“Most, if not all, open access publishers offer to waive publication charges (of whatever flavor) for researchers in lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) without access to funds to pay them. After all, no-one wants to see open access actually increasing barriers and reducing diversity and inclusion in direct opposition to one of its fundamental objectives. However, as an echo of the “build it and they will come” mentality, waiver policies may end up failing to achieve their intended outcome if they are poorly constructed and communicated to their intended beneficiaries. A recent study by INASP revealed that fully 60% of respondents to an AuthorAID survey had paid Article Processing Charges (APCs) from their own pockets, despite the widespread availability of waivers. This could be due to internal organizational bureaucracy but more likely to the lack of awareness and understanding of APC waivers and how to claim them.
A White Paper published jointly by STM and Elsevier’s International Center for the Study of Research in September 2020 on how to achieve an equitable transition to open access included a specific recommendation to make publisher policies on APC waivers more consistent and more transparent. The authors commented, “Even though this business model may turn out to be an interim step on the road to universal open access, it is likely to persist for several years to come and may unwittingly end up preventing much important research from reaching its intended audience.”…”