Open peer review of “few open access journals are PlanS compliant”

MDPI’s journal is experimenting with open peer review. Reviewers can choose to make their reviews openly accessible. This recent article that I reviewed has just been published. To read my reviews, click on “review reports” – I am Reviewer 1. If you prefer to skip the details of work that was needed and subsequently done, skip to round 3 for the final review.

Following is the citation and abstract of the article and a portion of my final review that focuses on the work per se, and an update based on subsequent conversation with Frantsvåg. I will publish the copyright statement separately.

Frantsvåg, J.E.; Strømme, T.E. Few Open Access Journals Are Compliant with Plan S.  Publications 20197, 26.


Much of the debate on Plan S seems to concentrate on how to make toll-access journals open access, taking for granted that existing open access journals are Plan S-compliant. We suspected this was not so and set out to explore this using Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) metadata. We conclude that a large majority of open access journals are not Plan S-compliant, and that it is small publishers in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) not charging article processing charges (APC) that will face the largest challenge with becoming compliant. Plan S needs to give special considerations to smaller publishers and/or non-APC based journals.

Excerpt of final round of review:

An open peer review of “Few open access journals are Plan S compliant”: third and final round by Dr. Heather Morrison, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa School of Information Studies, and Principal Investigator, Sustaining the Knowledge Commons, a SSHRC Insight Project. Ó Dr. Heather Morrison, All Rights Reserved (explanation below).

This article presents important research and merits publication; conclusions are basically sound and recommendations appear timely and sensible.

One major substantive point of potential confusion remains. This confusion is evident is PlanS implementation guidance per se which states: “cOAlition S acknowledges that some publishers have established mirror journals with one part being subscription based and the other part being Open Access. Such journals are not compliant with Plan S unless they are a part of a transformative agreement since they de facto lead to charging for both access and publishing in the same way as a hybrid journal does. Funding for publishing in such journals will only be supported under a transformative agreement”. From:

It is not clear what PlanS is referring to here. The most common arrangement that seems to fit what is described here in my experience is journals that publish both in print (generally on a subscriptions basis) and online (on a fully open access basis, required for inclusion in DOAJ). A journal that is partially open access and partially subscription-based in its online form is a hybrid journal, contrary to PlanS advice.

This confusion is reflected in this article (Table 1 row G and results lines 461-467). Since this reflects the original, this should not be a barrier to publication.

Conflict of interest: although I am an open access advocate and my research focuses on transforming the underlying economics of scholarly publishing in order to sustain open access, I strongly disagree with the PlanS policy approach. In my expert opinion, all open access policy should require exclusively open access archiving. This is the best means to ensure preservation and ongoing open access, particularly in the region for which funders have responsibility. Market-oriented policy is likely to continue or exacerbate a problematic market that for decades has been described as inelastic at best.

Update based on e-mail with Frantsvåg: it appears that what PlanS means by mirror journals is an emerging phenomenon. Elsevier’s Journal of Hydrology X is an example. Following is the explanation of how this works from the Elsevier website. This appears to be an evolution in the hybrid journal model (some content open access, some not). This is an improvement in terms of access as it addresses criticism of the hybrid model on the basis that it is difficult to identify the open access content.

Journal of Hydrology X is the open access mirror journal of Journal of Hydrology

Journal of Hydrology X offers authors with high-quality research who want to publish in a gold open access journal the opportunity to make their work immediately, permanently, and freely accessible.

Journal of Hydrology and Journal of Hydrology X have the same aims and scope. A unified editorial team manages rigorous peer-review for both titles using the same submission system. The author’s choice of journal is blinded to referees, ensuring the editorial process is identical. For more information please refer to our FAQs for authors.

Cite as: Morrison, H. (2019). Open peer review of “Few open access journals are PlanS compliant.” Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from


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