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What’s in a Waiver? An Overview of How APC Waivers and Discounts Work

by | Nov 5, 2021 | 0 comments


Audrey Smith, a PhD Candidate at the University of Florida looked at how APCs impact author diversity. Knowledge should be a public good and available to all without barriers. OA provides access to read articles, but do we also have access to publishing them?

Barriers to publishing include a journal’s reputation (impact factor and prestige) and financial (APCs can be up to $4,000). APCs are a major barrier especially for authors not in Western countries. How do APCs affect the geographic diversity of authors? Elsevier has created “Mirror journals”–the OA ones.

Audrey’s study identified the first author of articles and determined their country and compared diversity metrics: compared.

The data showed that 975 articles were published in OA mirror journals, the majority of which were by authors located in China or US. There were 36,232 articles published in parent journals, 1,832 of which were OA.. US authors published twice as many articles than authors based in China who published 3 times as many articles in non-OA journals..APCs are a barrier to authors in low income countries who generally do not qualify for waivers. Authors publishing OA articles are concentrated in high income countries. Many authors are not aware that they are eligible for a waiver of APCs, and even partial waivers may be insufficient for many authors. More research is needed on how to make waiver programs a more effective means of reducing financial barriers to OA publication.

Sara Rouhi, Director, Strategic Partnerships, PLOS, said that waivers do not contribute much to OA publishing. Many authors do not understand how APCs work, especially because they are finite and subjective subjective,

What’s wrong with waivers?

.Fundamentally, waivers are not equitable. (Equality means treating everybody the same, equity means making sure everybody has the same experience.) When authors submit a manuscript to a publisher, they are typically asked to check their eligibility for institutional funding, assistance based on the country of the funder, and publication fee assistance (i.e. a waiver). Waivers are never granted for the entire APC. Under-represented regions are now seeing more support, but the number of waivers they are able to grant is going down. Waivers cannot bring equity into the system. PLOS has found that verifying author data involves a  substantial amount of correspondence, Often authors do not respond to inquiries until their article has been accepted, and post-acceptance waivers are incredibly complicated. There is never enough funding to meet the demand.

Curtis Brundy, Associate University Librarian, Iowa State University noted that waivers are typically extended to a subset of a publisher’s journals. Hybrid journals should be rolled into the waiver program. Qualifying authors should be immediately identified. Fee waivers are only a temporary solution. What will come next?

Don Hawkins
Charleston Conference Blogger


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