IEEE Transformative Journals FAQ

IEEE Transformative Journal Status Under Plan S
FAQ for IEEE Authors and Editors

IEEE recently announced that it has committed its full portfolio of more than 160 hybrid journals (subscription-based journals with an open access option) to become Transformative Journals under Plan S, a mandate from a group of research funders that prohibits funded studies from being published in non-transformative subscription-based or hybrid journals. This commitment from IEEE means that authors will remain in full compliance with Coalition S funder requirements if they publish their research articles in any IEEE fully open access or hybrid journals.

Now, in addition to direct open access agreements with hundreds of institutions, all of IEEE’s hybrid journals qualify as Transformative Journals under Plan S. IEEE has worked directly with the leadership of Coalition S to ensure IEEE journals are recognized as compliant with the Plan S criteria for transformative publications. This development represents a major step in IEEE’s support and commitment to open science, and ensures that more authors can continue to publish in the publication of their choice and still be in compliance with Coalition S funder requirements.

Below are answers to some anticipated questions from the author and editorial community on the impact of this announcement:

What is Coalition S?
Coalition S (sometimes “cOAlition S”) is a group of national research funders, European and international organizations, and charitable foundations. It includes a number of mainly European national funding agencies, and some of the world’s most influential private biomedical funders, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the London-based funder Wellcome Trust. Some IEEE authors receive funding from one or more members of Coalition S. In 2018, Coalition S released the initial version of Plan S, an initiative to drive wider adoption of open access publishing.

What does Plan S require?
The Plan S initiative requires that, beginning in 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by their grants must be published in fully open access journals or platforms. Plan S went further than other mandates at the time by specifically requiring that researchers receiving their funding cannot publish resulting articles in any journal receiving any revenue through subscriptions, thereby banning publication in hybrid journals. The only exceptions allowed were if the author is covered by a “Transformative Read & Publish Agreement” between the publisher of the publication and the author’s institution or if the journal is classified as earning Transformative Journal Status under Plan S. All of IEEE’s fully open access journals are compliant with Plan S and, with this new commitment, all of IEEE’s hybrid journals are now considered “Transformative Journals” under Plan S and fully compliant, enabling a Coalition S funded author to publish in any of these journals.

What is a “Transformative Journal”? 
A Transformative Journal under Plan S guidelines is a subscription/hybrid journal that is committed to eventually transitioning to a fully OA journal over time. To demonstrate such commitment, each Transformative Journal must gradually increase the share of OA content. In terms of specific criteria, a Transformative Journal will need to demonstrate an annual increase in the proportion of open access research content of at least 5% in absolute terms (or at least 15% in relative terms), year-on-year. It must also clearly and publicly acknowledge on the journal website its commitment to transition to full open access, and agree to transition to full OA as soon as possible and no later than when 75% of the journal’s annual published research content is published open access.

Does this mean we are flipping the model for all IEEE periodicals? 
IEEE is committing to transitioning these hybrid journals to fully open access journals gradually over time, but in no specified period. Coalition S developed this approach to allow publishers to make continual progress on open access initiatives to sustainably evolve publishing models over time.

Are IEEE hybrid journals required to transition to fully open access by a specific date?
No. IEEE is not required to transition any journal to full open access, but we are committed to transitioning these hybrid journals to fully open access journals gradually over time. A Transformative Journal commits that it will flip to fully open access no later than when 75% of its research content in a given year is published open access. This would be a realistic best practice in any case.

Why is IEEE making this move and what is the benefit to authors?
Authors often wish to submit articles for publication in the leading journals in their specific areas of technology, which are very often hybrid journals. If such authors’ studies are funded by grants from agencies signing onto Plan S, these authors will no longer be permitted to use grant funding to publish open access in an IEEE hybrid journal, unless the author is covered by a Transformative Read & Publish Agreement between the author’s institution and IEEE. To ensure all authors funded by Plan S agencies and organizations can continue to publish in the publication of their choice, IEEE has secured Transformative Journal Status for all IEEE hybrid publications.

Do IEEE hybrid journals now have specific open access target goals in 2023? If so, what are they? 
Yes. To be considered transformative, publishers must develop and post target open access content growth goals for each publication and provide status updates. Following the guidance of Coalition S, IEEE has posted access publication targets for each IEEE transformative journal, which can be found here.

What are the consequences of not meeting a specific open access target?
IEEE will post status updates regularly, and Coalition S will review progress in 2024. If a journal does not meet its specific target criteria as outlined here, it will lose its status as a Transformative Journal and authors funded by Coalition S will no longer be able to publish in the journal, unless their institution has a Transformative Read and Publish agreement with IEEE. (This, of course, is the case for any journals that have not secured Transformative Journal status). A journal will be able to reapply for Transformative Journal status the following year.

Does this change impact authors with existing Transformative Read & Publish Agreements with institutions?
There is no impact to authors at institutions that have an existing Transformative Read and Publish Agreement with IEEE. The only difference is that, in a possible scenario where a journal might not meet its OA targets and were to lose its Transformative Journal status, an author at an institution with a Transformative Read & Publish agreement could still continue to publish in this journal and be compliant with Plan S mandates.

Can an author still publish a subscription-based article in a Transformative Journal?
Hybrid journals attaining Transformative Journal status may continue to publish subscription-based articles. The Plan S requirements (and prohibitions) are on the author and not on the publisher. If an author is funded under Plan S, which requires publishing via gold Open Access, then the author would be wise to opt for the Transformative Journal’s gold Open Access option to ensure compliance. If an author is unfunded or funded by a private or public funder not aligned with Plan S, the author still can still make their own choice as to whether to publish as a subscription-based article or an open access article.

Do the Open Access targets for each hybrid journal have any impact on editorial publication decisions? 
No. For all IEEE hybrid journal submissions, authors do not indicate whether they plan to publish open access until after the paper has been accepted for publication following peer review. With this process in place, no article is treated any differently in the publication decision process, thereby ensuring editorial integrity.

Is there a listing of IEEE’s Transformative Journals I can browse?
Yes. IEEE has posted a list of the Transformative Journals as well as each journal’s open access publication targets here.

How does this impact IEEE’s Gold fully open access journals?
There is no impact to IEEE’s fully open journals as they are already compliant with Plan S. These journals are steadily building their own following today. An author funded under Plan S may continue to publish in the IEEE Access multidisciplinary gold OA journal or any of these IEEE gold OA topical journals and still be compliant with Plan S.

Does the commitment to Transformative Status have any impact on other types of IEEE publications (e.g., conference proceedings, monographs, book chapters)?
No. This agreement and open access commitment applies to only IEEE’s hybrid journals.

To learn more, please view the full release here.