In January 2021, the implementation of Plan S began in earnest. This month we take a look at the effect Plan S might have on the volumes of output in the scholarly publishing market. We also examine the potential effects of the OSTP and UKRI agencies adopting Plan S policies. Next month we will look at the effect on market value.


In September 2018, 11 national European funding agencies announced cOAlition S, their “initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality.” Implementation was originally planned from 2020, but in practice came into effect for funding starting in January 2021. The initiative – called Plan S – is aimed at accelerating a move away from subscription to fully OA journals. However, it allows for interim, hybrid “transformative” arrangements.

We have previously analyzed the possible effects of Plan S. Given the extensive consultation that has taken place since, and with the roadmap showing the plans of 24 organizations now available, it is timely to revisit our analysis.

Working with the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™ at Clarivate, we analyzed Web of Science™ data to determine the proportions of scholarly papers affected by Plan S funders. We focused on articles, reviews, and data papers, looking at trends over the last 6 full years. The funders implementing Plan S principles have changed since our previous analysis. This time, we took the list of participants which plan to apply Plan S principles from 1/1/2021, as per the cOAlition S Implementation Roadmap.

Plan S

The following table shows a snapshot of output. Plan S funders are shown in the row highlighted in orange.

Source: InCites, Clarivate, Delta Think Analysis. © 2021 Delta Think Inc. All rights reserved.

For the full year 2020, we estimate that:

  • cOAlition S funders accounted for around 5.2% of all publications (or over 130,000 papers) that would fall under Plan S policy if it had been in place during that year.
  • The proportion of cOAlition S funded OA papers in hybrid journals is over twice that of the average (12.7% or over 28,000 papers). This represents the proportion of output that would notionally need to be “rehomed” in Fully OA journals once transformative policies expire.

The team at ISI have previously dug into the coverage of various segments of output by Plan S. One notable finding from their analysis was that highly-cited journals were disproportionally affected, with some seeing in excess of 20% of their papers originating from cOAlition S funded research. So, we also examined the top 10% of the most highly cited papers.

  • Plan S would cover a slightly larger proportion of papers: 6%, compared with 5.2% overall.
  • This is an average. Specific journals or disciplines will see greater variations.
  • Although not shown above, we found that the top 15 most high-impact journals had around 12% of their papers funded by Plan S funders.

Other Funders

We also consider what might happen if Plan S principles were adopted globally. The variation in policies around the world suggest that this is unlikely in the short term at least. However a couple of key funding groups stand out.

  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which oversees the UK’s highly centralized publicly funded research, is currently reviewing its position on Plan S. It accounts for 1.3% of global output.
  • Similarly, the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is thought to be reviewing its public access policy. Should it adopt Plan S principles, they would cover another 13.4% of global output.
  • The effects on highly-cited papers are less profound for the UK’s funding bodies, probably reflecting their early adopter position in driving OA. These effects are notably more profound for funding agencies under the OSTP’s umbrella.
  • Note: The numbers vary slightly compared with previous analyses, as the sample now covers different funders. In 2018 (not shown above), we estimated around 6.25% of output was covered by current Plan S and UK funders, compared with 6.4% of 2018 output in the analysis carried out by ISI in March 2019.
  • To put this in context, our market sizing suggest that at least 25% of all content is published in fully OA journals. We might deem this as already Plan S compliant assuming things such as licenses and rights retention are appropriate. The remaining three quarters of all papers would be affected if Plan S principles were adopted globally.


Although cOAlition S funders account for less than 1.5% of global spending in R&D, the papers arising account for over 5% of scholarly output. They account for even greater proportions of highly cited papers. At first glance, Plan S’s potential for disruption could greatly outweigh its headline influence.

In 2020, we likely saw a COVID-19 effect. Although not shown here, we saw a significant spike in output from OSTP funders in 2020 when we look at how the numbers change over time. Plan S output grew too, but not by as much, and we see a continued increase in overall output. The spikes affected OA content more so than average.

As we covered last month, high-impact journals that have previously offered no OA options are now offering such options, and there is an active discussion about their involvement in transformative arrangements.

The percentages may be small, but the effects are clearly significant.


We would like to thank Clarivate for supplying data from its InCites product.

This article is © 2021 Delta Think, Inc. It is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please do get in touch if you want to use it in other contexts – we’re usually pretty accommodating.


Big Read-and-Publish Push Arrives – April 1, 2021

“Cambridge University Press recently struck dozens of open-access publishing deals with U.S. institutions, convincing many libraries to abandon their traditional journal subscription arrangements for the first time. More than 140 U.S. institutions have now signed open-access deals with Cambridge University Press, marking a significant shift in strategy for the nonprofit publisher.”

