Sunday, March 24, 2013

Voluntary Article Processing Charges for Scholarly Journals

The Article Processing Charge (APC) has started to rear its ugly head in many academic fields and it's threatening to spread wider, particularly in Britain as the government moves towards mandated open access publishing of research. This move means that publishers will lose out on subscription revenue and have instead turned towards APCs to compensate for that lost revenue. The idea here is that the author pays an APC (which could be anything from a few pounds to tens of thousands depending on the journal) and the publisher agrees to provide open access to the article.

The model isn't perfect, but it is realistic for many publishers, provided that no one is turned away if they cannot afford to pay. It turns out at least one not-for-profit journal has been able to adopt just such an idea that protects those vulnerable, while raising funds at the same time. The Journal for Open Research Software, run by the Software Sustainability Institute (of which I am a fellow - though I am not affiliated with the journal) offers a voluntary APC:

If your paper is accepted for publication, you will be asked to pay an Article Publication Fee of £25 to cover publications costs...You will be able to pay any amount from nothing to full charge, as we recognise that not all authors have access to funding, and we do not want fees to prevent the publication of worthy work. The editor and peer reviewers of the journal will not know what amount (if any) you have paid, and this will in no way influence whether your article is published or not.
I'm not sure how well this policy has worked for the Journal, but I have to say I'm incredibly enthusiastic about it for a few reasons. Firstly, it acknowledges openly that publishing - even open access publishing - DOES cost money. That money needs to come from somewhere, and APCs, like 'em or hate 'em, are one such solution. Secondly, it acknowledges that not everyone has a research budget - students, emeritus scholars, independent scholars - and that these people should not be squeezed out of the system of research publishing because of their career status. And thirdly, it's a creative solution that's taking on the challenge of raising money for publishing that thinks a little outside the box.

We're all going through changes in terms of publishing and academic funding. I for one am pleased to come across examples such as this that are facing those changes with optimism and ingenuity.


martin said...

An interesting policy indeed, but I see one problem: if you do have access to a funding source for APC, it will be difficult to explain to the funding administration why you would want to pay more than the amount that the journal has asked for, even if the funding budget is not a problem.
Another approach that I like is that of the Journal of Aesthetics & Culture (

"Publishing in Journal of Aesthetics & Culture is free of charge thanks to generous grants from the Swedish Research Council (VR), Department of Cinema Studies, Stockholm University, and Karlstad University. However, if the author's university or institute officially maintains a central fund to cover costs for Open Access Publishing, or the article describes results from research funded by a positive Open Access funder, a publication fee will be charged as follows:

Publication of an article (up to 8 typeset A4 pages) €1000, excl. VAT (Europe), $1320 (rest of the world). Articles exceeding 8 typeset pages incur an additional charge of €45/$60 per page."

Adam Crymble said...


Thanks for sharing this alternative. I question why an article needs to cost €1000, but that's a discussion for another day. As to why I think you'd pay if you didn't have to. Well, if everyone decides not to pay the journal would disappear. So if people care about it, they'll find a way to support it.

Hugh Ishii said...

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