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Scholarly Communication: Article Processing Charges

This guide is for UNLV authors. It provides resources on open access, publishing, bibliometrics, and more.

Article Processing Charges (APCs) Overview

Why have I been asked to pay to publish my article?

Article Processing Charges (APCs) are charged to authors of scholarly articles during the publication process.  APCsCurrent periodicals from flickr user usabiomedlibrary are typically used in lieu of subscription fees that libraries and readers traditionally have paid to gain access to research articles. APCs shift the burden of journal production costs (editing, peer review, hosting, archiving, preservation), to researchers from the subscribers. Paying an APC results in an article that is available to anyone with an internet connection. Corporate, non-profit, society, academic, and other publishers use a variety of fee structures to meet their income needs and expectations, and an APC model is one of them.

 

APCs should not be confused with page charges long associated with both print and digital publications. Page charges  are used to cover administrative costs as well as the cost of print publication, but do not make the article available in an open access (OA) model.

Why should an author from UNLV pay an APC?

There are many reasons why UNLV authors may choose to publish in a journal that charges APCs.

  • Visibility: Typically* paying an APC leads to increased readership of your article through open access. Your colleagues at universities and colleges worldwide, non-profits, government agencies, and the general public will have immediate access to your work, regardless of their library's ability to afford journal subscriptions. Increased access has been shown to lead to  increased citation rates as well.
  • Journal quality: Authors may find that top-ranking journals charge APCs (e.g. publishers such as PLoS, BMC, Copernicus)
  • Copyright: APC-funded articles often* include provisions that allow the author to retain more rights to their work and also give readers additional usage rights. Creative Commons licenses ranging from attribution only to more strict non-commercial and/or no-derivatives versions.
  • Compliance: If you are funded by a US Federal agency, you may find that publishing in an OA journal (with or without APCs) helps satisfy requirements to share the results of your research with US taxpayers.

*Every author should read their contract with their publisher, ask questions, and suggest changes.  A high quality journal will be very clear and open about their policies, including APCs - the cost, and any benefits that paying an APC gives authors.

How much do journals charge?

Journal APCs vary greatly.  Many OA journals are free to publish in and at the higher end of the spectrum APCs can be around $3000. Be sure and look at "information for authors" or similar to find a journal's fee structure.

Is it worth it?

In addition to the above reasons you may consider paying an APC, Eigenfactor.org, from the University of Washington, provides a tool to help determine value among OA journals that charge APCs. Filter the data by discipline to see titles of interest to you.

Eigenfactor Index of Open Access Fees

Sources of funding for APCs include

  • The funding agency
  • An author's institution
    • UNLV: While there is no institution-wide support for APC costs at this time, check with your department or college administration to see if funds are available. 
    • Co-authors' institutions: Ask your co-authors to investigate sources of funding from their institutions - start with the library if unsure who to ask.
  • The journal or publisher. In some cases, there may be waivers or reduced fees for authors who simply cannot afford to pay the APC.

What else is there to know about APCs?

Predatory Publishers: Aggressive marketing to unsuspecting authors, fictional editorial boards, little or no peer review, unqualified reviewers, and generally poor editorial quality are issues that plague the journal publishing landscape.  Regardless of whether a journal asks for an APC or is subscription based, authors can critically evaluate journals before submitting their manuscripts. Use the authors checklist for evaluating journals or  Contact a Subject Librarian for assistance.

These sites provide some guidance for evaluating OA journals and may help authors avoid paying APCs to low-quality or even predatory publishers.

Multiple Income Streams. Many publishers of subscription-based journals offer the option to pay to make an individual article open (while other articles in the same journal remain behind a paywall). This means the publisher is receiving income from both subscribers and authors for the same journal.

If I want my article to be freely available, is paying an APC my only choice? Some journals allow authors to post manuscripts or final articles in scholarship repositories. Some authors choose to negotiate for the right to do so if the journal doesn't already allow "self-archiving."

UNLV as well as many other universities, organizations, and government agencies provide repositories  - for free to authorsDigital Scholarship@UNLV, PubMed Central (NIH), PAGES (DOEnergy - in Beta), SSRN, and arXiv are examples.

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