a year: publishers will have a year to catch up and meet the next target, but those that fail will be booted out.

The figures show an annual increase in the proportion of open-access published research of around five percentage points in total terms. Figures show that 622 of Springer Nature’s 1,714 TJ titles publish 25% of content free-to-access. Of 233 participating Cambridge University Press, 30 publish at least 25% of papers as OA. Only three of Elsevier’s 133 hybrid journals have reached the 25% OA threshold.

Plan S thinks many TJ model journals will find it hard to meet the 2024 complete open-access deadline given current trends, with those that have not yet reached the 25% OA threshold the most likely to fail.

Read more: Open access publisher joins call to end Horizon European impasse

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