Plan S, backed by a range of European research groups and top funders, ensures taxpayers free-to-read open access to the research results funded by their money.
In 2019, K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India tweeted India’s plans to join the Plan S. Making his position clear with a string of tweets, he made a strong case for making the public-funded knowledge base accessible to all. While he voiced his discomfort towards the present-day model of journal subscription and general publishing charges, he also delineated the working principals behind the much-coveted Plan S.
What is Plan S?
Plan S is a movement towards getting the results of the researches, funded by taxpayers’ money, open and accessible to all. That too immediately.
Heralded by Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s special envoy on open access has been amassing huge backing for Plan S from the likes of European Research Council, National Funding Bodies. Agencies in France, Holland and the UK have also voiced their support to the open-access initiative. Plan S has also found takers in World’s top two medical research charities, i.e. Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
With his unequivocal support for open-access in science, K. VijayRaghavan has been advising Modi governemt make strides in this direction. And it seems he’s relentelss efforts are finally coming to fruition.
Why Plan S?
In the present ecosystem, the academic publishing industry remains a highly profitable one, with the global revenue surpassing the €10 Billion mark. But as this number grows, the growth in the knowledge base of the society is not seeing the similar spike, making most of such scientific advancements as empty self-serving intellectual practices.
“Monetising the access to new and existing research results is profoundly at odds with the ethos of science.” (Merton, 1973)
A Tripple Whammy?
It seems the expression ‘double whammy’ falls short while describing the current academic publishing model. Bizarrely enough, the government plays three distinct roles in a play which is not a monologue.
The government first funds research then pays to get it scrutinized, i.e. quality check, and lastly but surely buys the published results. This system of self-flagellation amounts for hundreds of millions of dollars being spent, resulting in vauable findings of these studies hiding behind paywalls that are hard to climb for even institutions let alone an individual.
India stands at a firm third position in terms of producing scientific papers, lagging behind US and China only. And given the lack of access to these profound knowledge-sules makes for a rather bleak situation.
“India joining cOAltion S, will optimise it to to our benefit. Access of published research to all. Authors to be liberated from finding publishing charges.” said VijayRaghavan.
What entails Plan S?
Plan S, which is founded on the principle of ‘universality’ in its truest senses, asks funders to make their grant recipients submit their papers to open-access journals only, with researchers themselves bearing the mid-process editing costs.
This not just limits the role of the state as a patron but also ensures that the results are available to access freely, forever. Also, true to the spirit of Open Access, Plan S papers would be made available free to download, translate, reuse, and build upon them.
The Other Side
Open access in academic publishing is meeting with some basic, recurrent open-access opposition. A number of scientists, including Nobel laureates, have termed the move regressive. Calling out the shrinking space for academic freedom, some have termed it as totally unsafe and discouraging.
As India enters the open-access scheme of things in academic publishing, what remains to be seen is the open access policies and the realization of them.
While the impact of this historic shift on the academic publishing industry remains rather unclear, the societal impact surely seems brighter as the Junta will finally be able to access the knowledge it for pays for.