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Publish Without Perishing: How to Budget for Open Access Success

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Academic research is an incessant journey of innovation and discovery, and publishing research findings is a fundamental step in the scientific world. Open Access publication is transforming the circulation of research, thereby allowing wider access to academic work and is also fostering collaboration among scholars across the globe. However, many researchers often overlook the costs associated with publishing their work thereby causing unexpected financial strain to research budgets. With this blog, we seek to provide a comprehensive guide on how to plan your research budget for open access publication and where to find assistance to cover these costs. 

Let’s first briefly understand the Open Access publication model 

The Open Access model originated to address some fundamental problems associated with the traditional publishing model. In traditional publishing, the readers, or their institutions, pay to support the publication process. Authors transfer their copyrights to the publisher. With that copyright, i.e. the right to make copy, the journal makes money from subscription fees, usually from university or company libraries and from individual subscribers. However, not all universities can afford to subscribe to every journal, thus, reducing information accessibility to staff and students. Another problem is that people who are not affiliated with any university cannot access these papers and must pay out of their pocket to get access. Most scientific research is funded by taxpayers’ money and it’s a problem for society if these taxpayers are unable to get access to the latest advances in research. Open Access, on the other hand, is free for the readers. Any person who has an internet connection has access to the article and can download and read the paper. This allows for increased visibility and increased citations. In addition, the authors of the scientific article also retain the copyright. One potential drawback of the Open Access publishing model is the cost. Many interpret this as an “author pay” model, when in fact, it is the research funders and research institutions that are ultimately paying for open access publishing. The complexity arises when research funders, even those in the same countries, have different workflows when it comes to covering open access publishing fees.  

Types of Open Access

Currently, there are several common Open Access publishing models. When people talk about Open Access publishing, Gold Open Access often comes to mind. In the Gold Open Access model, authors are responsible for identifying the funding source to cover the article processing charge (APC). When publishing in Gold Open Access journals, all articles are published under Creative Commons licenses, authors retain their copyright, and articles are immediately and freely available online [1]. In Green Open Access, peer-reviewed, accepted and pre-formatted journal articles are deposited into open repositories; depending on the journal, there may be an “embargo” period imposed meaning that articles can only be made freely available after a certain period of time [2]. In the Diamond Open Access model, neither the authors’ nor the readers’ institutions pay but the journal is supported by donors, which could be individuals, universities or foundations [3]. In the Hybrid journal, as the name suggests, authors may choose to either publish the traditional way or can pay to subsequently publish their paper as Open Access, with Creative Commons licenses [4]. A study finds that the field of medicine publishes content in hybrid OA the most frequently [5].

Reasons to publish research open access, including funders’ requirements 

Open-access publishing is crucial for advancing science and creating an evidence-based society. It ensures that research is available to everyone, breaking down barriers to information across the world. This openness promotes collaboration, quick dissemination of knowledge, and innovation. Another very important consideration is research funders’ requirements, as many now have mandates for open access to research results from their funded research.  

Open access mandates seem straightforward on the surface. But as we mentioned earlier, as the author, you are responsible for identifying the source of funding to support your open-access publication. Here is where strategic planning and effective budgeting can save you a lot of time and energy down the road. 

Getting published without perishing in the process 

Many researchers would agree that getting research published can be a long and tedious process. This can be further complicated in the absence of advanced financial planning. “What do I need to plan for?”, you may ask. 

First, you need to know the associated costs with open-access publications. These could be APCs, which account for the costs of editorial services, peer review and publication. In addition to the APCs, some journals charge extra fees, such as submission fees, for services such as color figures and supplementary data. To crack that smooth transition to open-access publishing it’s worthwhile to budget effectively according to your funders’ requirements, the support available from your institution, and your target journals’ costs.  

Step 1: What does your funder want? 

As the saying goes, whoever holds the purse strings calls the shots. To have a successful research career, it is advisable to adhere to your funders’ requirements, including any open-access publishing mandates. Funders however, don’t always make this information easy for you to understand. Generally speaking, you need to understand: 

  • Does your funder require open-access publishing of their funded research? 
  • If yes, does it have to be immediate open access? Does it require a creative commons license? 
  • If yes, does it provide funds for open-access article processing fees?  
  • If yes, how does it provide the funding, should you budget this into your grant proposal? Or is it block funding to your institution? 

Some examples of the diverse ways in which research funders require open access publishing and their different ways to financially support this include: 

  • Research Council of Finland: open access is required and costs should be calculated as part of the research overhead costs, whereas layout and editing costs of scientific publications is a direct research cost. 
  • Canadian Cancer Society: open access is required, preferably as soon as possible and no later than 12 months after publication. Open access fees may be included in the research budget. 
  • British Heart Foundation: open access is required, preferably as soon as possible and no later than 6 months after publication. The foundation provides block funding to funded institutions for open access fees. 
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: funded researchers must publish in Gold Open Access journals and the Foundation pays the article processing charges directly to the publisher. 

