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Wellcome and Gates Join Bold European Open-Access Plan

By November 7, 2018No Comments

Two of the world’s largest biomedical research funders have backed a plan to make all papers resulting from work they fund open access on publication by 2020.

On 5 November, the London-based Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, announced they were both endorsing ‘Plan S’, adding their weight to an initiative already backed by 13 research funders across Europe since its launch in September. The plan was spearheaded by Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s special envoy on open access.

The Wellcome Trust, which gave out £1.1 billion (US$1.4 billion) in grants in 2016–17, is also the first funder to detail how it intends to implement Plan S. Its approach suggests that journals may not need to switch wholesale to open-access (OA) models by 2020 to be compliant with Plan S — if the initiative’s other backers decide on a similar line.

The biomedical charity already has an OA policy, but in some cases it allows an embargo of up to six months after publication before papers have to be made free to read. The organization says that by 1 January 2020, it will ban all such embargoes.

Wellcome-funded work will not be able to appear in NatureScience and other influential subscription journals unless these publications permit Wellcome-funded papers to be published under OA terms (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its publisher, Springer Nature).

Researchers that the charity funds could still publish in subscription journals, says Robert Kiley, Wellcome’s head of open research. But only if those journals agree that the authors can immediately deposit their accepted manuscript in the PubMed Central repository under a liberal publishing licence. Some publishers, such as the Royal Society in London, already allow this.