As the Plan S story continues to evolve, this month we look at how we can develop an understanding of what Plan S might mean for your particular organization.

The Situation Continues to Evolve

In late November, cOAlition S released some initial guidelines on the implementation of Plan S. It also announced that it is seeking feedback about Plan S and requested proposals to explore how learned societies could be Plan S compliant.

At the 14th Berlin Open Access conference at the start of December, participants from around the world(re)stated their commitments to accelerating the widespread implementation of full and immediate open access. Notions of transitional agreements and compressed timescales were aired, with over 130 organizations now expressing interest in converting “the existing corpus of scholarly journals … from subscription to open access … within the framework of currently available resources.” Position papers from three large Chinese funders supported their moving to make research papers immediately open access after publication (although the funders did not say they would follow all Plan S specifics). India has also hinted that it may join Plan S.

What This Means for Your Organization

Our previous post looked at how additional funders joining Plan S might affect the overall market. Modelling the big picture is vital to producing benchmarks against which an organization can judge its own position relative to others.

However, your organization’s experience may be different to the average. It will have its own mix of products and dependencies. So, how might we tailor a model to reflect an organization’s specific experience and see how it might differ to the market average?

Our models combine a large number of criteria, including overall growth, the balance between different business models, regional effects, and pricing changes for both volume and value. We also project these criteria over time using regression (or “best fit”) analysis. In doing so, we can choose whether to take conservative or aggressive approaches for projections.

With so many possibilities, developing a model for a specific organization requires choosing which parameters to vary. We must also decide which scenarios to model.

A Worked Example for a Specific Organization

We would normally work with an organization to discuss its particular KPIs and needs. This would normally be confidential. So, to illustrate a customized market projection, we have contrived a fictitious organization with the following headline KPIs:

  • Annual revenue growth is 5% (compared with market averages of around 2%).
  • Submissions and output are growing an average 7% (compared with market averages of around 4%).
  • Hybrid uptake is higher than market average. Our models (and various studies) suggest that hybrid forms a relatively low proportion of open access adoption. However, some organizations, particularly those which have added hybrid options to their established subscription journals, may find that hybrid accounts for a higher proportion than average. So, for this organization, we have assumed a 50:50 split of its total OA revenues between hybrid and fully OA journals in our model.
  • Across the publication portfolio, international submissions at this organization are as follows: China accounts for just under 20% of all submissions, of which around 15% are OA. EU accounts for 30% of all submissions, around 30% of which are OA.

We must also make some forward looking assumptions to drive our models:

  • The effects of Plan S mandates follow a typical S-shaped adoption curve over 3 years, centered around 2020. We modelled a rapid shift based on the timetable announced by cOAlition S.
  • Underlying trends in country submissions continue as at present, based on conservative assumptions (technically, a logarithmic regression analysis). E.g. China’s share of annual output is growing at ~0.6 percentage points per year; the US’s and EU’s figures are shrinking at 0.35 and 0.25 percentage points per year respectively, but shrinkage is slowing.
  • Without the details of Plan S price caps, we will not make assumptions and model these at this time.

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

Figure 1, above, shows how the impact of Plan S and wider uptake of open access looks for our fictitious organization. As with our previous models, we plot the change against projected value (revenue) for the organization if there was no change to its current operations. Given our organization’s profile, we decided to model two scenarios:

  1. The effects of a ban on hybrid, as Plan S funders will not fund APCs in hybrid journals (the green line). We assumed a “worst case” in which hybrid revenue will disappear – authors will either submit to other publishers’ journals, or follow a green option. As a point of comparison, we show a market-average scenario of the EU banning hybrid in the dotted grey line. Note how our fictitious organization suffers LESS reduction in its income even though its hybrid income is GREATER than average. This is because its growth dynamics are influenced by its faster than average revenue and publication growth, and higher-than average proportion of non-EU submissions.
  2. China moves forward on its plans to increase OA adoption, making an aggressive move to raise OA uptake to levels similar to that in Plan S countries (i.e. those with strong OA policies). In this scenario, we also assume that subscription revenues per article are replaced by lower open access revenues (playing to the principles of cost-neutrality discussed at the OA conference, and assuming aggressive pricing negotiations took hold). Here we see the organization seeing a much more profound decrease in projected revenues compared with an EU-only Plan S adoption. The dynamic here is one of core, higher-value subscription revenues being eroded by the widespread adoption of open access.


The market-wide benchmarks we publish are an important starting point, but the effects your organization may experience can vary significantly. The ability to choose which assumptions to vary and which scenarios to model are both important in putting the market figures in context.

Averages are not evenly distributed! The localized effects for an organization may be significantly different to the market average, as we saw with the profound reduction in revenues when modelling the impact of more widespread open access adoption on subscription revenues. Effects may also be counter-intuitive, as we saw with the hybrid models, with an organization’s core business dynamics (e.g., higher growth rate, higher non-EU submissions) outweighing headline changes.

Our monthly pieces offer market context to the widest possible audience. However, please do get in touch if you’d like to know more about how we can adjust these models to create a customized picture for your organization.

Meanwhile, Delta Think would like to wish all our readers a happy and healthy year ahead.


