An article processing charge (APC), also known as a publication fee, is a fee which is sometimes charged to authors. Most commonly, it is involved in making an academic work available as open access (OA), in either a full OA journal or in a hybrid journal.[1][2][3] This fee may be paid by the author, the author's institution, or their research funder.[4] Sometimes, publication fees are also involved in traditional journals or for paywalled content.[5] Some publishers waive the fee in cases of hardship or geographic location, but this is not a widespread practice.[6] An article processing charge does not guarantee that the author retains copyright to the work, or that it will be made available under a Creative Commons license.


Article processing fees for journals indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (2019).

Journals use a variety of ways to generate the income required to cover publishing costs (including editorial costs, any costs of administering the peer review system), such as subsidies from institutions[7] and subscriptions. A majority of open access journals do not charge article processing charges,[8] but a significant and growing number of them do.[9] They are the most common funding method for professionally published open access articles.[10]

APC fees applied to academic research are usually expensive, effectively limiting open access publishing to wealthier institutions, scholars, and students.

The APC model of open access, among other controversies, is part of the wider and increasingly global Open Access OA's ethics debate.[11]

Most journals do not charge APCs. The global average per-journal APC is US$1,626, its recent increase indicating "that authors choose to publish in more expensive journals".[12]

A 2019 analysis has shown 75% of European spending on scientific journals goes to "big five" publishers (Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, Taylor & Francis and the American Chemical Society (ACS)). Together they accounted for 56% of articles published.[13]

Other publishing fees

Author fees or page charges have existed since at least the 1930s.[14] Different academic publishers have widely varying levels of fees, from under $100 to over $5000, and even sometimes as high as €9500 ($10851) for the journal Nature.[1][15][16][17] Meanwhile, an independent study indicated that the actual costs of efficiently publishing a scholarly article should be in the region of €200–€1000.[18] High fees are sometimes charged by traditional publishers in order to publish in a hybrid open access journal, which make an individual article in a subscription journal open access. The average APC for hybrid journals has been calculated to be almost twice as high as APCs from full open access publishers.[19] Journals with high impact factors from major publishers tend to have the highest APCs.[1]

Open access articles often have a surcharge compared to closed-access or paywalled content; for example, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences charges $1590–$4215 per article (depending on length) for closed-access, with a surcharge of $1700–$2200 for open-access (depending on licence).[20] Similarly, AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research charges $1000 for closed-access and $3500 for open-access.[21]

Even when publishers do not charge standard fees, excess or overlength fees might still apply after a certain number of pages or publication units is exceeded;[21][22] additional color fees might apply for figures,[20] primarily for print journals that are not online-only.

While publication charges occur upon article acceptance, article submission fees are charged prior to the start of peer review; they are common among journals in some fields, e.g., finance and economics.[23] Page charge may refer to either publication or submission fees.


Cost of research articles

Cost to scientists and funding bodies

Article processing charges shift the burden of payment from readers to authors (or their funders), which creates a new set of concerns.[24] One concern is that if a publisher makes a profit from accepting papers, it has an incentive to accept anything submitted, rather than selecting and rejecting articles based on quality. This could be remedied, however, by charging for the peer-review rather than acceptance.[25] Another concern is that institutional budgets may need to be adjusted in order to provide funding for the article processing charges required to publish in many open access journals (e.g. those published by BioMed Central[26]). It has been argued that this may reduce the ability to publish research results due to lack of sufficient funds, leading to some research not becoming a part of the public record.[27]

Another concern is the redirection of money by major funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust from the direct support of research to the support of open access publication. Robert Terry, Senior Policy Advisor at the Wellcome Trust, has said that he feels that 1–2% of their research budget will change from the creation of knowledge to the dissemination of knowledge.[28]

Research institutions could cover the cost of open access by converting to an open access journal cost-recovery model, with the institutions' annual tool access subscription savings being available to cover annual open access publication costs.[29] A 2017 study by the Max Planck Society estimates the annual turnovers of academic publishers amount to approximately €7.6 billion. It is argued that this money comes predominantly from publicly funded scientific libraries as they purchase subscriptions or licenses in order to provide access to scientific journals for their members. The study was presented by the Max Planck Digital Library and found that subscription budgets would be sufficient to fund the open access publication charges, but does not address how unaffiliated authors or authors from institutions without funds will contribute to the scholarly record.[30]

