Open access: let’s talk about costs

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Most researchers support the principle of open access: that knowledge is a public good and should be freely shared. However, sharing freely does not always mean there are no costs involved. Publishing is expensive: funds are needed to pay for staff  who produce and edit academic books and journals and for technology and infrastructure such as websites, publishing software and servers.

So if a journal is free to read, who pays for its publishing costs?

There are many business models for open access journals, including advertising sales, subsidies from disciplinary societies or institutions, institutional publisher memberships and collaborative journal purchasing.  The model which attracts the most attention, however, is the use of article processing charges: journals charge authors a fee for each article they publish. These fees vary widely, ranging from a couple of hundred to several thousand dollars. About one-third of open access journals charge APCs, including journals published by major commercial firms including Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor and Francis, and SpringerNature.

Article processing charges (APCs) are seen as a major barrier to open access. Researchers, particularly those who do not receive grant funding, may struggle to pay these fees. Some institutions offer grant programs to assist with APCs, but find it impossible to meet the full costs of APCs for all of their researchers.

Brock’s Library Open Access Publishing Fund was established in 2011 as an educational initiative, aimed at raising awareness of open access and helping Brock researchers who choose to publish in journals which charge APCs. Since then, the fund has distributed 27 grants of up to $2,500 each to cover APCs for Brock researchers. The Library recently collected metrics, including citations, which demonstrate the impressive reach of these open access articles.

While publishing in an open access journal is one route to open access, it’s important to note that researchers can freely share their work – for free – via online archives, such as the Brock Digital Repository. These archives are free to use and their contents are indexed n Google Scholar, making Brock scholars’ work available to everyone around the globe.

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