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Nature journals introduce multiple open access options

Publisher Springer Nature now offers open access publishing options for its most selective journals, including Nature. This comes as part of a shift from subscription-only to open access publishing models by highly selective journals in response to Plan S, a European initiative for open access publishing.

In October, Springer Nature announced it had signed a 4-year deal with the Max Planck Digital Library to allow papers with corresponding authors from eligible German institutions to be published open access in Nature-branded journals, with article fees included in the institution’s lump sum payment. This was a landmark deal; however, the publisher acknowledged that this type of agreement was unlikely to be suitable for all institutions or authors. Since then, further open access options for Nature-branded journals have been announced – which will be available to any author. Authors can now pay an article processing charge (APC) of €9,500 to make an accepted article in any of the Nature­-branded journals freely available, immediately.

But are these costs too high, given the maximum of $6,000 charged by other selective journals? Although the development of alternative publishing options is welcomed by open access advocates, concerns have been raised that Nature’s price point may not be sustainable for all authors and does not improve accessibility.

Although the development of alternative publishing options is welcomed by open access advocates, concerns have been raised that Nature’s price point may not be sustainable for all authors and does not improve accessibility.

Springer Nature explained that with Nature-branded journals only publishing around 8% of submissions, in-house editorial review costs per published article are high. cOAlition S say that fees should be transparent and proportionate with services provided.

As a further development in their open access plans, 3 Nature journals are trialling guided open access. This scheme involves:

  • submitted manuscripts undergoing an initial editorial quality and suitability check (for the chosen journal and 2 others) – with an editorial assessment charge due for articles passing this check
  • peer review by the Editor-selected journal
  • provision of an Editorial Assessment Report, including guidance on peer review comments
  • revision, further review and acceptance (if the article meets editorial standards) – or, authors can leave the workflow and submit elsewhere
  • payment of a top-up APC.

This alternative option aims to spread editorial costs over more submissions and could reduce costs for authors by half compared with the APC for direct submission to Nature Research journals. Authors will still have the option to publish via the subscription route.

We look forward to seeing how these significant moves develop.

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Summary by Heather Davies PhD from Aspire Scientific


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