Plan S Impact Assessment and Options Analysis

Small Medical Society

Strategic and Operational Guidance

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


A society focused on global health wished to understand the impact of cOAlition S mandates on its flagship journal and to develop a strategy for offering a Plan S–compliant publication option for affected authors. The society was concerned as it receives many submissions from authors based in low-income countries without access to funding for article processing charges (APCs). Although increasing access to research is important to society, 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. C&E was engaged to help evaluate the impact of Plan S on its journal, and to provide guidance related to navigating the funder coalition’s mandate.

What We Did

C&E analyzed the journal’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. We therefore 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 society volunteers, staff, and editorial leadership, to discuss each scenario and its tradeoffs.


The society’s 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.