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Open Access at Washington University

Information about open access publishing options and issues

Issues in Choosing an OA Journal: Economics

The economics of journal publishing is changing and varies from publisher to publisher. Most OA publishing is supported by author fees. Fees are sometimes waived or reduced depending on the circumstances of the authors. Fees range from about $3,000/article to no charge at all. Often author fees can be paid from grant funds.

Even with very high author fees, it has been argued that the total cost for access is lower than the traditional economic publishing model.  Discussions about the economics of scholarly publishing may speculate on the ability of traditional, subscription-model journals to survive. Since these are often the top ranked journals in a field, OA is seen as a threat to a model that has developed over centuries.

Some external funders require open access or public access of articles about research that they fund.

Who pays?

An “article processing charge,” or APC, is a fee paid by an author (or funder) that is used to support the process of publishing a particular work. APCs are associated with open access publishing because they’re ostensibly used to cover costs that would otherwise be met by subscription revenue. Hybrid open-access journals give authors the option of paying an APC in order to make the final, published version of the article available on the publisher’s website (while often still restricting authors from publicly distributing the PDF themselves). Journal APCs vary greatly. Many OA journals are free to publish in and at the higher end of the spectrum APCs can be around $3,000.


The University Libraries negotiated a transformative open access agreement with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s largest scientific and educational computing society, which publishes ~25,000 articles per year in its ACM Digital Library. WashU-affiliated corresponding authors who publish works with ACM may do so open access (via CC BY license) at no cost.

As part of the University Libraries’ journal subscription renewal, WashU-affiliated corresponding authors who publish in Elsevier-owned titles are eligible for a 25% discount on article processing charges (APCs). As of October 1, 23 WUSTL authors have secured the reduced rate.

Individuals should receive a link to the Elsevier Open Access Platform in an email from the journal editor upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication. If you submitted material prior to the implementation of the workflow in July, the discount should be applied retroactively. Please contact us if you need help resolving issues.

At WashU, there isn’t a discrete Libraries-managed fund for paying APCs. We’ve negotiated discounts and waivers as part of renewal packages with publishers (e.g. Elsevier and ACM). But neither Becker Medical Library nor the University Libraries have standalone programs for direct author subvention of publication charges. It remains essential for the university to establish a clearer connection between what we’re paying to access and read (via subscriptions) and what authors are paying to publish (via APCs and similar). SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has resources on campus open access funds, and the Libraries welcome your thoughts on this issue.

Tools, from the University of Washington, provides a tool to help determine value among OA journals that charge APCs. The Eigenfactor Index of Open Access Fees makes it easy for scholarly authors to engage in comparison shopping between scholarly OA journals.



Funder Mandates

Private foundations, national agencies, and universities require that researchers make their grant-funded articles available open access. Different organizations have different requirements, but most allow for both Green and Gold open access models. Below are some of the agencies and organizations that have an OA requirement: