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 with a focus on global health wished to understand the potential impact of cOAlition S’s Plan S mandates on its flagship journal, and to develop a strategy for offering a Plan S–compliant route to publication for affected authors. The society noted that many of its authors are based in low-income countries and do not have access to funding for article processing charges (APCs). Although increased access to research is an important goal of the 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 historical publication trends to understand what impact Plan S might 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 to be met 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 volunteer, staff, and editorial leadership, to discuss each scenario and determine the best strategy to pursue for Plan S compliance.


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.