Peer Review: First results from a trial at eLife – January 7, 2019

“eLife’s new approach to peer review proves popular with authors, with very similar acceptance rates for male and female last authors, but with higher acceptance rates for late-career researchers compared to their early- and mid-career colleagues.”

Will the world embrace Plan S, the radical proposal to mandate open access to science papers? – January 3, 2019

“How far will Plan S spread? Since the September 2018 launch of the Europe-backed program to mandate immediate open access (OA) to scientific literature, 16 funders in 13 countries have signed on. That’s still far shy of Plan S’s ambition: to convince the world’s major research funders to require immediate OA to all published papers stemming from their grants.”

SPARC Applauds Congressional Passage of the OPEN Government Data Act – December 22, 2018

“SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, today applauded Congressional passage of the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act. The bill, which is included as Title II of the broader Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, requires federal agencies to publish government data in machine-readable and open formats and use open licenses.”

SPARC Europe releases latest update to European Open Data and Open Science policies – December 20, 2018

SPARC Europe released “an updated analysis of Open Data and Open Science policies across Europe, [which] reports a continued increase in the growth of related policies and an increase in uptake in countries where no such policy previously existed. This latest report is an update to an original analysis released in May 2017. It specifically examines activity across Europe between January and November 2018.”

Editage report highlights country-specific patterns and differences in researchers’ attitudes toward open access – December 19, 2018

“Editage has released a report highlighting geographic patterns in author attitudes toward open access publishing…[This] latest report takes a deep dive into the open access-specific data collected in the survey, and showcases the views of authors from the seven most represented countries in the survey.”

Max Planck Society discontinues agreement with Elsevier; stands firm with Projekt DEAL negotiations – December 18, 2018

“The President and scientific council members of the Max Planck Society (MPS), one of the world’s largest research performing organizations, counting 14,000 scientists who publish 12K new research articles a year—around 1500 of which in Elsevier journals, have mandated the Max Planck Digital Library to discontinue their Elsevier subscription when the current agreement expires on December 31, 2018.”

Astronomy & Astrophysics signs transformative Open Access agreement with Max Planck Society – December 18, 2018

“Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A) the international Journal that publishes papers on all aspects of astronomy and astrophysics and one of the leading journals in its field, has signed a two-year transformative Open Access agreement with the Max Planck Society in Germany.”

Taylor & Francis on cOAlition S, Plan S and accelerating OA – December 17, 2018

“The recent announcements emanating from Europe around open access (OA) have resonated throughout the globe. In this post [Taylor and Francis] examines the origin and aim of Plan S, briefly outlines reactions to the Plan from researchers, funders, and publishers, and provides links to further information for interested readers including to a feedback survey created by cOAlition S.”

Heavyweight Showdown Over Research Access: University of California challenges Elsevier over access to scholarly research – December 13, 2018

“The UC system, which paid over $10 million this year to the publishing giant Elsevier in journal subscription fees, is unhappy with the status quo. So unhappy that when the UC system’s current five-year contract with Elsevier ends on Dec. 31, officials say, they are willing to put access to Elsevier journals on hold until the university gets what it wants.”

Nature Index 2018 reviews China’s scientific performance over the past five years – December 13, 2018

“The Nature Index 2018 supplement on China reveals that China’s contribution to the Nature Index rose by 75% between 2012 and 2017, much more than a selection of leading countries in the Index, such as the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. China’s share of global scientific output as measured by the Index also continued to rise, from 9 to 16%.”

Oxford University Press and the Max Planck Society agree combined open access and subscription deal – December 10, 2018

“Oxford University Press and the Max Planck Society are delighted to announce a new two-year deal, which includes a significant open access element, to provide access to OUP’s prestigious journal collection for all Max Planck Society members.”

F1000Research agrees OA deal with Max Planck Digital Library – December 4, 2018

“F1000 and the Max Planck Digital Library (MPDL) have reached an agreement whereby MPDL will cover the cost for Max Planck Society-affiliated authors to publish on F1000Research.”


December 19, 2018

IET launches new engineering research journal ‘IET Smart Cities’

“The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is delighted to announce the launch of IET Smart Cities. The new Gold Open Access journal will publish the latest advances in Information Communication Technology (ICT) for smart cities, including advanced research that aims to resolve issues that affect quality of life, such as traffic congestion, air pollution, health hazards, natural disasters, public safety and housing.”

December 14, 2018

Industrial Biotechnology: a new specialty in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology is launched

“Led by Georg Gübitz of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU Vienna), the new specialty on Industrial Biotechnology will focus on the use of enzymes and microbes for industrial processes such as food and feed processing, cosmetics, and polymer processing and for the manufacture of bio-based products.”

December 10, 2018

Emerald Open Research is now open for submissions

“Emerald Open Research, a new open access platform, is now open for submissions. Created in partnership with F1000, the platform, which is new and pioneering for the social sciences community, offers authors immediate publication followed by transparent open peer review, and supports an open data policy.”

November 21, 2018

BMJ launches new open access journal in children’s surgery

“Healthcare knowledge provider BMJ has added a new title to its extensive portfolio of 60+ specialist journals, with the launch of World Journal of Pediatric Surgery. World Journal of Pediatric Surgery publishes ground-breaking original research, reviews, case reports, editorials and clinical images to reflect the current situation and future development of paediatric surgery across the world.”