20 January 2015

Who paid for my open access articles?

A recurring concern from some researchers about open access is the cost to authors. This is an area of persistent misconceptions and a lot of fear. It’s a legitimate question of whether article processing charges create a Matthew effect, with labs with grants gaining an unfair advantage over those without grants. Or, worse, shutting out contributors entirely.

This interests me, because by most standards, I am a scientific “have not.” And yet, I’ve published many of my articles open access for some years now. I did not have stand alone research grants in that time. How did I do it?

It’s a mix.

The most common situation was that the journal did not levy an article processing charge. In other words, these papers were free to me. (In fairness, one was a limited time “free to publish” offer; they normally do charge a fee.)

While I personally did not have grant support, our institution has had undergraduate training grants (notably HHMI). Those external grants picked up the tabs for a couple of papers with undergraduate co-authors:

Lately, I’ve been fortunate to have my chair agree to support article processing charges of a couple of some papers from departmental funds.

I paid the costs of a couple of few papers out of my own pocket.

  • Feria TP, Faulkes Z. 2011. Forecasting the distribution of Marmorkrebs, a parthenogenetic crayfish with high invasive potential, in Madagascar, Europe, and North America. Aquatic Invasions 6(1): 55-67. http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/ai.2011.6.1.07
  • Faulkes Z. 2010. The spread of the parthenogenetic marbled crayfish, Marmorkrebs (Procambarus sp.), in the North American pet trade. Aquatic Invasions 5(4): 447-450. http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/ai.2010.5.4.16
  • Faulkes Z. 2015. Motor neurons in the escape response circuit of white shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus). PeerJ 3: e1112. http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1112

I paid the costs for two using indirect costs recovered from an external undergraduate training grant that I was awarded.

Finally, I don’t know how the article processing fee my most recent paper was paid. My co-authors looked after it.

Looking at this list, I’m willing to bet that some researchers will say, “But Zen, even if you didn’t have traditional research grants to pick up the tab, you’ve still had a lot of support to pay for open access.” True. It’s hard to say if the number of open access papers would have been much different if, say, my department declined to pay for papers. I might have tried other journals, might have dipped into my pocket again, might have tried to find other pots of money.

From this perspective, the issue that might stop some researchers (retirees and amateurs, say) from publishing open access would not be “lack of grants,” but being disconnected from larger institutions. Being part of an institution  brings a lot of infrastructure, and diverse resources that go way beyond who has external grants.

All of that said, several of my articles in “traditional” subscription-based journals also had page charges (one journal asked me for $320 for its 2.75 year publication process). It’s interesting to me that people don’t very often bring up those page charges as barriers to publication.

Additional, 17 March 2015: Updated list.

Additional, 2 August 2015: I added two new papers to the main list: one had no publication fees, the other was modest (PeerJ) and paid for out of pocket.

Additional, 18 November 2015: Added newest paper to list (reasonably low fees that I will pay for out of pocket).

Additional, 20 January 2016: Updated the list. One paper that I thought might cost me something ended up costing nothing. I also completed some citations.

Additional, 7 February 2017: Updated the list. Second time I dipped into some funds I have from indirect costs.

Related posts

Waiving publication fees
The journal ecosystem

Photo by penguincakes on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

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