Open access (29) Myth 2: Open access journals discriminate against authors who cannot afford article processing charges (4)

5 August, 2019

Extract from the HIFA background paper, with thanks to HIFA intern Catriona Grant.


There is a perception that OA publishing (the “gold” route) is always an expensive route for researchers. This is perhaps due to a misconception that pay to publish is exclusively associated with OA (26). Singh et al. identified that 72% (n= 2509) Indian health researchers were not interested in the pay to publish route and that the main barrier to paying APCs was due to a lack of research grants (23). This is supported by other studies in Africa highlighting APCs a deterrent to publishing OA (22, 27).

Many fully OA journals do not charge APCs (DOAJ). One study has shown that only 27% of peer-reviewed OA journals (out of 14, 086 journals) have a confirmed publication fee (28).

Many other journals offer substantial waivers to authors from specific countries or for researchers with financial constraints (e.g. PLOS Additionally, there are over 100 initiatives providing financial support for APCs.By contrast hybrid journals always charge an APC j - and may do on top of other charges. For example, PNAS charges $1640 per research article with a surcharge of $1500 to make the article OA (29).

A study by Theo Andrew highlighted that hybrid journals also charge more per article than OA journals. (30) The ‘author-pays’ terminology may be misleading, as most APC funds are paid by funders, or

universities. The SOAP survey identified that in OA pay-to-publish routes, the fees are paid usually paid by funders (59%) or by universities (24%) and by authors themselves only 12% of the time (14).


Ref: OPEN ACCESS: PERCEPTIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS. Background paper for a HIFA thematic discussion sponsored by Elsevier and The Lancet. 22 July - 18 August 2019

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Access to Health Research

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