Following its announcement on 4th September 2018, Plan S has generated considerable discussion both for and against. In late September, we took a look at the impact that Plan S might have on the scholarly market. Since then, four more funders supported Plan S and we have released our latest market sizing update.

This month we revisit the effects of Plan S in the light of our new market data and see how some emerging trends in the data are leading to counterintuitive results.

The Market Is Already Changing

Our previous analysis of Plan S noted that average prices paid per article are falling overall, and we are seeing a convergence between the publication costs of open access and subscription models. Our latest market sizing data has allowed us to refine our models, and to tease out a further nuance in potential changes over time.

The most recent update suggests that open access prices paid are increasing (as before). However, it further suggests that on average prices paid per article for fully OA journals are increasing faster than those paid for hybrid. Fully OA article charges are set to overtake hybrid by around 2020. This is an interesting development since our previous market sizing exercise last year, which suggested that hybrid would continue to outstrip fully OA.

The latest market sizing data reflect the evolution of our market, in terms of slowing rates of uptake, changes in prices, and progress of fully OA journals.


Although Plan S originated in Europe, we know that its signatories do not represent all countries in the EU, nor do they represent all funding within their respective countries. We also know that they are growing in number. In our previous analysis of Plan S we modelled take-up of Plan S principles by the entire EU, as well as by the specific funders, to get a view on how profound the effects of broader uptake might become.

We have now revisited these scenarios in the table and the chart below. We first added the effects of the four new signatories to our analysis of the academic papers arising from Plan S funders’ R&D activities. As before, we worked with Digital Science to combine data from their Dimensions product with Delta Think’s Open Access Data. We determined the approximate proportions of output (papers published) as shown in Table 1.

Source: Data provided by Dimensions from Digital Science – collected on 16 November 2018, US Science & Engineering Indicators 2016, Delta Think Open Access Data and Analytics Tool, Delta Think analysis.

We estimate that Plan S funders now account for roughly 3.5% of articles published globally, compared with 3.3% previously. These include all articles where a Plan S funder is involved, even as part of a jointly-funded or multi-author project. As Plan S funders are OA advocates, they account for a higher than average share of OA output.

The effects of Plan S on the market, updated with our latest market sizing data, are shown in Figure 1. As before, it models a move away from hybrid journals, as per Plan S principles. It does not model price caps, which have not yet been specified, and which we plan to examine in a future analysis.

Source: Delta Think Open Access Data and Analytics Tool, Dimensions from Digital Science, Delta Think analysis.

With our current market projections as a baseline (0%), we plotted how the scenarios would compare. Negative values suggest less money flowing into the scholarly publishing market as compared with the current trends.

  1. The green line shows the model of an EU-wide banning of hybrid based on our current market data and updated with the most recent market trends. Our latest data suggest that fully OA revenues per article may overtake those for hybrid around 2020, so a shift to fully OA will result in increased spending, and therefore we see the line trend upwards temporarily. As time goes on, the shifting proportions in article numbers counteract this. (Note: We plan to add the impact of price caps in a future analysis. Price caps would impact the trend of the currently increasing fully OA article charges.)
  2. The gray line adds a new model for this analysis, to look at a move from hybrid towards green, i.e. it assumes hybrid revenue disappears entirely. We therefore see a trend of reducing market value as hybrid falls away.
  3. The red line models the effect on the market of just the current Plan S funders. It models a move to green journals (like the gray line).


The most recent market data suggest that the dynamics of the scholarly publishing ecosystem are changing regardless of the Plan S intervention. As article charges realized by fully OA journals increase and overtake their hybrid cousins and fully OA journals gain increasing traction, we see some counterintuitive effects emerging. A wholesale move from hybrid to fully OA could actually see the value of the market increase, as authors are pushed towards more-expensive options over the coming years.

Of course, as always with our highly fragmented market, individual organizations’ experiences and strategies will vary.

  • Publishers can simply increase fully OA prices. Although caps are yet to be set, the averages at the lower end of the market are likely to have room to float up, and the 60% plus of the market not falling under Plan S restrictions would not be affected.
  • A wholesale move from hybrid to fully OA may be more challenging for society publishers and smaller commercial publishers that have not already established fully OA journals.
  • Models such as mirror journals, or even the levying of submission fees are generating discussion, especially among societies and associations with strong journal brands that have high impact factors. Will considering how to adapt to Plan S cause organizations to experiment with new practices and business models?

As the market and its pricing dynamics continue to change, publishers must continually adapt. Impacts of change are not evenly distributed. Where a move to fully OA might be a “blip” on the radar of large commercial publishers, smaller publishers, and especially society publishers may have a more difficult time if Plan S continues to add signatories and its influence continues to grow.

