3 June 2019

Final Plan S guidance published by cOAlition S

On 31 May the updated implementation guidance of Plan S was published. Plan S requires that all publications resulting from research that is funded by funders participating in cOAlition S will be published Open Access. In the Netherlands the Dutch Research Council (NWO), including ZonMW, has joined cOAlition S and will implement Plan S from 2021 onwards. What does this plan entail for Utrecht University/UMCU and for you as a researcher?

Transition to Open Access

The main goal of Plan S is to promote the transition to Open Access. For the first time a large group of funders has joined forces to include Open Access as a requirement in their policies. The requirements for new funding applications will take effect from 2021. Funders may determine themselves if the requirements also apply to earlier applications, of which the resulting articles will be published in 2021 and later. This means that Utrecht University/UMCU researchers whose research is funded by NWO and ZonMW must comply with the requirements mentioned above. Expectations are that also the European Committee (H2020 and its successor Horizon Europe) and the European Research Council (ERC) will implement Plan S.

Several routes

When Plan S comes into force, all publications based on research funded by cOAlition S signatories must be published with an open licence, with authors or institutions retaining their copyright. Researchers will be able to comply with the requirements of Plan S in several ways: by publishing in journals that are entirely Open Access, by publishing Open Access in toll access journals which are part of transformative deals or by making their article Open Access available immediately upon publication via an institutional or subject-specific repository. The latter route offers the option to keep publishing in access toll journals which are not part (yet) of the transformative deals, anyway until 2024. However, in that case any article processing charges (APCs) must be paid by the institution. In most cases these costs can be charged to the research funds.

Accelerating the switch

By implementing Plan S cOAlition S aims to accelerate the transition to Open Access publishing. Publishers are expected to tailor their publishing models of scholarly journals to Plan S.


In the Netherlands the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has been negotiating for quite a while now with publishers on Open Access publishing. This has resulted in deals with many of the large publishers, which also include agreements on Open Access publishing,  ensuring that authors affiliated to Dutch universities can publish Open Access in over 9,000 journals without any additional costs. cOAlition S has said to recognise the current contracts as compliant to Plan S. The guidance includes additional requirements for new contracts.

New forms of assessment

Another part of Plan S is the adjustment of the assessment of research and researchers, based on the principles of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). This means that the contents of a publication and its impact, but not the status or impact factor of the journal, must be used in assessments. In the Netherlands, NWO, ZonMW and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), just as VSNU has done earlier, have stated their commitment to this principle by signing DORA. In Utrecht the Open Science programme is working on achieving this.

Final implementation guidance

You will find the final guidance on the site of cOAlition S. Please contact your contact person at the university library or check the open access page on the library website if you would like further information.