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Open Access Doesn’t Need APCs: Alternative models continue to grow in 2023

It’s hard to believe it’s been only three years since we launched our first partnership models at PLOS. After adding five new journals to our portfolio in 2021, and introducing our Global Equity model to support regional equitable Open Access publishing, we saw explosive growth in our partnerships program and we’re very excited to report that we’re still growing!

Since our last progress update, we’ve welcomed 107 new institutions to our program–including our first partners in Italy and Mexico. As of today, we have nearly 300 partners across 28 countries, working alongside PLOS to reduce the burden of APCs on authors and eliminate barriers to Open Access publishing.

Authors based in Research4Life countries also automatically publish in our journals at reduced or no cost.

Why are PLOS models different?

PLOS has always been a nonprofit, fully Open Access publisher working to ensure anyone can access, learn from, share and reuse rigorous, high-quality research. While our articles have always been open to everyone to read, lack of consistent funding for APCs has created a barrier for many researchers. In the wider industry, the dominance of pay-per-article models has increased pressure on academic volume output to generate profits, and created opportunities for exploitation. 

We want to do things better.

Our models are designed to address critical challenges to inclusion in Open Access publishing that are a byproduct of the APC system: equitably distributing the cost of selective publishing, providing regionally equitable ways to ensure our inclusive journals represent researchers from all backgrounds; and streamlining the support system for libraries to reduce administrative burdens. All PLOS journals offer APC-alternatives through these partnerships, including our new launches PLOS Complex Systems and PLOS Mental Health which will be supported by our Global Equity model and Flat Fee Agreements respectively. 

We’re excited by the enthusiasm we’ve seen from the scholarly community for these models, and to have the opportunity to welcome so many new partners. Each new partnership is a step towards making Open Access publishing more equitable and inclusive. As we expand our portfolio this year, and continue to innovate on our models and services for both authors and their institutions, we hope to see this trend continue until cost is no longer a barrier for any author who wants to make their work open.

Together, we’re building the future of Open Access publishing

Our work wouldn’t be possible without the support of the librarians who work with us now, and who we hope to work with in the future. 

To truly change the scholarly landscape, we need to work together on solutions that are sustainable for all stakeholders. Since we developed our first APC-alternative models in 2020, we’ve been working with institutions to improve our services, understand and support their needs so that the cost of Open Access publishing is managed more equitably and sustainably through effective partnership. Together we can rewrite the system.

Your feedback and support is what makes this growth possible. We want to thank all of our partners for their commitment to Open Access and support of their researchers.

  1. thanks I discovered a publisher who freely offers to distribute manuscripts without charge; this is a significant advance in the fight against the schemes of APC.
    I learned about this through a friend at the Center for Public Policy Research.

  2. Besides APC barriers, open science should move beyond just open access publishing. It needs to include open editing, open review, transparency in processing, quality feedback, and freedom from any form of bias.

    The authors need to be convinced that the process is just and fair.

    1. I fully agree with you, Eric. I was reading a randomized controlled trial (titled “Double-blind peer review affects reviewer ratings and editor decisions at an ecology journal”) testing the effectiveness of double-anonymous peer-review in reducing peer-review bias. Double-anonymous peer-review refers to when the authors of manuscripts hide not only their names and institutional affiliations but also their country of origin. The RCT found that manuscripts authored by individuals from high-income countries were more likely to be accepted than those authored by individuals from low-income countries. This probably happens due to conscious or unconscious biases. The future of peer-review can therefore do better if we embraced this approach.

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