Plan S Impact Assessment and Options Analysis

American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Strategic and Operational Guidance

A society-published medical journal navigates routes to Plan S compliance.


The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), founded in 1903, is the largest international scientific organization of experts dedicated to reducing the worldwide burden of tropical infectious diseases and improving global health. The society wished to understand the potential impact of cOAlition S mandates on its flagship journal, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH), and to develop a strategy for offering a Plan S–compliant publication option for affected authors. ASTMH was concerned because it receives many submissions from authors based in low-income countries without access to funding for article processing charges (APCs). Increasing access to research is an important goal for ASTMH, but a wholesale “flip” to the Gold OA model would risk disenfranchising these authors and at the same time place a great financial strain on the society.

What We Did

C&E analyzed AJTMH’s publication trends to understand what impact Plan S is likely to have on the journal. We found that a significant proportion of authors would not be able to publish in the journal without a Plan S–compliant publication option. Working with society leadership as well as the AJTMH Managing Editor and Editor in Chief, we developed scenarios illustrating ways for the journal to become Plan S compliant. Each scenario examined the criteria for compliance, as well as the potential impact on the journal’s finances, editorial profile, and technical and operational needs. The project concluded with a workshop facilitated by C&E for staff and society and journal volunteer leadership to discuss each scenario and its tradeoffs, and to determine the best strategy to pursue for Plan S compliance.


ASTMH stakeholders shared the goal of advancing the journal toward a sustainable open access model, while also acknowledging the challenge of an author-pays model for its community of researchers, many of whom are based in low-income countries. It was determined that to balance these two ideals, the best path forward was for the journal to pursue “transformative journal” status — committing to a transition to fully OA over time in keeping with Plan S guidance. This approach allows the society to serve Plan S authors and increase the proportion of articles published under an OA model, but also allows time to explore mechanisms to support authors without access to funding for APCs. ASTMH was the second publisher to have a journal afforded transformative journal status by cOAlition S.