Addendum to the cOAlition S Guidance on the Implementation of Plan S

cOAlition S endorse a number of strategies to encourage subscription publishers to transition to Open Access. These approaches are referred to as ’transformative arrangements’ and include transformative agreements, transformative model agreements and transformative journals[1].

The Guidance on the Implementation of Plan S indicates an ambition of developing a framework for ‘transformative journals’. Such ‘transformative journals’ are journals that (i) gradually increase the share of Open Access content, (ii) offset subscription income from payments for publishing services (to avoid double payments), and (iii) have a clear commitment to a transition to full and immediate Open Access for all peer-reviewed scholarly articles within an agreed timeframe.

The requirements below constitute this framework.

Mandatory criteria for Transformative Journals

  1. A Transformative Journal will need to demonstrate an annual increase in the Open Access penetration rate of at least 8 percent points year-on-year[2], and either:
    1. commit to transition to full Open Access at the latest when the Open Access penetration rate has passed 50%,
    2. commit to transition to full Open Access by an agreed timeline and at the latest on the 31 December 2024.
  2. The Transformative Journal must make all Open Access content available in accordance with the Plan S requirements[3].
  3. The Transformative Journal must demonstrate transparent pricing, including a breakdown of prices based on the services it provides.[4]
  4. The Transformative Journal must adopt mechanisms to avoid undue publication barriers, by offering waivers and discounts to authors in line Plan S Guidance.
  5. The Transformative Journal must implement transparent pricing for the remaining subscription content, ensuring that institutions purchasing a subscription to a transformative journal will pay only for remaining subscription content, and not for Open Access (OA) articles paid for either directly by APCs or through any other means (e.g. Read and Publish / Publish and Read deals)[5].
  6. The Transformative Journal must agree to at least overall cost neutrality over the course of its global transition to a fully Open Access business model.
  7. The Transformative Journal should regularly update its authors on the usage, citations, and online attention of their published articles.
  8. The publisher of the Transformative Journal must provide an annual public report to cOAlition S to measure progress and demonstrate compliance with the requirements for Transformative Journals and to report on the Open Access article usage, citations and cost per download compared with the subscription content published in the transformative journal.
  9. A publisher who wishes to qualify for having journals acknowledged as transformative journals by cOAlition S should clearly and publicly announce its commitment to gradually transition all the journals it owns, as well as the maximum number of the other journals they publish, to full and immediate Open Access publication of all primary research.

Recommended additional criteria for publishers of transformative journals

  1. When relevant, the publisher should encourage and support academic learned societies and other parties whose subscription journals they publish in the transition to full and immediate Open Access.
  2. The publisher should demonstrate to authors of primary research articles the benefits of Open Access using article metrics both prior to submission, at submission, and, particularly at the point when an author chooses between the Open Access and non-OA option.
  3. The publisher should (i) pursue Transformative Agreements that convert resources currently spent by libraries, consortia and others on journal subscriptions into funds to support sustainable Open Access business models, (ii) make Transformative Agreements available where institutions, consortia or research funding bodies are willing to use them and to scale them when in place, and (iii) ensure that all their Transformative Journals are included in Transformative Agreements, as soon as possible. Information relating to these three ambitions should be made available from the publisher web site.


We are now seeking input from the community on this draft framework and encourage all interested stakeholders to respond. The consultation on this draft framework is open until 09.00 CET on Monday 6th January 2020. We plan to publish a final version of this framework by the end of March 2020.

[1] As stated in the Guidance, cOAlition S members may, but are not obliged to, provide funding to support publication fees of journals covered by such arrangements. A fundamental principle of these transformative arrangements is that they are temporary and transitional: where cOAlition S members provide funding to support publication fees of journals covered by such arrangements, this funding will cease on the 31 December 2024. cOAlition S urges individual researchers, research institutions, other funders, and governments not to financially support ‘hybrid’ Open Access publishing when such fees are not part of transformative arrangements.

[2] Numbers are averaged using a three-year rolling period.

[3] Plan S implementation guidelines:

[4] Pricing transparency requirements will be informed by the outcome of the cOAlition S project, “Transparent communication of Open Access publishing services and their prices”, see

[5] See the Royal Society’s model as good example of transparent subscription pricing