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Paying Open Access Publishing Fees

In some areas of the natural sciences paying for publication is nothing new because page charges or colour page charges have been levied for decades by publishers in these fields. For other disciplines, though, the idea of paying for publication is novel and there may be concern over where the money will come from. It should be noted that the majority of Open Access journals do not charge article-processing fees at all, but support their operations by other means. It should also be noted that many Open Access publishers will waive the fee for authors whose circumstances do not provide them with the funds.

There are three main sources of fees to pay for article-processing charges that are required by some Open Access journals – the author, the author’s research funder and the author’s institution. Librarians will be most interested in the last of these.

Libraries can set up special funds at their institutions to pay for authors who wish to publish in journals that charge Open Access fees. These types of funds have been created at number of institutions, including Nottingham University, University of Amsterdam, University of California, Berkeley, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Calgary.

Example: University of Calgary: Open Access Authors Fund

At the University of Calgary in Canada, the Open Access Authors Fund was created in 2008 to pay for article-processing fees in Open Access journals. The fund is open to all faculty, staff, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers at the University of Calgary and will support article-processing fees of any amount. However, before applying for funding through this programme, authors must have exhausted all other options for paying Open Access fees, such as using a portion of their research grant. The fund will pay the Open Access fees of peer-reviewed journals that meet the following eligibility criteria:

a) Journals which are fully Open Access. That is, all of the content of the entire journal is freely available online immediately (after peer review and editing) upon payment of the article-processing fee. Examples of publishers with suites of fully Open Access journals that charge article-processing fees include: BioMed Central (BMC), Co-Action Publishing, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, PhysMath Central (PMC) and Public Library of Science (PLoS). Fully Open Access journals from publishers who have few such journals are also eligible. For example, Oxford University Press has Nucleic Acids Research, DNA Research, and Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

b) Journals which are not fully Open Access but which allow individual articles to be made freely available online immediately upon payment of the submission fee. These are known as “hybrid” Open Access journals. To be eligible for funding in this category, the publisher must plan to make (in the next subscription year) reductions to the institutional subscription prices based on the number of Open Access articles in those journals. To date, the only publishers that have done this are Oxford University Press, which has reduced subscription fees for the hybrid journals in its Oxford Open program, and the American Institute of Physics, which has done the same for its Author Select program. Other publishers may follow this lead in the future.

The $100,000 (Canadian dollars) fund is for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. According to administrators, there has been widespread interest in the fund from researchers in all disciplines. In the first six months, there were about 30 submissions, all of which were accepted and received payment. The fund is administered by library staff, but there are plans to establish an advisory body of librarians and researchers than will deal with larger policy matters as they arise.

See the Case Studiespage for examples of Open Access publication fees.

For an up-to-date list of funds to support publicaiton fees, see the Open Access Directory page here.

Further information

Pinfield, Stephen. A Wel(l)come development: research funders and open access. Learned Publishing, 19, 3, July 2006, 45-50. http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/410/1/LP_0602_Wellcome.pdf.

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