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Our Commitment to Price Transparency

PLOS and Plan S Price & Service Transparency Framework 2020

PLOS is committed to transparency in all its forms—from our Open Science practices that we urge our authors to adopt, to providing our community clear insight into our journals and activities. Last year, Plan S provided a pilot opportunity for the latter through their Price & Service Transparency Framework which becomes a requirement for Plan S compliance in July 2022. We have committed to participate in and share our reporting from that framework each year and we are once again sharing our price transparency data in the spreadsheet and chart below. Read on for more details of how the framework has changed and what that means for PLOS. 

Price Transparency Data 2020

Since the original pilot1 the framework has been adjusted and built upon to reflect feedback from publishers, librarians, and funders. The framework invites publishers to provide metrics of publication volume, acceptance rates, and time to decision; these are aimed to be comparable between different publishers. Those completing the framework must also divide their Article Processing Charge, per journal, into eight different services (those who followed along with last years’ report will note ‘Platform development and support’ is a new addition this year). The categories are as follows:

  • Journal and Community Development, including commissioning content, researching editorial board members, and scope development
  • Submission to desk reject or acceptance
  • Peer review management by staff/remunerated people, including management of submissions that are ultimately rejected
  • Acceptance to publication, including typesetting, conversation, and production tasks
  • Services after publication, including ethics checks and queries, usage statistics, long-term preservation and access monitoring
  • Platform development and support, including systems development
  • Sales & marketing to customers or of articles, including marketing campaigns
  • Author and customer support, including queries about licensing, citations, and author system troubleshooting

PLOS’ price transparency breakdown (the third section of the framework) for 2020 is presented below. The breakdown is based on the 2020 APC price for a Research Article in each journal (data for our new titles will be provided from the year in which the first issue is published). We recognize APCs are not a perfect solution for all researchers and we are partnering with institutions to provide APC-alternative business models for all of our journals, in addition to our fee support options that aim to provide authors of all funding backgrounds equitable opportunities to publish. We hope future iterations of the framework will enable us to represent this data alongside APCs. 


PLOS Computational BiologyPLOS GeneticsPLOS Neglected Tropical DiseasesPLOS PathogensPLOS BiologyPLOS MedicinePLOS ONE
2020 APC price$2,500$2,500$2,350$2,500$3,000$3,000$1,695
% of price for journal and community development11%11%10%11%19%17%10%
% of price from submission to first decision10%11%10%11%27%26%16%
% of price for peer review management10%11%10%12%22%22%15%
% of price for services from acceptance to publication17%16%18%18%9%9%15%
% of price for services after publication6%6%6%7%4%5%7%
% of price for platform development15%15%15%14%6%7%12%
% of price for sales & marketing to customers or of articles21%21%21%19%9%10%16%
% of price for author and customer support9%9%9%10%4%4%8%

While the categories listed above do encompass the breadth of activities PLOS undertakes in our publishing process, some nuance will be lost in any framework created to reflect all publishing houses or journals. Within our own portfolio of journals, for example, our editorial structures are varied to fit the needs of the type of research published in each title, and the needs of the authors within that community. The differences drive variance in the percentages of the APC value allocated at the “initial triage” and “peer review management” stages of each journal, most notably at PLOS Biology, PLOS Medicine, and PLOS ONE which rely on in-house editorial teams.

More detail on the operational differences of PLOS’ editorial models can be found in our previous transparency post

Comparisons to our 2019 data

The raw breakdown of our APCs across the services we provide has remained broadly consistent, however, the addition of the ‘Platform development’ category to the framework this year has understandably affected the percentage breakdowns (this category had been previously included in the ‘services after publication’ category).

As part of our ongoing commitment to article level metrics we announced a partnership with Liblynx to develop analytics that better communicate the usage and impact of Open Access content. Though not included in our report this year, we intend to provide COUNTER data as part of the 2022 framework.

Investing in our communities

As a nonprofit organization, PLOS does not seek revenue surplus purely for financial gain or as a return to shareholders. Our organizational activities are developed with the sole purpose of meeting the needs of researchers and reinvesting in the scholarly community in ways that support and further our mission.

Many of those activities go beyond the breakdown you see here. Our highly regarded publishing ethics team works to raise awareness of publication ethics standards across the scholarly community, as well as developing policies and processes to further research integrity at our journals. We aim to help researchers increase the visibility and impact of their work by connecting authors to publication opportunities and career-building tools like our Peer Review and Writing Centers, and through dedicated media promotion of their published articles. Staff across the organization are also passionately involved in researching, developing and implementing Open Science practices at scale in order to make participation in the research ecosystem more transparent, efficient, and fair for researchers from all demographics, geographies, and disciplines.

For more information about our finances, PLOS provides an annual update on our financial overview page. We’ve also shared our pricing information for our emerging business models in our FAQs. And of course, we’ll always share updates on our work and important milestones like this one through our blogs network.

  1. Ten publishers took part in the 2020 pilot: Annual Reviews, Brill, The Company of Biologists, EMBO Press, European Respiratory Society, F1000 Research, Hindawi, IOP Publishing, Springer Nature
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