Plan S and History Journals

by | Sep 26, 2019 | RHS Publications | 0 comments

Are History journals ready for Plan S? What are the implications for historians of cOAlition S’s mandate that all research that its funders fund be published according to Plan S open access requirements?

Between July and September 2019, the Royal Historical Society surveyed the editors of history journals in order to assess current awareness of, and preparation for, Plan S open access requirements among UK and international History journals and learned societies. In July we published a preliminary Working Paper with some initial analysis. In total have received 107 survey responses, and these results will inform a report, which we will publish in early October 2019 here.

Plan S is a radical open access publishing initiative formulated by cOAlition S, a confederation of predominantly European national funding bodies including UKRI and the Wellcome Trust. It was launched in September 2018, with Version 2.0 of Plan S released on 31 May 2019, following an international consultation.

Plan S is predicated on 10 shared principles, and aims to accelerate the transition toward full and immediate open access. Key requirements of Plan S include that all peer-reviewed journal articles based on original research that has been funded by its funders must be published open access with zero embargo, and with a CC-BY licence as default.

We have derived the chart below from information in the official Plan S Implementation Guidance Document to show the full list of compliance points required by Plan S for authors who:

  • publish in online Open Access journals or platforms (Route 1 Compliance)
  • publish in a subscription journal, where either the final published version (Version of Record/VoR) or the Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM) are made openly available in an online repository (Route 2 Compliance).

Compliance 1

Compliance 2

One particularly striking feature of these Plan S requirements is that while the language of Plan S focuses on compliance by, and sanctions on, the authors of research, virtually none of the technical details included in this table are in the researcher’s control.

As we noted in our April 2019 Working Paper, ‘zero embargo’ open access publication (including self-deposit of an author’s accepted manuscript (AAM) in an institutional or other open repository) currently appears to offer the most likely route for funded history authors to comply with Plan S requirements.

However, the situation is very fluid, with many ‘known unknowns’.

The technical requirements incumbent on repositories (shown in the table above), and issues surrounding CC BY licences, make it clear that ‘zero embargo’ open access is by no means an easy or automatic route to Plan S compliance.

The responses to our survey suggest that few well-known and highly-regarded history journals are in a position to offer compliance with these technical requirements. Notably:

  • many history journals employ an embargo period, with few acknowledging plans to change these policies to be Plan S compliant.
  • of those journals that currently (or plan to) accept zero embargo deposit of AAM or VoR, few have plans to allow fully open CC-BY licenses.

zero embargo


plan to change

A full analysis of our survey (and other) data will be published in October in our report.  In the meantime, if you have spotted an error of fact, please let us know so that we can correct it. You can comment below, or email the RHS Research and Communications Officer, Dr Katherine Foxhall, on

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