Wellcome and Gates join the brave European Open Access Plan

Wellcome and Gates join the brave European Open Access Plan
Headquarters of the Wellcome Trust in London

The Wellcome Trust is the first lender to describe in detail how he intends to implement the Plan S. Credit: SSPL / Getty

Two of the world's largest biomedical research funding organizations have supported the plan to open all new projects by 2020 as soon as they are released.

On November 5, the London-based Wellcome Trust and the Seattle, Washington, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that they both joined Plan-S, reinforcing an initiative that has been launched in Europe since its inception in November was supported by 13 research sponsors September. The plan was driven by Robert-Jan Smits, Special Envoy of the European Commission for Open Access.

The Wellcome Trust, which has donated £ 1.1bn in 2016-17, is also the first donor to describe in detail how he plans to implement the Plan S. His approach suggests that magazines do not need to switch wholesale to open-access models (OA) by 2020 to comply with Plan S if the initiative's other sponsors adopt a similar line.

The biomedical charity already has an OA Directive, but in some cases it may be embargoed for up to six months after publication before papers need to be made legible. The organization says that by January 1, 2020, all such embargoes will be banned. Well done work can not appear in nature, science and other influential subscription journals, as long as these publications do not allow the publication of publications funded by Wellcome (the News team of Nature is editorially independent of its publisher).

Researchers may still publish the charities in subscription journals, says Robert Kiley, head of charity's open research. But only if these magazines agree that the authors can immediately deposit their manuscript under a liberal publishing license in the PubMedCentral repository. Some publishers, such as the Royal Society in London, already allow this.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington

The Gates Foundation said it will update its Plan S compliance policy over the next 12 months. Picture credits: Kristoffer Tripplaar / Alamy

Plan S also states that scientists can not publish in "hybrid" journals where subscriptions are collected but are subject to a fee for some papers to be opened. Wellcome says it will not pay any OA fees for publication in hybrid magazines. However, it will not exclude its papers from hybrid magazines if authors can find other payment options or if a journal agrees that authors simultaneously publish their accepted manuscripts elsewhere under different conditions.

Kiley adds that Wellcome will support hybrid journals until 2022, when their publishers have "transformative OA agreements" on their way to open access. These include, for example, "reading and publishing" deals, where the subscription fees of an institution also cover the costs of their authors who openly publish in a hybrid magazine.

This essentially follows the spirit of a Plan S statement that some hybrid magazine publications would be allowed for a transitional period.

Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation, which already requires immediate open access to the papers released as a result of the research it has funded, said it would update its policy to comply with Plan S over the next 12 months. The Hybrid Journal component of the initiative is the only part that does not fall under Gates' current policy, says a spokesperson.

Overall, the revised guidelines put pressure on non-OA journals to change their way of working, says Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access project and the Harvard science communications office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I welcome Wellcome and Gates for this move," he says, adding that Harvard University has for years decided not to pay open access fees for publication in hybrid magazines.

The Gates Foundation, which spent $ 4.6 billion in 2016, much of which was spent on science, has already contributed significantly to changing subscription journal policies by promptly requiring researchers to be open-minded.

Since 2017, when Gates began enforcing his policy, eg. Eg magazines New England Journal of medicine and the Procedure of the National Academy of Sciences offer charity grant holders a permanent OA publication route. The organization has also agreed a pilot partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington DC, which publishes it scienceunder which more than 25 publications have been published openly. This process ended in June.

The Wellcome Trust's new OA Directive also states that the retransmission of pre-prints – for example, during a disease outbreak – can have significant public health benefits, and the work it funds must be published under a liberal license before the peer review.

The other donors supporting Plan S are expected to initiate a public consultation on their implementation ideas by the end of November, according to Smits.

STM, a global trade association for academic and professional publishers, welcomes the efforts of the Wellcome Trust, the Gates Foundation and others to expand access to peer-reviewed scientific papers to maximize their value and reuse. "We continue to urge lenders and institutions to consider all effective methods for a successful transition to open access," a spokesperson said.

A Springer Nature spokesperson said, "Like the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation, Springer Nature is committed to accelerating to a system where publicly-funded research is openly available at the time of publication."

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