This Guy Suggests Ending Article-Processing Charges to Save Open Access

Last month’s post reported several findings about article processing charges from an detailed analysis by Zhang et al. The chief takeaway from that article is that APCs are here to stay because they are extremely profitable for publishers and give authors a way to meet the open-access requirements of funders.

Juan Pablo Alperin—the co-scientific director of the Public Knowledge Project in Canada—has weighed in with another perspective on APCs.

He points out that as the Public Library of Science was mainstreaming APCs in the mid-2000s, scholarly open access publishing in Latin America developed along a different model. Instead of supporting a for-profit model, academic institutions published journals edited by faculty members and charged no fees for authors or readers. Alperin expresses concern that the ubiquity of APCs in the Global North will negatively impact the publishing system in the Global South. The reason: many Latin American scholars want to publish in European and North American journals because of the prestige and indexing. According to Alperin, Scopus and Web of Science “contain a tiny fraction of the journals found in the global south.”

The consequences have already been felt. Alperin states that in Colombia, “APC payments are estimated to have grown by 18-fold since 2019” and that “at least 120 journals in Latin America have begun charging APCs in the past 5 years.”

The Public Knowledge Project in Canada, Alperin’s organization, is a university-based nonprofit focused on the importance of making the results of publicly funded research freely available through open access policies. The group has developed open-source software that journals can use to manage, publish, and index scholarly work.

Not surprisingly, Alperin is not a champion of APCs. In fact, his solution is a bit radical: stop paying them altogether.

“If governments, funders and institutions — including those in Latin America — do not want to be responsible for dismantling this diverse and global scholarly OA [open access] ecosystem, they should stop supporting APCs altogether. Funds that are allocated to APCs should be invested in shared infrastructure, tools and services that can support multiple journals simultaneously.”

Ochsner Journal has always been a platinum open access journal. We charge no APCs. We charge no subscription fees.