Making Sense of Open Access Publishing

Published on October 24, 2022

If you’ve published lately, you’re likely aware of the enormous costs that some publishers are charging to publish open access (OA). OA facilitates equitable access to research while increasing the visibility and impact of research on national and global scales.

As commercial publishers lose money from subscriptions, they've co-opted the OA movement at the expense of individual scholars and public research institutions like Western. They now charge an average of $1,987 USD in article processing charges (APCs) to publish a single article OA, and many of the largest for-profit publishers charge substantially more. The price of these APCs is wildly disproportionate to the actual costs of publishing, allowing for-profit publishers to reap huge profits while scholars are left scrambling to figure out how they will pay to publish their work.

At Western Libraries, we believe it’s important for research to be made available OA and that you should never have to pay to do so. Here are two options to publish OA without paying APCs: publish in a no-fee OA journal or publish where you’d like and deposit an OA copy in Scholarship@Western, Western’s institutional repository.

Publish in a no-fee OA journal

The Directory of Open Access Journals shows there are more than 12,500 quality, no-fee OA journals across disciplines. These are journals that facilitate equitable access to research and publishing opportunities, prioritizing the interests of researchers and the general public over profit.

Deposit an OA copy in Scholarship@Western

In cases where a suitable no-fee OA journal may not exist for a research topic, you might instead consider depositing a copy of your work in Scholarship@Western. Some journals allow authors to choose between publishing behind a paywall at no cost or publishing OA for a fee. Rather than paying the fee to publish OA, we recommend looking into the copyright agreement to see whether you can make a copy of your work OA elsewhere, such as in Scholarship@Western.

“There is no cost to self-archiving your work in Scholarship@Western, so you don’t have to redirect grant funds or pay publishers out of pocket to make your work OA when they already charge significant subscription fees. Those funds can be used for what they are intended to support – research,” said Courtney Waugh, Research and Scholarly Communication Librarian.

Agreements that waive or discount open access publishing fees

In rare cases where the options above don’t work for you, you can check whether the journal you plan to publish in is covered by the agreements that Western Libraries has negotiated with select publishers. These agreements allow Western-affiliated authors to publish in journals that charge APCs at no cost or reduced cost.

“Our PLOS agreement is one of several Western Libraries initiatives to support authors where they publish the most. PLOS ONE is the most popular OA journal for Western authors, and so far this year eight authors have collectively saved $15,290 in APC costs they otherwise would have paid,” said Shawn Hendrikx, Collections and Content Strategies Librarian. “Our most successful agreement with Cambridge has saved $170,590 for 63 authors this year, and we hope to achieve the same with PLOS.”

While these discounts and waivers alleviate some or all of the financial burden for Western-affiliated authors, they don’t address the broader inequities in scholarly publishing. Authors publishing in fee-based OA journals not covered by the agreements face greater barriers to making their work publicly accessible.

Learn more

To learn more about how to avoid open access fees, you can register for the Ins and Outs of Publishing Fees workshop on Oct. 25 or Oct. 27.

You can also reach out to the Research and Scholarly Communication Team.