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Scholarly Communication and Open Access: Journal Publishing

Journal Costs at MU

Additional Reading

Evaluating big deal journal bundles

Theodore C. Bergstrom et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, published online before print June 16, 2014, (doi:10.1073/pnas.1403006111)

Economics of Journal Publishing







Public Access

Legislation (American Library Association)

Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR)

Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act (FIRST)

Research Works Act

Alliance for Taxpayer Access

Access to scholarly journals has lagged behind the wide reach of the Internet into U.S. homes and institutions. Subscription barriers limit U.S. taxpayer access to research that has been paid for with public funds. Taxpayer access removes these barriers by making the peer-reviewed results of taxpayer-funded research available online, and for no extra charge to the American public.

American taxpayers are entitled to open access on the Internet to the peer-reviewed scientific articles on research funded by the U.S. Government. Widespread access to the information contained in these articles is an essential, inseparable component of our nation's investment in science. This and other scientific information should be shared in cost-effective ways that take advantage of the Internet, stimulate further discovery and innovation, and advance the translation of this knowledge into public benefits. Enhanced access to and expanded sharing of information will lead to usage by millions of scientists, professionals, and individuals, and will deliver an accelerated return on the taxpayers' investment.

Article Processing Charges

Article processing fees or publication charges (APCs)—charging contributing authors or (more typically) their proxies fees to subsidize processing and publishing costs—are among the most frequently discussed supply-side business model components for open-access journals. Article processing fees are based on the premise that authors and their host institutions are direct beneficiaries of publication in a scholarly journal. Article fees thus distribute a journal’s publication costs across those individuals and institutions that benefit most directly from a paper’s publication.

Almost half of open-access journals levy publication fees, which can include submission charges, page charges, illustration fees, and surcharges for color, and such fees represent about 30% of the revenue generated by open-access journals.

In the digital environment, where document length and color illustration have a minimal effect on costs, author charges tend to be flat-rate fees reflecting article processing costs. Some publishers levy charges on all articles submitted, while others apply them only to articles accepted for publication. As both rejected and accepted articles incur costs (some publishers report that rejected articles cost more to process than accepted ones), charging submission fees at the outset may reduce the number of inappropriate submissions that a journal must handle.

The level at which a publisher sets such fees will typically reflect a combination of its pre-press processing costs, its policies as to which submissions will incur a charge, the number of submissions, and the extent to which the publication charges offset actual expenses (in some instances, the publication charge may be intended to completely cover the cost of processing; in others, the charge may only partially defray costs). The latter will depend both on the publisher’s cost structure (and hence the level of the fee) and on the receptivity to such fees in the journal’s field.

Funding Models for Article/Author Processing Charges

While these fees can make publishing in open access journals cost-prohibitive, there are several funding options that may be available to authors.  While Miami University does not currently have an institutional fund to cover these costs, this type of program has become increasingly popular at larger research institutions.  Many researchers who want to publish in an open access journal write the cost of the article processing charge into their grant proposal.  Because some government agencies (NSF and NIH) are now requiring grant-funded researchers to make the results of their grant-funded research open accessible to the public, this is a valid use of grant money.  Some open access journals offer institutional-level discounts on article processing fees if the institution purchases multiple articles or a membership, usually in a type of tiered cost system.