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Will more journals start charging submission fees?

Image showing cost cutting

Will the impact of COVID-19 on research and library budgets negatively affect the monies available for subscriptions and article processing charges (APCs)? This potential outcome of the pandemic, and downstream effects on publishers, have been explored in a guest post by Roy Kaufman for The Scholarly Kitchen.

Kaufman predicts that cost-cutting exercises are inevitable and will force publishers to diversify and identify new ways of increasing revenues while reducing costs.

He suggests that one way to do this would be with the introduction of submission fees. These would not only generate income but also lessen the number of submissions and deter ‘poor-quality’ submissions – thereby making better use of scarce resources, such as editor and peer reviewer time.

Kaufman highlights five areas that he considers as obstacles to the widespread adoption of such policies:

  • Culture: submission fees may impact journal rejection rates, perceived by some as a sign of success.
  • Equity: less well-funded authors would be at a disadvantage, although this could be mitigated with a liberal waiver system.
  • Lack of perceived value by researchers: starting to charge for submission, which was previously ‘free’, might cause tensions with authors, but faster peer review and other incentives (such as a reduction in APCs or societal membership fees) could help mitigate risks for publishers.
  • Competition with non-charging journals.
  • Workflow: the practicalities of adding a new administration step to a firmly established procedure.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps the increase in journal submissions and changing financial pressures will lead more journals to join the likes of Gastroenterology and the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in charging a submission fee. Ultimately, the success of such models will depend on author acceptance.


Summary by Jo Chapman PhD from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsor, Aspire Scientific Ltd

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