Open science and Plan S

Formas backed the Plan S initiative in September 2018, and is currently part of an international group of research funders called Coalition S who work to promote open access to scholarly publications. Plan S is the organisation’s specific initiative for accelerating the transition towards immediate, open publication of publicly funded research results in scholarly publications.

Freely available research underpins a well-functioning democracy. Therefore, research conducted at different universities is mainly financed through public funds. But in order for the results to be disseminated and provide benefit, their quality must be assured and everyone must be able to access the results in the timeliest way possible.

In today’s scholarly publishing system, a few large global publishers have carved out a monopolistic position for themselves whereby they charge in a way that in practice locks up research results behind costly paywalls. By extension, this means that some universities, government agencies, other research practitioners and organisations as well as individual citizens in Sweden and abroad do not have access to relevant research results that have been publicly funded.

All in all, this means that public research funds do not get the knowledge exchange that would otherwise be possible when using research to generate new knowledge in order to meet the different challenges society faces. Moreover, the public system first has to pay for the research, then pays for its publication and, finally, pays to access it, when common resources could instead be spent on funding more research.

Like many Swedish funders, Formas has long been involved in the question of open science and has required open access publishing for our projects since 2012. Together with the other organisations that have joined Plan S, Formas wants to increase the pace of transition to a system based on open science. Research results funded by tax revenues must be made immediately available. This work has been ongoing since the newspaper world began to undergo digitalisation at the beginning of the 21st century. Although there are challenges to address, Formas believes that more modern business models supporting the publication of quality-assured research results need to be in place within the foreseeable future.

Formas will apply the rules starting in 2021. Our current terms and conditions and our open access requirements will continue to apply for projects funded in calls that open before 1 January 2021. Current terms and conditions allow publication in so-called hybrid journals with embargos of up to six months. We are currently evaluating how our terms and conditions will change as a result of Plan S.

Plan S was initiated by the European Commission’s envoy for open access and was developed in cooperation with members such as Science Europe, an association of European funders and research practitioners. Among the 20 organisations supporting the initiative are the European Research Council (ERC), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Norway’s Research Council, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Swedish members include the government research councils Formas and Forte, and the innovation agency Vinnova.

More than 20 organisations have expressed support for the plan, including the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the European University Association (EUA) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).

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Updated:2 July 2019