Guest Post: A Plea for Fairer Sharing of the True Costs of Publication – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Imagine a university invoicing all graduating students for both the costs of their study program and the tuition fees of their peers who dropped out along the way. While this situation would strike most as unfair, something analogous happens in the world of scholarly publishing through the charging of open access fees. In this post we will explore how restructuring APC (Article Processing Charge) pricing can lead to fairer cost allocation in scholarly communication….

Journals that have experimented with submission fees before found that submission numbers went down significantly (33.5% in the case studied here) when introducing a submission fee. A decreased number of submissions offers the benefit of decreased costs – less time and effort spent on review as well as lower usage of the often costly technologies involved. Prices charged for various fees would need to be reduced to reflect these reduced costs.


It is not clear whether such a decrease would happen in a situation where the submission fee is introduced by an OA journal that is currently using a traditional OA payment system with an APC charge. In that situation the introduction of the submission fee would lead to a substantial reduction in charges paid for a published article, which may attract more authors, offsetting any decrease caused by the submission fee. The lower costs can strengthen a journal’s competitive position as compared to other journals in the field. If a reduction in the number of submissions is still observed, however, the finding of Nwachukwu and colleagues that there was no change in the characteristics of submitted papers is important to take into account. If that is the case, the assumption that 1000 submissions are needed for 100 publications would remain unchanged….

In an earlier post on The Scholarly Kitchen, Tim Vines suggested to let authors choose between the new APC model (including a submission fee), or not paying a submission fee but paying a (higher) APC at acceptance of the paper. This suggested approach is not only a good solution for the transitional phase to the new APC model, but can also provide valuable insights into the effects of introducing a submission fee for an OA journal.

To us, changing the APC model now seems a much better idea than to wait until that ship has sailed while we end up in an OA world with undesirably high publication (as opposed to processing) charges. If you agree, join us in getting this message across to funders so they can publicly voice their support, and to publishers to help persuade them of the enormous benefits of transparency and fair pricing.”