Guest Post – Article Processing Charges are a Heavy Burden for Middle-Income Countries – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Many scientists worldwide have embraced the idea that research publications should be openly accessible to read, without paywalls. Rightfully so, as academic research is mostly supported by public funds, and contributes toward societal progress. Indeed, the quest for open publications has led to many groundbreaking initiatives, including the creation of new author-pays open access (OA) journals and publishers, the expansion of public preprint and postprint repositories, and the establishment of Sci-Hub, a radical open repository of scientific publications, often obtained illegally. But subscription publications persist, as well as resistance toward depositing preprints, leading to more recent initiatives to accelerate the universal transition to OA in scientific publications. Notably, a recent mandate established that US federal agencies must create policies to ensure all peer-reviewed publications are made publicly accessible by the end of 2025. This follows Plan S, launched in 2018 by a consortium of mostly European research funding and performing organizations, which requires that all publications from 2021 on must be OA. An additional mandate within Plan S is that hybrid models of publishing, in which authors can pay to publish OA papers in journals that also publish under subscription models, are acceptable only under certain circumstances, and only until December 31st, 2024. This means that major subscription journals wishing to publish work by authors with Plan S funding will need to transition to OA-only by 2025….”

PLOS Release Results from New Scheme & Springer Nature Launches OA Initiative | The Hub by The London Book Fair | Publishing News

The Public Library of Science (PLOS) has released the first results from its new initiative, launched in partnership with AI-driven data sharing support body DataSeer, to measure researchers’ Open Science practices across published literature.

The two organisations have released data on three of the numerical indicators they have developed together – on data sharing, code sharing, and preprint posting – to show that good practices in research data and code sharing, along with the use of preprints, are becoming increasingly prevalent in the research community….”

The future of global health research, publishing, and practice – The Lancet Global Health

“As we move into our tenth year of operation, we would like to build on our commitment to making global health research, publishing, and practice a more equitable and effective space. We are therefore effecting a number of initiatives. Before outlining them, however, a word on article processing charges. It is often brought to our attention that the fee that we charge to cover the cost of reviewing, technical editing, typesetting and graphics, online hosting, archiving, and promotion of accepted manuscripts is way beyond the reach of researchers from low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). We want to emphasise that we never, ever, expect researchers from any country to pay this charge from their own pockets. Our business model is based on the premise that more and more research funders are mandating gold open-access publication and are prepared to pay for it. If there is no such funding available and no, or only partial, funding available from institutional sources, then we waive or discount the fee. Whether the fee is paid or not does not affect the open-access nature of the article….”

Open access publishing deal for low-, middle-income countries

“Academics based in 70 low- and middle-income countries, including those in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, will be able to have their primary research published Gold Open Access by Nature – at no cost – thus enabling their scientific work to be permanently and freely available online for anyone to read.

Academics in the regions that are set to benefit from the announcement have welcomed the development, but some have also raised questions about the longer-term impact on the development of the publishing industries in low- and medium-income countries and diversity in the industry.

Springer Nature announced earlier in January that financial support, via a dedicated fund, has been made available to support authors from 70 countries classified by the World Bank as low-income or lower-middle-income to help them have their research published open access in Nature and the Nature-branded journals….

These high article processing fees for Gold Open Access publishing systemically exclude the participation of scholars from developing countries, said Dr Edmond Sanganyado, assistant professor in environmental forensics at Northumbria University, United Kingdom, and a committee member of Global Young Academy….”

Research Publications and Copyright Policy | Library | The University of Sheffield

“This guidance is designed to ensure that University of Sheffield staff and PGRs can comply with the Research Publications and Copyright policy. The policy enables authors to control copyright, as set out in the University’s new IP policy, to their own journal articles and conference proceedings papers, apply a CC BY licence to them and make them available via the institutional repository, White Rose Research Online (WRRO) without embargo.

This will help you to comply with external funding requirements for open access as well as supporting our commitment to enabling and promoting research excellence across our community as set out in the University’s Statement of Open Research…”

Making universal access to research a reality | Research Information

“Transformative agreements make OA publication by authors in participating institutions as simple as possible. They are contracts between publishers and universities that fold the cost of publishing (article publication charges (APCs)) into subscription contracts and comply with various OA funder mandates. In short, they enable researchers to publish their research OA at no cost to them as the fees and admin are covered by their institutions. 

According to figures from the ESAC initiative, there has been a 60% year on year increase in TAs since 2014 when they first started recording the deals. They have been gaining momentum in Europe for several years and are now appearing in the US, Latin America, Canada, Australia and spreading across other countries around the world. 

IOP Publishing now has transformative agreements with over 300 institutions in 17 countries. The agreements come in a variety of forms, no two are exactly the same as member institutions are diverse with different sets of requirements. The number of years the agreement is in place can vary from one to three years, the types of journals included can differ, some have limits on the number of OA articles, others are uncapped. Our starting principle is to offer unlimited agreements to stimulate the greatest uptake. We see them as the most effective shift to a more open future at scale….”

