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Open Access is the Plan S Way Forward in Hematology Research

Cools, Jan1; Engert, Andreas1; Gribben, John2; Macintyre, Elizabeth3

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doi: 10.1097/HS9.0000000000000331
  • Open

“All published research data should be openly available to all researchers worldwide.” This statement seems a wonderful view as this is the best way for research to move forward by profiting from all current, shared knowledge. Not so long ago, it used to be different. One had to walk to the library only to find a limited number of journals. Missing articles needed to be ordered, resulting in long waiting times. Even now when almost everything is available on your smartphone, many articles are still locked behind a password that can only be opened with cash.

This could soon change thanks to “Plan S”, an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders, including the European Research Council (ERC). Plan S requires that from 2021 (originally planned for 2020 – now postponed to 2021), scientific publications resulting from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms.

Plan S is built on one main principle: “With effect from 2021, all scholarly publications on the results from research funded by public or private grants provided by national, regional and international research councils and funding bodies, must be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo.” There are 10 additional principles, of which the most important include that: (1) authors (or their institutions) retain copyright and that communications are published under an open license; (2) open access publication fees should be transparent and should be covered by the funders or institutions; and (3) the hybrid publication model, whereby authors pay in addition for open access, is not supported. A complete description can be found at:

The initiative was born from the cooperation between the heads of the participating Research Funding Organizations: Marc Schiltz, the President of Science Europe; and Robert-Jan Smits, the Open Access Envoy of the European Commission. It also drew on significant input from the Scientific Council of the ERC. cOAlition S currently comprises 13 national research funding organizations and 4 charitable foundations who have agreed to implement the 10 principles of Plan S in a coordinated way, together with the European Commission and the ERC. Other research funders from across the world are expected to join in the near future (see the updated list at:

There has been some anxiety among researchers and publishers, as is the case with any change. The open access principle seems to be widely supported, but there is fear that the introduction of strict rules will limit researchers and restrict the choice of journals where they can publish. Young researchers pointed out that they need to be able to publish in a top journal to accelerate their career and this may become more difficult with additional rules. This is indeed a potential problem, but if all funding agencies adopt the Plan S principles, all important journals will need to adapt and offer full open access for a reasonable cost. That is at least what is hoped by the consortium and by the researchers worldwide who support this initiative.

EHA has been supporting many of these principles for more than 20 years. In the past, EHA and the Ferrara Storti Foundation published Haematologica, an open access journal with low publication fees, which is completely in line with the spirit behind Plan S. Since 2017, EHA is publishing HemaSphere, its own open access journal. There was universal agreement among the EHA board members that this new journal had to be open access and offer low publication fees. Authors publishing their work in HemaSphere retain the copyright of their work, removing the restrictions they would otherwise later face when wishing to use their own work for education, research, or sharing. EHA invests in its journal by offering open access publication against low fees, not only for its members, but also for the entire international hematology community.

What will change for you as an author?

It is likely that most, if not all, funding agencies will adopt Plan S in the future and you will be obliged to publish your work in compliant open access journals or platforms. This may start as early as 2021 and will most likely have a (short) transition period to allow non-open access journals to change their business models. There is indeed a need for such a transition period so that journals and societies who want to change their models can find sufficient time to make this change.

If you publish your work in HemaSphere, there will be no problem at all. HemaSphere not only completely adheres to the principles of Plan S, but is also built around these principles!1HemaSphere is non-profit, fully open access, allows authors to retain their copyrights, uses the CC-BY (creative commons) licenses, and charges a very low article processing contribution (APC). This is completely in line with EHA's aim to promote excellence in patient care, research, and education in hematology. Keep calm and publish in open-access journals such as HemaSphere!


1. Engert A, Cools J. The first year of hemasphere and many more to come. Hemasphere. 2018;2:e161.
Copyright © 2020 the Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the European Hematology Association.