“While open access has tremendous benefits, the primary mechanism that has evolved to enable OA for publications – the article processing charge (APC) – has created concerning unintended consequences. APCs, which are fees paid to publish open access, have engendered a pay-to-play environment that is contributing to growing inequities in who can publish and where. In a recent survey, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sought insight into researchers’ and institutions’ experiences with scientific publishing. We received complete responses from 422 researchers across the country and learned that:
• Most Researchers Do Not Currently Budget for Publishing Costs & Many Have Not Yet Paid APCs: Nearly two-thirds of researchers (n=264, 62.9%) reported that they did not budget for publishing costs. Slightly over one-third had never paid an APC.
• Most Researchers Find It Difficult to Obtain Funds for APCs: Of the researchers who had paid APCs (n=170) most reported it being very difficult (n=33, 19.4%) or difficult (n=56, 32.9%) to obtain funds to pay APC’s. Researchers at institutions ranging from 3,000 to 9,999 students were three times as likely to find it difficult to very difficult as researchers at institutions larger than 10,000 students.
• Most Researchers Are Using Grant Funds to Pay APCs: Among the researchers who had paid APCs (n=173), most used grant funding to cover costs (n=120, 69.4%). Women were nearly three times as likely as men to have paid APCs using grant funds. Of 89 institutions represented by librarians and administrators who responded to the survey, only about one-third (n=32, 36.0%) had funds to support APC payments by students and/or faculty.
• APCs Create Significant Tradeoffs for Researchers: Over three-quarters of researchers (n=115, 77.7%) reported foregoing purchases of materials, equipment, or tools to pay APCs, and nearly three-fifths (n=86, 58.1%) reported not attending workshops or conferences relevant to their work. Compared with men, women were more than 2.5 times as likely not to attend workshops and conferences so that they could pay APCs….
Recommendations Ensuring that OA policies across federal research agencies do not embed adverse consequences of APCs and related financing models in our nation’s scientific enterprise is paramount to the integrity of and trust in the enterprise. AAAS recommends study, evidence development, and response to:
• Understand the direct and indirect costs associated with OA policies and increased APCs.
• Ensure that federal policies solve access barriers, not create them.
• Provide clarity and consistency in OA policy terminology.
• Ensure alignment between OA policies and federal data policies.”