Several publishers are concerned about the timeline for implementing Plan S, the European initiative that will make all research papers free to access (see Nature 561, 17–18; 2018). Their main concern is whether their markets will be ready for a ‘pay to publish’ model by 2024, when funders’ support for transformative agreements ends. As co-chairs of the implementation task force of the international research-funder consortium cOAlition S (see, we wish to clarify our position with regard to financially supporting the important transition to full open access after 2024.

We recommend that open-access publication fees should be covered by funders or research institutions, not by individual researchers (see Our 2019 guidelines for implementing Plan S indicate how we, as funders, intend to help finance full and immediate open-access publication until 2024 (see Nature; 2019).

After 2024, we will be encouraging institutional libraries and large consortia to switch from ‘read and publish’ agreements with publishers to ‘pure publish’ deals for portfolios of subscription journals that have become open-access journals. The cOAlition S funders will contribute to financing such deals, which will be more cost-effective and have fewer transaction costs than a single-paper charging system. The financial transaction would then no longer be between the author and the editor or journal, removing any concerns about perverse incentives for lax quality control.

We look forward to working with publishers who demonstrate leadership in this important new era of research reporting.