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The impact of expensive article processing charges on researchers from lower-income African countries

Article processing charges (APCs) can cost several thousand dollars and are increasing with the rise of open access publishing. A recent article by Nabyonga-Orem et al in BMJ Global Health highlights the consequences this is having on researchers from lower- and middle-income countries in Africa.

Nabyonga-Orem explains how fee waivers, created to ease the burden of APCs and typically based on the per capita income of authors’ countries, often do not adequately account for the low salaries and lack of institutional support African researchers receive. This may lead researchers to publish in lower impact or even predatory journals, resulting in their work being less widely accessible and their careers potentially suffering.

Nabyonga-Orem highlights that “if a journal levies APC of about US$2600 per article (as is common), researchers in some countries may have to give up nearly 6 months of their entire earnings (before tax) to finance one publication…”

The impact of unaffordable APCs is not limited to African authors. If researchers of a particular region are consistently unable to publish their work, the evidence available globally will become biased in favour of that published by authors in higher-income countries.

To address this issue, Nabyonga-Orem calls for:

  • governments, funders and donors to increase research funding and renumeration for researchers, and to collaborate with the aim of building capacity and mentorship support
  • journals to reassess APC discounts and waivers, making them more transparent and better aligned with authors’ resources
  • African researchers to work with governments, funders, donors and journals to improve the accessibility and prestige of African journals.

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Summary by Kristian Clausen MPH from Aspire Scientific

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With thanks to our sponsor, Aspire Scientific Ltd


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