Article Processing Charges may not be sustainable for academic researchers

Aditya M. Limaye*

Edited by Grant A. Knappe

Perspective | Aug. 29 2022


DOI: 10.38105/spr.stvcknibc5



  • Open access publishing is a worthwhile ideal that can make research more broadly and equitably accessible, yet it threatens the traditional subscription-based publishing house revenue model
  • A new publishing model has come into vogue, which stipulates that the authors of a journal article pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) in order to ensure their research is available on an open access (OA) basis
  • APC prices have risen quickly, and they are imposing greater budgetary stress on university research groups, who often shell out research grant funds to cover publishing costs
  • The APC model in its current iteration is unsustainable, and creates significant drag on research productivity. Stakeholders in the academic research enterprise can take action by introducing competition in the publishing market to control APC price increases

Article Summary

Concerns related to stressed library budgets and equitable access to publicly funded research have fomented a movement towards open access (OA) scholarly publishing, in which academic journal articles are made available online free of charge. OA challenges the traditional subscription-based revenue model of major publishing companies; to supplant lost revenue, many have introduced a new Article Processing Charge (APC) based model, in which the authors of a study pay to ensure their article is available on an OA basis. In the past several years, APCs have risen considerably, shifting the publishing cost burden from university libraries to individual research groups, who often pay APCs out of research funds. Focusing primarily on scientific publishing in North America and Europe, we review the circumstances that brought about the APC model, and argue that rising APCs may present a real threat to research productivity. We conclude by presenting some concrete actions that stakeholders in the academic research enterprise could take to uphold the OA standard and mollify the impact of rising APCs.

Open Access


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Aditya M. Limaye

Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA