Q: What should I do if I didn't know about article charges when submitting to an open access journal and my article has been accepted?

Detailed Question -

I submitted a paper to an open access (OA) journal. My paper has been accepted. However, during the initial stages of submission, I did not know that I need to pay a fee in order to have the article published. I don't have the money to complete the final process of having my paper published. Can someone give me a solution to this problem?

1 Answer to this question

First of all, and although it seems bitter-sweet right now, congrats on the acceptance! Now, we can imagine how difficult it must be for you to get accepted by the journal of your choice and yet to be uncertain whether you can proceed to getting published due to insufficient funds. Before we get to what you can do, we shall provide a few pointers so that you may avoid such a situation in the future.

As you are learning now, article processing charge (APC) is the cost of publishing in open access (OA) journals. Unlike subscription journal articles that are paid for by the readers, in the case of OA journals, the cost of publishing is borne by the author. Typically, APCs are in the range of $1,500-3,000, though they could be higher or lower based on the journal.

Going forward, make sure that you choose a journal only after thoroughly reviewing the author guidelines, including fee waivers offered by the journal. Additionally, before submitting to an OA journal, you can also use the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) website, which has a complete list of OA journals. While searching for a journal on DOAJ, you can filter journals based on publication fees and get a clearer idea of the APCs before you choose to submit to a certain OA journal.

Let’s come to what you can do now. To start, you can check with your institute for tie-ups with the publisher whose journal has accepted your manuscript. Such partnerships with journals are helpful in keeping publishing costs reasonable, especially for early career researchers (ECRs), and therefore, might help reduce the publication fee for you.

For high APCs, like it seems in your case, most researchers can be hesitant to approach their supervisors or institutes to help cover the costs. But since your article has already been accepted by the journal, it would be best to discuss the cost to publish with your supervisor or mentor and carefully choose your next step. In case you don’t receive any financial support, you can then directly contact the journal and explain the situation. While it may be challenging to receive a discount or waiver after the accept decision, nonetheless, you can give it a try.

Many journals also have special fee waivers for researchers from resource-limited countries. While ideally you must send an email to the journal requesting a waiver before submission, since you weren’t aware of these charges, you could try to explain the situation to the journal now. To have some idea of the journal’s likelihood to agree to your request, you can check the journal’s guidelines carefully for any other specific requirements or conditions.

As this can be a tricky piece of communication, you may refer to this handbook for help: How To Communicate With The Journal? [Note: The handbook is available from a family brand, R Upskill, which provides learning programs for researchers. It includes a template that you can use for writing your APC waiver request.]

Hope that helps. All the best for a speedy resolution!

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