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Recently, I detailed some of the issues I have with the current way Open Access publishing is set up – namely that it downloads the costs from the institution to the researcher.

And then yesterday, Andrew over at Early Career Ecologists detailed his experience with PLoS One, which prompted me to comment, and outline the financial side of things.  A couple of people replied (thanks!) with two main points:

1. PLoS can give full or partial waivers.  Now, I have no experience with this, but the PLoS website gives the following details:

Our fee waiver policy, whereby PLOS offers to waive or further reduce the payment required of authors who cannot pay the full amount charged for publication, remains in effect. Editors and reviewers have no access to whether authors are able to pay; decisions to publish are only based on editorial criteria.

-PLoS, http://www.plosone.org/static/editorial#fees

As for how they determine who can and who can’t pay, I don’t know.  But I imagine that if I submitted a paper as a grad student or post doc, I’d have a greater chance of having fees waived than a full professor.

For the record, such a fee waiver isn’t mentioned in PNAS, MEPS, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, or Journal of Animal Ecology.

2. Universities offer a subsidy to cover publication costs.  While this is true, it’s often not as sweet as it seems at first.  Our university does have a “Publication Fund”, but it comes with a fairly long list of restrictions:

  • Only faculty may apply (i.e., no grad students or post docs)
  • Preference is given to full time faculty over adjuncts
  • Applicants can only request support for one journal article per year
  • The maximum allocation is $1000
  • The article must be accepted for publication (though reimbursements are possible, I don’t know how far back they will go)

A quick look at some Open Access fees reveals that, on average, $650-$900 would still need to covered by research grants.  And it only covers one article (which doesn’t necessarily have to be Open Access).

So while my university “[endorses] the principles of Open Access and endeavour to make our research as openly available and widely distributed as possible”, there’s still a fair way to go before it’s an accessible option for most researchers.

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