Publishers' high operating profit margins, often on publicly funded research works, and their copyright practices have subjected them to criticism by researchers. For example, a Guardian article informed that in 2010, Elsevier's scientific publishing arm reported profits of £724m on just over £2bn in revenue. It was a 36% margin – higher than Apple, Google, or Amazon posted that year.[31]

Unequal access to publishing

Unless discounts are available to authors from countries with low incomes, or external funding is provided to cover the cost, article processing charges can exclude authors from developing countries or less-funded research fields from publishing.[32] Some publishers justify part of the article processing charge by attributing it to the cost of producing print material when in reality they publish digital-only issues.[33] Under the traditional model, the prohibitive costs of some non-open access journal subscriptions already place a heavy burden on the research community.[34] Many open access publishers do offer discounts or publishing fee waivers to authors from developing countries or those suffering financial hardship.[35]

For these reasons, some funding bodies simply will not pay the extra fees for open access publishing: the European Union scientific research initiative Horizon Europe does not cover the APCs for articles in hybrid open-access journals.[36]

Diamond open access model

Diamond open access is a term used to describe journals that have no article processing charges, and make articles available to read without restrictions. In 2020, diamond OA journals comprised 69% of the journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals, but published only 35% of the articles.[37] In 2021, it was estimated that 17,000 to 29,000 diamond OA journals published 8–9% of all scholarly journal articles and 45% of open access articles.[38] Nearly all Latin American OA journals use the diamond model, whereas a little over half of African and Western European OA journals are diamond OA.[39] However, the percentage of diamond OA articles covered in Scopus and Web of Science for the same year was below 1%, suggesting that "Scopus- or Web of Science-based (data) are skewed towards toll access and article processing charges-based publishing, as Diamond journals are underrepresented in (these databases)".[39][citation needed] The same study also found that diamond OA articles comprised 81% of all OA articles in Humanities, but only 30% in Medicine and Sciences.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Solomon, David J.; Björk, Bo-Christer (August 2012). "A study of open access journals using article processing charges". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 63 (8): 1485–1495. CiteSeerX doi:10.1002/asi.22673.
  2. ^ "The Potential Role for Intermediaries in Managing the Payment of Open Access Article Processing Charges (APCs)" (PDF). Research Information Network. October 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  3. ^ Richard Van Noorden, "Open access: The true cost of science publishing", Nature 495, 426–429 (28 March 2013) doi:10.1038/495426a [1]
  4. ^ Suber, Peter (2012). Open access. MIT Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 9780262517638.
  5. ^ "Understanding Submission and Publication Fees". AJE. Retrieved 2021-11-25.
  6. ^ "Publication fees". PLOS. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  7. ^ Suber, Peter (2012). Open access. MIT Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780262517638.
  8. ^ Kozak, Marcin; Hartley, James (December 2013). "Publication fees for open access journals: Different disciplines—different methods". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 64 (12): 2591–2594. doi:10.1002/asi.22972.
  9. ^ Laakso, Mikael; Björk, Bo-Christer (2012). "Anatomy of open access publishing: a study of longitudinal development and internal structure". BMC Medicine. 10 (1): 124. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-124. PMC 3478161. PMID 23088823. Open access icon
  10. ^ Björk, Bo-Christer; Solomon, David (2012). "Pricing principles used by Scholarly Open Access Publishers". Learned Publishing. 25 (3): 132–137. doi:10.1087/20120207.
  11. ^ Kember, Sarah (21 April 2014). "Opening Out from Open Access: Writing and Publishing in Response to Neoliberalism". Ada New Media. Archived from the original on 2019-03-28. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  12. ^ Morrison, Heather (2021-06-24). "Open access article processing charges 2011 – 2021". Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir les savoirs communs. Retrieved 2022-02-18.