Guest Post – Texas Library Coalition for United Action (TLCUA) and Elsevier Conclude Negotiations for Access to ScienceDirect Journals – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Designing an access and pricing model that satisfies the needs of a diverse membership like TLCUA’s presents a unique challenge. Starting with clear objectives and sticking with them is one of the basics of successful negotiation. TLCUA tested that principle by beginning with two goals that could be satisfied in multiple ways. TLCUA’s lofty goal of a single pricing model that meets the needs of all members and is unrelated to historical spend proved untenable, as members were dealing with different financial pressures and different needs for access. Instead, the coalition agreed on several package options for members.

All the options address TLCUA’s concern with financial sustainability, with reduced spends ranging from 2.5% to 30%. All options include a price decrease in the first year. The contract term aligns all TLCUA contracts to end in 2024. Three-year contracts have a 0% price increase in year two and a 2% price increase in year three, while four-year contracts have a 0% increase in year two, a 1% increase in year three, and a 2% increase in year four.

In the agreement, TLCUA and Elsevier agreed to remove references to outdated CONTU guidelines in the interlibrary loan provision. In addition, the parties agreed to remove non-disclosure terms from licenses. Both changes are important for libraries to work together to meet the needs of the scholarly community….

The agreement includes two provisions focused on increasing access to scholarly publications. First, authors affiliated with a TLCUA member are entitled to a discount on APCs during the contract period. Authors publishing in Elsevier Gold OA journals receive a 10% discount, while those publishing in Hybrid OA journals receive a 15% discount. Cell Press titles, The Lancet, and certain society titles are excluded from the discount. Elsevier has extended similar discounts to other groups. There is no cap on the number of articles TLCUA members can publish as open access using these discounts.

Second, TLCUA asked Elsevier to explore alternatives to authors permanently transferring copyright to publishers, without requiring the author to pay an APC for open access publishing. Publishers say that signing over copyright to them allows them to recoup the costs of producing a journal, plus some profit.  In the United States, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, which seems longer than needed to meet the goal of providing publishers appropriate recompense for the valuable services they provide. Elsevier, like many publishers, has an author rights statement, which outlines ways authors may use their own work without requesting permission from the publisher. TLCUA acknowledges that Elsevier’s author rights statement meets many needs, but seeks a more robust protection for authors. Not only are author rights statements subject to change by the publisher, but when journals are acquired, the new publisher may not offer the same privileges….”

European academies hit out at high author charges for open access publishing | Science|Business

“Open access means more and more scientific research is free to read. But now there are complaints about ‘massive’ fees that must be paid upfront by authors and claims commercial publishers are making excessive profits….

ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, claims commercial publishers are making the large profits from open access publishing under what is known as the gold model, which allows journal papers to be free to read as soon as they are published.

Instead of journal subscriptions, publishers are paid article processing charges (APCs). These fees can sometimes be thousands of euros.

The financial burden is shifting away from the readers of papers and onto the authors. This is putting a strain on academics around the world, particularly those in less well-off countries, ALLEA says in a report published last month. These fees are often rolled into partner agreements with big publishers, but researchers not covered by these agreements must usually pay APCs.

ALLEA claims that publishers make around $2 billion per year from APCs….

Robert-Jan Smits, president of Eindhoven University of Technology and former European Commission director general for research, who is a leading advocate for open access, told Science|Business that a cap should be placed on APCs to “avoid an explosion of costs,” saying, “There is enough money in the system, it is just in the wrong place.” …”

Institutional Open Access Agreements

“Optica Publishing Group has agreements with various institutions to cover open access Article Processing Charges (APCs) for their authors. Find out if your institution will cover your APC below.

In addition, authors from qualifying low- and middle-income countries may be eligible for a discount or waiver.

The corresponding author must have an accurate mailing address and/or eligible institution in our database for the system to apply any waiver. This is the person who submits the manuscript and will handle correspondence throughout the peer review and publication process. They will have the authority to act on behalf of all authors and the responsibility for keeping all co-authors informed as to the status of the submission, as well as being noted on the article as the primary contact for any inquiries after the paper is published. The corresponding author designation does not indicate the contribution made to the article. Contributor statements and contact information for other authors can be provided separately….”

A fair pricing model for open access – Research Professional News

“The average research grant in South Africa, excluding strategic and infrastructure investments, is approximately 146,000 rand (€8,500). In 2021, the average charge for publishing an open-access research paper was nearly €1,600. High-impact journals charge far more: €9,500 at Nature, for example.

Here, in a nutshell, is the inequity of the financial model of open-access publishing. As currently constituted, publishing charges are stifling research capability and progress, as well as the career progression of researchers in low- and middle-income countries, and preventing a full transition to open research.

We need to move towards a globally agreed payment system for academic publishing services that is fair, equitable, transparent, and does not require the author to pay. In this article, we sketch the outline of such an alternative payment system….