Step 2. Where are you based? 

In addition to your funders’ open-access publishing requirements, you may also wish to consider any regional support for open-access publishing. Many countries are partaking in the so-called “transformative agreements”, whereby existing library budgets are re-purposed for open-access publishing. In these agreements, authors are able to publish open-access in hybrid journals at no additional cost, and either free or discounted pricing in Gold Open Access Journals. Some countries partaking in these transformative agreements include Sweden, Austria, Germany, and many more.  

Now that you know what your funder requires and of course you know where you are based, it is time to select some target journals. 

Step 3. Select the right open-access journals 

This step is the foundation of effective budgeting, and you as a researcher should begin by clarifying your research goals and target audience. Next, identify the appropriate journal that aligns with the scope of your research. Find journals by searching for reputable journals using search engines, directories (e.g. the Directory of Open Access Journals – DOAJ) and journal ranking tools. This will help you to find the right journal to approach. Research and go through the various open-access policies journals have and make a note of their publication fees. This is the right time to shortlist all the potential journals that fit with your goals and your budget. 

Step 4. Determine the costs associated with your publication 

APCs are the costs associated with the publication process. Most often, it is the authors’ responsibility to source funding to cover APCs. APCs vary greatly among open access journals and every reputable publish must display this information, usually under “Author Guidelines” or “Publication Fees” sections. Some journals also charge extra for color figures, quick publication services, supplementary material and other optional services. Create a cost comparison table using a spreadsheet or online tool, this table will help you to find the cost-efficient option for the journals you have shortlisted without compromising on the quality or reputation of the journal. 

Step 5. Create a detailed publication budget 

With all the above information in hand, it’s time to create a comprehensive publication budget. The key budget items could include: 

  • Preparation of the manuscript: This includes all costs associated with formatting, proofreading, figures or graphics needed for your article. 
  • Submission fees: Certain journals charge a submission fee in addition to the APCs.  
  • Peer Review costs: Most reviews usually offer their feedback voluntarily, but some journals may use this as an optional service like expedited peer review for a fee. 
  • Publication fees and supplementary costs 
  • Contingency expenses: Keep a portion of your budget for unexpected expenses that may arise. Use software or online calculators to track your expenses and monitor your cash flow. Generate reports and visualizations of your financial data and seek help from management staff if required for budgeting issues. 

Now that you know your funders’ requirements, potential support from your library, and the estimated cost of your publication, it’s time to work these into the budget of your research grant application – if only! Many workflows in research and academia can seem like a chicken-and-egg situation, including how to factor in costs for your research publication. Very likely you are reading this article because you are looking for funding to cover APC for your latest research manuscript that has just been accepted for publication. 

At scientifyRESEARCH, we help you find research funding, including funding for your open access publications 

At scientifyRESEARCH, we are on a mission to help researchers find research funding, including helping researchers around the world to find funding for open-access publications. If your paper is already accepted, here are our tips to ensure smooth publications: 

  • Support from your institution: Many research institutions and universities provide funds or memberships with publishers that provide a reduction in APCs for affiliated researchers. Begin by approaching your department or institution’s library to find out more. 
  • Research funders: Some funding agencies provide funding support for publications, even if the research is not directly funded by the agency, including The Ehlers-Danlos Society, American Association of University Women (AAUW), and American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Use the premium version of our database to identify publication funding support. 
  • Funds from Departments: Reach out to your respective department as some assign specific budgets to support their faculty in covering publication fees. 
  • Crowdfunding: There have been cases where researchers have used crowdfunding platforms to raise funds for their publication. Getting help from a professional network and social media could help gather support for your work. Some useful platforms could be: Experiment.com, Medstartr and Kickstarter. Some crowdfunding players also partner with institutions and libraries, consult with your library to consider this option. 

The landscape of open-access publication is dynamic and constantly evolving. Staying informed about the latest updates and adapting your budgeting strategy may prove useful. Flexibility and maintaining detailed records of all expenses is key to effective budget management. At scientifyRESEARCH, we are pleased to support you with research funding information, including funding for your next open-access publication, check out our continuously updated, curated list of open access publishing funding here

References

[1] Difference between Green and Gold Open Access. Elsevier Author Services. Accessed October 23, 2023.

[2] Gadd, E., & Troll Covey, D. (2019). What does ‘green’ open access mean? Tracking twelve years of changes to journal publisher self-archiving policies. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 51(1), 106–122.

[3] Gajović S. Diamond Open Access in the quest for interdisciplinarity and excellence. Croat Med J. 2017 Aug 31;58(4):261-262. 

[4] Open Access Overview. Earlham College. Accessed October 23, 2023.

[5] Laakso, Mikael; Björk, Bo-Christer (2016). Hybrid open access—A longitudinal studyJournal of Informetrics. 10 (4): 919–932.

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