  13. ^ Mehta2019-11-06T15:03:00+00:00, Angeli. "75% of European spending on scientific journals goes to 'big five' publishers". Chemistry World. Retrieved 2022-03-07.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Scheiding, Tom (2009). "Paying for Knowledge One Page at a Time: The Author Fee in Physics in Twentieth-Century America". Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences. 39 (2). University of California Press: 219–247. doi:10.1525/hsns.2009.39.2.219. ISSN 1939-1811.
  15. ^ Socha, Beata (20 April 2017). "How Much Do Top Publishers Charge for Open Access?". OpenScience. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  16. ^ García Martín, Miguel (2015-12-30). "Las revistas de Geografía en el Journal Citation Reports: lucro económico versus acceso abierto". Revista Española de Documentación Científica (in Spanish). 38 (4): 105. doi:10.3989/redc.2015.4.1248. ISSN 1988-4621.
  17. ^ Brainard, Jeffrey (2020-11-24). "For €9500, Nature journals will now make your paper free to read". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
  18. ^ Grossmann, Alexander; Brembs, Björn (2021-01-12). "Current market rates for scholarly publishing services". F1000Research. 10: 20. doi:10.12688/f1000research.27468.1. ISSN 2046-1402. PMC 8276192. PMID 34316354.
  19. ^ Björk, Bo-Christer; Solomon, David (March 2014). Developing an Effective Market for Open Access Article Processing Charges (PDF) (Report). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  20. ^ a b PNAS, Publication Fees
  21. ^ a b "American Geophysical Union publication fee table" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-08-04. Retrieved 2014-09-29.
  22. ^ "(IEEE) 2014 Voluntary Page and Overlength Article Charges" (PDF). Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  23. ^ "Journals with Fees for Submitted Paper". Archived from the original on 16 May 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  24. ^ Socha, Beata (20 April 2017). "How Much Do Top Publishers Charge for Open Access?". Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  25. ^ Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed Archived 2011-05-01 at the Wayback Machine. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8)
  26. ^ "Article-processing charges FAQ". BioMed Central. 1970-01-01. Archived from the original on 2011-11-26. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  27. ^ Eftekhari, A (2012) Open Access Dream. Critic Pen. Archived May 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "Interview – Wellcome support for Open Access". Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  29. ^ Harnad, S (2007) "The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition" Archived 2017-01-23 at the Wayback Machine. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L'Harmattan. 99–106. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
  30. ^ "Area-wide transition to open access is possible: A new study calculates a redeployment of funds in Open Access". Max Planck Gesellschaft. 27 April 2015. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 2017-05-12.
  31. ^ "Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?". the Guardian. 2017-06-27. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  32. ^ Jain, Vijay Kumar; Iyengar, Karthikeyan. P.; Vaishya, Raju (2021-03-01). "Article processing charge may be a barrier to publishing". Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma. 14: 14–16. doi:10.1016/j.jcot.2020.10.039. ISSN 0976-5662. PMC 7919939. PMID 33680812.
  33. ^ Angler, Martin W. (2023-07-10). "Sarahanne Field Wants To Put the Open Back Into Open Science". Eurac Research Science Blogs. Retrieved 2023-07-11.
  34. ^ Harnad, S. (2011). "Gold Open Access Publishing Must Not Be Allowed to Retard the Progress of Green Open Access Self-Archiving" (PDF). Logos. 21 (3–4): 86–93. doi:10.1163/095796511x559972.
  35. ^ Corrado, E. (Spring 2005). The importance of Open Access, Open Source, and Open Standards for libraries Archived 2011-12-16 at the Wayback Machine. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship.
  36. ^ Masnou, Anna May (2018-06-28). "Horizon Europe will not reimburse publication fees for hybrid open-access". Institut de ciència de materials de Barcelona. Retrieved 2022-04-06.
  37. ^ Crawford, W. Gold Open Access 2015–2020 Articles in Journals (GOA6); Cites & Insights Books: Livermore, CA, USA, 2021; p. 245
  38. ^ Ancion, Z., Borrell-Damián, L., Mounier, P. et al., ACTION PLAN FOR DIAMOND OPEN ACCESS MARCH 2022, (2022).
  39. ^ a b Frantsvåg, J.E., Diamond Open Access in Norway 2017–2020, Publications 10 (2022), no. 1. doi:10.3390/publications10010013

Further reading