CRKN Meets Bold Negotiation Objectives in Elsevier Renewal – March 31, 2021

“Members of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) set bold negotiation objectives for the 2020 renewal with Elsevier: significantly reduce costs, increase open access, and ensure transparency of the agreement. After eleven months of negotiating, CRKN’s Content Strategy Committee (CSC) is announcing a renewal of the Elsevier ScienceDirect license.”

Jisc launches toolkit to help new university presses to publish open access – March 25, 2021

“Jisc is today launching a toolkit that will help new university presses to find sustainable ways to publish open access… The toolkit is structured into eleven main sections and is provided with a CC-BY licence so that the content can be shared, re-used and re-purposed. Although the Jisc toolkit is initially aimed at UK institutions, it draws upon international best practice and case studies making the content applicable to a global audience.”

European Commission launches open access publishing platform for scientific papers – March 24, 2021

“The European Commission has launched Open Research Europe, a publishing platform for scientific papers that will be accessible to everyone. The platform will present the results of research funded by Horizon Europe, the EU research and innovation programme for 2021-2027, and its predecessor, Horizon 2020.”

Google Scholar: Track and manage your public access mandates – March 23, 2021

Google Scholar is “adding a Public access section to Scholar profiles to help you track and manage public access mandates for your articles. If your public Scholar profile has papers covered by public access mandates from research funding agencies, you should see a new section [available].”

Researchers avoid preprints when possible, publisher’s survey says – March 22, 2021

“A recent survey by academic publisher Springer Nature suggests academics strongly prefer to read and cite final versions of journal articles over earlier drafts… Nearly 1,400 ResearchGate users responded to the survey in early 2020. A majority of survey respondents said when given the choice between an earlier version of a journal article and the final published version of record, they would choose the final version, viewing it as the most credible and authoritative source.”

The University of Tsukuba launches open access publishing hub for scientific papers in both English and Japanese – March 18, 2021

“The University of Tsukuba has launched its own open access publishing hub that will enable researchers to publish in either English or Japanese. The hub, which is hosted on the F1000Research site, adopts its pioneering approach to open science publishing.”

University of California and Elsevier sign ground-breaking transformative agreement – March 16, 2021

“Elsevier and the University of California (UC) have signed a ground-breaking memorandum of understanding to support open access (OA) publishing across the 10-campus UC system… The four-year agreement pilots UC’s pioneering shared funding model at an unprecedented scale and will support UC’s libraries, funders and authors to increase open access publishing while also enabling all UC researchers to read Elsevier’s journals.”

Open Access Diamond Journals Study Published – March 9, 2021

“A new study of open access journals which are free for readers and authors, known as “diamond journals” has been published. The in-depth report and its recommendations cover diamond journals across the world and provide a better understanding of the open access diamond landscape. Funded by Science Europe and commissioned by cOAlition S, the study represents the culmination of work undertaken from June 2020 to February 2021 by a consortium of 10 organisations, including DOAJ and led by OPERAS.”


March 31, 2021

Demography journal now open access – with Penn Libraries support

“The Penn Libraries support open access publishing through funding for the ejournal Demography. The Population Association of America has moved its journal Demography to platinum open access. The journal’s changeover coincides with its shift to Duke University Press from Springer Publishing.”

March 31, 2021

Bioscientifica acquires European Thyroid Journal and moves journal to OA model

“Bioscientifica, the society publisher, and commercial subsidiary of the Society for Endocrinology, has acquired the European Thyroid Journal, the flagship publication of the European Thyroid Association. The publisher will also be moving the journal from a subscription to an open access model.”

March 16, 2021

Dystonia Medical Research Foundation and Frontiers launch new Open Access journal

“The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) has officially selected Frontiers as the publishing partner of its new Gold Open Access journal, Dystonia. The journal will shine a spotlight on the global research effort for a greater understanding of dystonia, as well as breakthroughs in basic, clinical and translational research in the field.”

March 11, 2021

Nature Cardiovascular Research, Nature Synthesis and Nature Reviews Psychology to launch under the Nature Portfolio imprint in 2022

“Three new journals will be launched under the Nature Portfolio imprint at the beginning of 2022… All three titles will be published online-only, and Nature Synthesis and Nature Cardiovascular Research will be Transformative Journals (Tjs), thereby enabling Plan S-funded authors, and others wishing to publish open access, to submit primary research to these journals while complying with their funders’ requirements.”

March 3, 2021

New journal will contribute to improvements in global healthcare

“A new open access journal from Cambridge University Press, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Healthcare Epidemiology (ASHE), will contribute to improving the safety of global healthcare and to curbing the rise in antibiotic resistance. Published in partnership with The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the journal will publish original research in the fields of antimicrobial stewardship, healthcare epidemiology and infection prevention.”