Attitudes, willingness, and resources to cover article publishing charges: The influence of age, position, income level country, discipline and open access habits
Francisco Segado-Boj, Juan-Jose Prieto-Gutiérrez, Juan Martín-Quevedo | Learned Publishing | Volume 35, Issue 4
The rise of open access (OA) publishing has been followed by the expansion of the Article Publishing Charges (APC) that moves the financial burden of scholarly journal publishing from libraries and readers to authors. We introduce the results of an international randomly selected sampled survey (N = 3,422) that explores attitudes towards this pay-to-publish or Gold OA model among scholars. We test the predictor role of age, professional position, discipline, and income-level country in this regard. We found that APCs are perceived more as a global threat to Science than a deterrent to personal professional careers. Academics in low and lower-middle income level countries hold the most unfavourable opinions about the APC system. The less experimental disciplines held more negative perceptions of APC compared to STEM and the Life Sciences. Age and access to external funding stood as negative predictors of refusal to pay to publish. Commitment to OA self-archiving predicted the negative global perception of the APC. We conclude that access to external research funds influences the acceptance and the particular perception of the pay to publish model, remarking the economic dimension of the problem and warning about issues in the inequality between centre and the periphery.
- APCs are perceived more as a global threat to Science than a deterrent to personal professional careers.
- Younger academics and those in low and lower-middle income level countries hold the most unfavourable opinions about the APC system.
- The negative perception about APC is higher among Arts & Humanities and Social Science researchers compared to those in STEM and the Life Sciences.
- Age and country income level stood as negative predictors of refusal to pay to publish.
Francisco Segado-Boj told us a bit about what prompted the authors to undertake the study on an international basis, the perception that APCs are detrimental to science on a global level, and addressing APC equity.
What prompted you to undertake this study on an international basis?
Most previous studies on scholar’s perceptions of APCs and OA had collected data from Western countries and missed opinions from the Global South. We explicitly wanted to compare how attitudes and perspectives about APCs diverged between researchers from high income countries and other less privileged (in terms of access to funding) nations. In other words, we wanted to look beyond the Western, Anglo-Saxon perspectives and find what other researchers from Asian, Southern American or African institutions think in this regard.
You have suggested that the perception that APCs are detrimental to science on a global level might be related to other facets of Gold OA. Could you expand on that?
We think that many researchers (mostly from well-funded institutions and disciplines) do not feel that paying APC fees is a particularly worrisome burden. That is, as such researchers have no problem in paying the hundreds or thousands of dollars required to publish their paper in a Gold OA journal, they do not feel particularly mistreated by this pay-to-publish model. We suspect that their perception of APC as a global threat to science might be motivated by the idea that Gold OA is related to predatory publishing or that some Gold OA journals might feel tempted to relax their quality standards and accept flawed articles. According to such a view, some Gold OA journals are not interested in publishing the best articles, but accepting most of them just to generate more revenue and thus being more profitable to their publishers. Scholars in this line of thought might perceive Gold OA publishing as a menace to the quality of (published) science
Your research focuses on the difference in countries where funding is available and those where researchers need to pay APCs. Are there other factors that affect this perception?
We understand that access to funds is a key issue, not only at the national level but also depending on the discipline. Traditionally well-funded disciplines such as Health Sciences or STEM fields show less hostility towards the Gold OA model. Besides the ‘economic’ factor, we have also found that younger, less experienced researchers are more reluctant to adopt the APC model. We
think that their older colleagues have been used to this publishing model but those in the first steps of their career are more aware of the extra burden implied in paying APCs and find such APCs as an unfair fee for their scholarly activity.
Your findings support the observation that APCs are not perceived as equitable. How will other emerging OA models address this perception?
Some scholars may feel that alternative models such as directly publishing their works in an online repository–bypassing traditional publication venues such as traditional journals–is a fairer and even more desirable practice than publishing in Gold OA. However, such an idea might be hard to turn into a real, popular practice. Most researchers decide what to do with their manuscripts guided by how such a publication would be evaluated in their resume. As long as the science evaluation criteria remain focused on traditional journal-based metrics such as Impact Factor (IF), scientists will continue publishing in IF journals, avoiding alternative venues of publication.
I think that it is more realistic to expect other, less radical, change. Maybe younger scholars, more critical of the Gold OA model, once that they reach more stable positions, might prefer to submit their manuscripts to Green OA journals instead of to APC charging publishers. I mean, in the near future, maybe newer generations of scholars might decide where to submit their manuscripts, not only guided by the scope of the journal, but also considering, with greater relevance, whether the journal follows a Gold or a Green OA policy. Journals edited by universities or non-profit organizations might thus increase the number of manuscripts they receive even if they have a lower IF than their Gold OA counterparts.
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News contribution by SSP member, Rebecca Rinehart. Rebecca is the CEO and Head of US Operations, and Senior Associate for Societies and Associations at Maverick Publishing Specialists.