Article Processing Charges

Keywords: APC, Open access, REF, Repositories, Journals, Outputs.

APC and subscription-based models have their specific yet intersecting merits. Here in the UK, several aspects of publications have been repositioned during the last REF2021 census period. Lord Stern review led to several key changes, especially in terms of reporting research. Although the costs of APCs are high, HEIs have ringfenced QR funding to support outputs in quartile two and above through an internal review process. Similarly, publishers have institutional partnerships where partial or full waivers are offered. Several reputable publishers have introduced incentives to waive or partially waive APCs, for example, by contributing to the review process, participating as editors, and recommending high-quality manuscripts in terms of originality, significance, and academic depth.

APC route, for example, Creative Commons CC BY, offers many benefits to researchers, academics, and especially early career researchers in terms of flexibility of literature use as compared to traditional publication processes, such as the complexity and costs associated with permission to use or reuse infographics, including authors’ own results and images where copyright transfer has occurred. On the other hand, APCs provide an opportunity for wider availability of research to be read, used, and applied within research contexts where funding for subscription-based models is not generous or sometimes limited. Making preprint peer-reviewed and accepted author version manuscripts available on institutional repositories is a better alternative to APCs.

Traditional and legacy practices could benefit from dialogue and consideration; publishers’ subscription models could be diversified for greater inclusivity by offering variations in subscription fees based on certain metrics such as a country’s GDP or RPI. Revenues generated from both subscription and APCs should be more transparent, with figures available to public and open to stakeholders feedback. Profits should be reinvested in discounted subscription fees for HEIs, funding research through RC UK initiatives and similar programmes, and supporting early and mid-career researchers.

Another aspect which is not usually discussed is that traditionally, journals editorial teams, especially editors and chief editors, serve in their roles for prolonged periods. Although unintended, this inadvertently limits opportunities for diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunities for a diverse community of researchers worldwide. New thinking is needed to change the structure of publishers’ journal editorial teams to meet twenty-first-century needs. Some initial measures could include: (i) open calls for expressions of interest in editorial team roles, including editors and chief editors, (ii) transparent recruitment based on person specifications, and (iii) a maximum two-year tenure in the role. Subscription fees and APC revenue, combined with alternative grants from research councils and charities, could be used to incentivise engagement with the publishing process, from editorial board participation to contributing to the review process.

Zulfiqar A Khan
Professor of Design, Engineering & Computing
NanoCorr, Energy & Modelling (NCEM) Research Group Lead