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Open Access Doesn’t Need APCs Part III: The Simplicity of Flat Fees

This blog is part of a series exploring our APC-alternative models from Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOSRead our previous post here.

Different approaches, one goal: universal Open Access

Many research funders, institutions, and governments now require research to be made available under Open Access licensing and provide funds that can be applied to authors’ Open Access publication costs. But the ways in which Open Access is supported varies across different fields and global regions. There are gaps that leave many researchers who want to publish in Open Access journals without funding for APCs

Given the unequal circumstances, how can publishers fairly close gaps for researchers and provide fair and easy alternatives to APCs that work for all of its stakeholders?

At PLOS we are committed to co-creating pathways to Open Access and Open Science as we carry our mission forward. A piece of that is ensuring our approach to Open Access solutions are not one-size-fits-all. It’s the reason we don’t have just one institutional partnership model for all of our journals, but several that cater to the needs of the journal research communities, and the bodies who financially support researchers’ work.

Previously in this series we’ve written about our other models that target specific challenges in the Open Access ecosystem—keeping costs low for selective journals through CAP, reflecting regional economic differences through Global Equity. Our Flat Fee model similarly aims to make Open Access publishing easier and more accessible for researchers while being flexible and granular enough to suit many different communities.

Flexibility and Simplicity through Flat Fees

The solutions we create for researchers have to work within the boundaries of their research space, and the stakeholders that support them. 

Flat Fee agreements at PLOS do that by offering institutions greater efficiency in how they provide broad Open Access support. Institutions pay one annual fee for unlimited publishing for their researchers across six PLOS journals—including PLOS ONE which alone publishes in more than 200 subject areas. 

In many cases, researchers’ publication expenses are completely covered by their institution through a Flat Fee agreement with PLOS (as they are in our CAP and Global Equity models). However, the Flat Fee agreement also leaves room for institutions to balance their Open Access support with the authors’ grant funding streams. This balances the payment ecosystem in disciplines and regions where grant funding for Open Access is already strong. It also gives institutions with limited budgets a way to support (or transition to supporting) Open Access publication.

So, does Open Access need APCs?

If you’ve been following along in this series you know the answer is no! Fee-free publishing for authors is both possible and sustainable and we are so excited to be pioneering these new models alongside institutions who are ready for change. These new approaches help level the playing field so that any researcher can easily publish in the Open Access journal of their choice. 

There is still a lot of work to do before fee-free publishing is a reality for all authors, but new models are a step towards real progress. If you would like to encourage your institution to join PLOS and eliminate author fees, please consider contacting your librarian directly. Or getting in touch with us through this form.

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