The open-access journal eLife is to start charging publishing fees from 2017. Expenses have been covered to date by three of the largest private research funding organisations (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Wellcome Trust, Max Planck Society). These organisations will continue to subsidise publishing costs, with authors expected to provide $2500 of the $3085 cost associated with publishing each article.
Unusually, eLife have published details of how they decided on the $2500 publishing fee. These show that the publishing fee covers marginal costs (costs that increase with each new submission, including editor salaries and payments for 3rd party article processing systems) with a small contribution towards fixed costs. Journals that are highly selective – eLife rejected nearly 85% of articles submitted last year – tend to have higher operating costs than less selective journals. eLife’s 2017 publishing fees are in the range charged by other open-access journals, with some top tier journals charging over $5000 per article.