Why open access?                                        

Openness and free access are essential and universal values in academic research. Only in this way can the results of scientific research be interpreted, controlled and used. NWO’s mission is to support world-class research that has a scientific and social impact. In the current digital era, this means that the outcomes of research (both publications and research data) should be freely accessible via the internet. For more than ten years now, NWO has been advocating open access to research results that emerge from NWO funding. It has also been a policy priority for the Dutch government since 2014, and the aim is to make 100% of publicly funded research funded open access by 2020.

What are cOAlition S and Plan S?

cOAlition S is an international consortium that currently consists of more than 20 research funders from Europe and beyond. It aims to accelerate the transition to open access of scientific publications through Plan S. The core of Plan S is to ensure free access to all publications emerging from funding by coalition members from 2021 onwards. The fundamental principles of Plan S were published in September 2018. In November 2018 the implementation plan followed, which was submitted to a broad public consultation. This process generated more than 600 responses from over 40 countries, which is the largest ever consultation conducted on an open access policy. In addition to support, the feedback on Plan S also contained criticism, in particular regarding the speed with which it was being implemented. All 600 responses (which will also be made publicly available) have been carefully studied and weighed. On 31 May, the final version of Plan S was published, along with a document that explains which changes have been introduced in response to the feedback and why.

What does the final version of Plan S mean for researchers funded by NWO?

NWO will safeguard a meticulous implementation procedure, and in doing so it will make use of the extended timeframe for implementation announced in the final version of the plan. This means that Plan S will be applicable to publications emerging from research projects that are granted on the basis of calls put out by NWO from 1-1-2021 onwards. Articles emerging from these projects must be made open access immediately upon publication. An embargo period will not be accepted. cOAlition S will develop a separate plan for other forms of publications, such as scholarly monographs, before the end of 2021.

Open access can be achieved in three ways under Plan S:

  1. by publishing articles in an open access journal or platform (the gold route)
  2. by immediately (without embargo) archiving the publication in an institutional or disciplinary repository (the green route).
  3. by publishing in a journal which is covered by a transformative agreement between universities and publishers. The VSNU has a series of such agreements in place with major publishers, and this enables Dutch researchers to publish open access for free or at a reduced fee.

In all cases, the copyright must remain with the author or his/her institution and cannot be transferred, and a CC BY license must be applied.

How well prepared is the Netherlands and NWO for Plan S?

There are several things worth mentioning with regard to this issue:

  • Plan S is to a large extent in agreement with the open access policy that NWO has been carrying out since 2015. NWO’s policy already stipulates that all publications emerging from NWO funding must be made open access immediately upon publication. NWO has a preference for the gold route but also accepts self-archiving (green route). As a result of successful negotiations that Dutch universities have been conducting with major publishers since 2014 the implementation of Plan S in the Netherlands is expected to be easier than in most other countries. No other country in the world has as many transformative agreements in place as the Netherlands. A major share of Dutch scientific output has therefore already been successfully published in open access. As a result, more than 60% of the articles that emerged from NWO funding in 2018 have open access status.
  • NWO has been compensating costs related to publishing in full gold open access journals since 2009. Since 2018 this is no longer happening through a separate open access fund, but instead researchers are able to directly claim these costs in the budget of research projects as part of their proposal.
  • In recent years NWO has supported various important open access infrastructures and initiatives, such as OAPEN (a repository for open access monographs) and alternative open access publication models (such as SciPost). NWO will continue to do so in the coming period, also in partnership with cOAlition S and in particular in those scholarly fields where there is still a lack of open access options.
  • All Dutch universities have high-quality institutional repositories at their disposal, where publications can be made open access in a sustainable manner. There are a large number of disciplinary repositories, such as Arxiv, where peer-reviewed articles can be deposited, in addition to preprints. If these kinds of repositories are unavailable, then a general repository such as ZENODO is an option.

In 2024 cOAlition S will conduct an interim evaluation to see whether any changes need to be introduced. In the coming months, NWO will embed Plan S into its own open access policy by revising the grant requirements and call texts. NWO will include stakeholders in the Netherlands in this process. As a partner of cOAlition S, NWO will endeavour to expand the coalition.