It is unclear why APCs and transformative agreements are not priced as a function of what local markets can bear. The consequence, however, is stark: for the most part, researchers and institutions based in lower- and middle-income countries simply cannot afford either of these pay-per-article models. While some of these countries have negotiated cost-neutral transformative agreements, it is not clear whether these are equitable in terms of local purchasing power.

In much of the world, the money is not there to pay APCs geared to the richest nations—especially as APCs have consistently risen faster than inflation. Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development spend an average of 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product on R&D. For the United States, the figure is 3.5 per cent. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast, the average is 0.7 per cent, while South Africa’s figure of 0.75 per cent is well above the continent’s average of just 0.4 per cent.

Admittedly, some researchers may apply for publishing fees to be waived, but there is no globally agreed way for publishers to handle waivers, and researchers working in middle-income countries tend not to be eligible for such support. Moreover, waivers are often perceived as patronising and neocolonial. They are an in-or-out mechanism unilaterally controlled by the publisher, denying any agency to recipients.

Asking for a waiver imposes significant effort on authors. Waivers are also a financial risk to publishers who are understandably reluctant to award them. A submission to a 2020 consultation by the UK foreign ministry calculated that 57 per cent of hybrid journals from major publishers, which offer both subscriptions and open access, and 70 per cent of open-access journals published by small independent or university presses, did not offer fee waivers or discounts. The most visible global initiative delivering waivers, Research4Life, reports that, while effective, usage of its resources remains limited and has declined.

The system for meeting the costs of academic publishing is globally inequitable. This was underscored by the landmark United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) Recommendation on Open Science of November 2021, which insisted that scholarly communication adopt “the principles of open, transparent and equitable access”. The recent memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, setting out a plan for open access to federally funded research from 2026, adds ‘equitable’ as a third condition to the more familiar requirements for ‘free’ and ‘immediate’ access. Equitable open access has therefore assumed a particular urgency….”

A Fair Pricing Model for Open Access

“A pay-per-article publishing model raises issues of regional and global equity. In Europe, the implied price per article in transformative agreements varies from one country to another, based on no rationale other than historical subscription spending. Globally, APCs for individual open-access articles are identical for customers from Norway to India, irrespective of their income levels.

This is a peculiar and possibly unique global pricing model. The local prices of products and services with a global reach—think of medication, soft drinks or cinema tickets—typically vary with local purchasing power. They cost what the market can bear. Even old-fashioned subscriptions take local purchasing power into account, leading to differentiated prices for the same service.

It is unclear why APCs and transformative agreements are not priced as a function of what local markets can bear. The consequence, however, is stark: for the most part, researchers and institutions based in lower- and middle-income countries simply cannot afford either of these pay-per-article models. While some of these countries have negotiated cost-neutral transformative agreements, it is not clear whether these are equitable in terms of local purchasing power.

In much of the world, the money is not there to pay APCs geared to the richest nations—especially as APCs have consistently risen faster than inflation. Countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development spend an average of 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product on R&D. For the United States, the figure is 3.5 per cent. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast, the average is 0.7 per cent, while South Africa’s figure of 0.75 per cent is well above the continent’s average of just 0.4 per cent….”

Which Factors Drive Open Access Publishing? A Springer Nature Case Study

Open Access (OA) facilitates access to articles. But, authors or funders often must pay the publishing costs preventing authors who do not receive financial support from participating in OA publishing and citation advantage for OA articles. OA may exacerbate existing inequalities in the publication system rather than overcome them. To investigate this, we studied 522,664 articles published by Springer Nature. Employing statistical methods, we describe the relationship between authors affiliated with countries from different income levels, their choice of publishing (OA or closed access), and the citation impact of their papers. A machine learning classification method helped us to explore the association between OA-publishing and attributes of the author, especially eligibility for APC-waivers or discounts, journal, country, and paper. The results indicate that authors eligible for the APC-waivers publish more in gold-OA-journals than other authors. In contrast, authors eligible for an APC discount have the lowest ratio of OA publications, leading to the assumption that this discount insufficiently motivates authors to publish in a gold-OA-journal. The rank of journals is a significant driver for publishing in a gold-OA-journal, whereas the OA option is mostly avoided in hybrid journals. Seniority, experience with OA publications, and the scientific field are the most decisive factors in OA-publishing.

Open Access Is Essential for Low-Income Countries

PLOS Note: we use this blog, on occasion, to highlight authors and their research. Today, we are shining a spotlight on this work that was published last week on PLOS ONE. The topic is dear to our heart. The author of the blog and the paper is Marc-Andre Simard. He is a Ph.D. student in information science at the University of Montréal who works on open science and science policy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of faster and more efficient dissemination of scholarly literature. Early in the pandemic, several publishers, such as Springer-Nature, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Elsevier, announced the opening of their COVID-19-related papers. However, it remains unclear if these papers will remain free to access for researchers and the public. For instance, Elsevier mentioned that their Novel Coronavirus Information Center will be available “as long as necessary,” hinting that these resources might be locked behind a paywall one day.