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Plan S funders embrace journal-free versions of peer review

Papers reviewed without publication in journals or on platforms deemed “of equivalent merit”

The Plan S open-access initiative has announced its support for newly emerging ways of producing research papers, in which peer review takes place independently from publication in journals or on platforms.

Plan S said on 6 July that most of its funders—who require the researchers they support to make resulting papers openly available immediately—will consider scholarly work that has been peer-reviewed without publication in a journal or on a platform to be of “equivalent merit and status” as papers published in these traditional venues.

It praised services offering peer review outside of publication in a traditional venue, such as Next Generation Repositories, PREreview and Review Commons, for giving authors “the freedom to decide how and when to disseminate their peer-reviewed article”.

“These innovative developments turn attention away from the prestige of the journal or platform to focus on the intrinsic value of the peer-reviewed article itself,” Plan S said. “They allow for more equitable access to research results by offering a solution to openness for all researchers.”

The initiative did not say which of its funders backed the position.

Plan S has proved controversial since it was announced in 2018 as a way to open up access to publicly funded research results. Some researchers have complained about having their ability to publish in subscription journals curtailed, while some publishers have complained about the kinds of open-access publication the initiative has endorsed.

Its latest announcement appears to have been well received among open-access advocates, with the Confederation of Open Access Repositories describing it as “excellent news”.