Gali Halevi, MLS, PhD, Associate Dean of Libraries and Information Sciences
Samantha Walsh, MLS, MA, Manager of Information & Education Services
During 2020, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) published 5,714 articles, out of which 2,860 were published as open access (OA). Regardless of the OA type for publication (Gold, Green, Hybrid, etc.), most of these articles required payments of Article Processing Charges (APCs). With a single article’s APC ranging from $1,500 to over $5,000 and considering that most researchers publish several articles every year, the amount of money spent to publish OA is significant. In light of the large amount of OA publications authored by ISMMS researchers and the money spent to cover APCs every year, we sought to understand how researchers fund APCs and how they perceive them in terms of fairness, responsibility, and as necessary support to sustain OA. At the beginning of 2021, we conducted a survey, completed by ISMMS faculty members and asked them to rank a series of statements pertaining to open access publishing and their costs. We used a 5 point Likert scale where each statement was ranked from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree“
In this blog post, we report on the main findings of the survey. The analysis of participants’ rankings of their level of agreement with statements related to APC costs shows that the majority of faculty participants either Agree or Strongly Agree that APCs are necessary to maintain OA publications. Therefore, there is an understanding that OA publishing requires monetary investment and cannot be sustained without it. However, most participants believe that APCs are unfair, too expensive, and favor well-funded researchers. Faculty also agree that researchers should not be paying APCs.
The idea of having scientific publications open for readers is a noble one. However, from author and librarian perspectives, OA is difficult to attain without a sustainable way to cover the costs. We believe that researchers should not be asked to spend their grant funding to pay for APCs. Similarly, asking libraries to cover APCs while trying to keep up with the rising costs of subscriptions is unrealistic. Currently, publishers are not required to provide evidence of the costs incurred to them for publishing OA. APC prices vary from one publisher to another based on Impact Factor and potential revenue rather than the need to cover production costs. This creates an unregulated market driven by profit.
We believe that APCs should be standardized and overseen by the government agencies that require authors to publish open access. There should also be a larger conversation about the sources of funding of OA articles. We also believe that all students and trainees, regardless of the institution that they attend, should not be charged APCs. Considering the fact that they are at the beginning of their academic careers, they should not be burdened by APC payments and should have the opportunity to enjoy the advantages of publishing OA.