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Plan S funders reject concerns of ERC Scientific Council

Image: Pernillan [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Coalition S defends its stance on not supporting hybrid journals

Funders behind Plan S—who will require researchers they support to make resulting papers openly available immediately from 2021 in outlets that meet certain criteria—have pushed back against the decision by the Scientific Council of the European Research Council to withdraw its support for the initiative.

The ERC Council, an independent body of researchers that helps to set the EU funder’s strategic direction, announced its decision on 20 July, citing concerns over Plan S’s potential effects on young researchers and countries with limited funds. It said Plan S funders’ intention not to support publication in hybrid journals that offer both subscription and open-access options, unless they are transforming to be fully open, would limit researchers’ publishing options.

But on 21 July, Coalition S, the group of funders behind Plan S, said it “remains firm in its view that support for hybrid journals has failed to accelerate the transition to full and immediate open access over the past two decades”. It said that, outside of transformative agreements, there is no effective way to prevent publishers of hybrid journals from charging funders and institutions twice for the same services as subscription publishing declines and open-access publishing grows.

The ERC is set to align with Plan S requirements under European Commission plans for the EU’s 2021-27 R&D programme, Horizon Europe, and the Commission told Research Professional News this remains unaffected by the ERC Council’s move. Coalition S said its own stance is the right one for the ERC because “already scarce funding in the Horizon Europe framework programme should not be used for the payment of publication fees in hybrid journals”.

“Maintaining the current status quo on hybrid journals will exacerbate inequalities among European researchers, since only those that benefit from generous funding will be able to cover expensive publication fees,” Coalition S added. It said that, by contrast, the option for researchers to comply with Plan S by publishing their paper in a repository, “will empower all researchers to [also] publish in their journal of choice, including subscription and hybrid journals”.

Coalition S said it is “particularly attentive to the concerns of early career researchers”, and listed the organisations involved in advising on its policies and evaluating potential effects on researchers. These groups include the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers, the Marie Curie Alumni Association and the Young Academy of Europe, which all expressed their “surprise” at the ERC Council’s decision and reiterated their support for Plan S.

“We are confident that…the Coalition S and the ERC Scientific Council’s strategies towards open access will eventually converge,” Coalition S added.