Whatever your views on Plan S, this is the latest reason for publishers to take stock of their current strategies and determine how they will fare as the market evolves.

(We would like to thank Digital Science for supplying a data extract from its Dimensions product.)


Reaction of Researchers to Plan S: Too Far, Too Risky (An Open Letter) – November 6, 2018

“The views of researchers who will be directly affected by Plan S do not seem to have been solicited during its creation, and hundreds of them from around the world have now signed an open letter expressing their concern about its ramifications — not only for their own rights as authors and academics, but for the health of scholarly and scientific discourse worldwide.”

USDA Signs Participation Agreement with CHORUS – November 5, 2018

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has signed an agreement with CHORUS to expand public access to the results of its funded research. CHORUS will monitor compliance with open access requirements to help maintain permanent, authoritative access to articles based on USDA-funded research.”

Wellcome and Gates join bold European open access plan – November 5, 2018

“Two of the world’s largest biomedical research funders have backed a plan to make all papers resulting from work they fund open access on publication by 2020. Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced they were both endorsing ‘Plan S,’ adding their weight to an initiative already backed by 13 research funders across Europe.”

eLife backs Plaudit for open sharing of research recommendations – October 31, 2018

“eLife, in collaboration with software engineer Vincent Tunru from Flockademic and the Center for Open Science (COS), is supporting the development of Plaudit – a mechanism for academics to share their research recommendations openly with readers.”

Half of all peer-reviewed articles by Dutch universities is available in open access – October 29, 2018

“At the wrap-up of the international open access week the VSNU, The Association of Universities in The Netherlands, has published the latest number of open access articles (covering 2017). Almost 28.000 peer-reviewed articles from Dutch authors are openly available for everybody.”

Plan S Aims to Transform Scholarly Communication—Will Publishers Be Ready? – October 25, 2018

“In connection with International Open Access Week, five quick takes to help publishers approach the ambitious European plan to require open access by 2020.”

OpenAPC – transparent reporting on article processing charges reveals the relative costs of open access publishing – October 25, 2018

“OpenAPC compiles a dataset aggregating all available institutional reporting on article processing charges paid for open access publications. Dirk Pieper describes how this openly available data can provide greater transparency and context to discussions around the overall costs of academic publishing, and also potentially set in motion cost-limiting mechanisms.”

Harvard Releases an Individual Open-Access License for Non-Faculty Scholars – October 22, 2018

“The Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication is pleased to announce the launch of a new open-access license for all Harvard authors of scholarly articles. The new Individual Open-Access License (IOAL) gives Harvard’s non-faculty researchers the same benefits that the faculty policies give faculty.”

Figshare launches its annual report – The State of Open Data 2018 – October 22, 2018

“Figshare, an online digital repository for academic research, has launched its annual report, The State of Open Data 2018, to coincide with global celebrations around Open Access Week. The report is the third in the series and includes survey results and a collection of articles from global industry experts.”

FOAA recommendations on the Implementation of Plan S – October 21, 2018

“The Fair Open Access Alliance (FOAA) enthusiastically welcomed and endorsed the bold proposal of cOAlition S to accelerate the transition to Open Access in Europe during the OASPA conference September 2018 in Vienna. FOAA has now also released extensive recommendations on the Implementation of Plan S.”


November 13, 2018

The Microbiology Society announced the launch of Access Microbiology

“The Microbiology Society is pleased to announce the launch of Access Microbiology, which is now open for submissions. Access Microbiology provides a new service to the microbiology community, offering researchers from all over the world the opportunity to publish research outputs that are often lost due to not being seen as ‘high impact.’ Access Microbiology will be a fully open access journal.”

October 30, 2018

Oxford University Press to Publish Aesthetic Surgery Journal Open Forum

“Oxford University Press (OUP) is pleased to announce the launch of Aesthetic Surgery Journal Open Forum (ASJOF), an Open Access, peer-reviewed, international journal focusing on the latest developments and practical, clinical advances in aesthetic surgery and cosmetic treatments. Published on behalf of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), ASJOF will launch in early 2019.”

October 23, 2018

National Kidney Foundation Announces the Launch of ‘Kidney Medicine’

“The National Kidney Foundation (NKF), and Elsevier, the information analytics business specializing in science and health, announced today the launch of Kidney Medicine, a peer-reviewed, open access journal focused on clinical research in nephrology and hypertension.”

October 22, 2018

Open Access Week: CUP moves four journals to gold OA

“Cambridge University Press is moving four more of its journals from a traditional subscription model to gold open access. From 1 January 2019, the following journals will move to gold open access: Epidemiology & Infection; Genetics Research; Primary Health Care Research and Development; and Netherlands Journal of Geosciences.”