There is apparently a widespread fear that if a ‘gold’ (author-side paid) open access model for publishing scientific research is supported by funding bodies, the so-called article processing fees, paid for by funders on behalf of authors, might see unbridled increases. This fear is not unwarranted if not addressed properly. If funders agree to pay whatever publishers charge, they undermine the potential for competition among publishers and provide them with an incentive to maximize their income, while at the same time removing any price sensitivity on the part of the publishing researcher. However, it is not very difficult to address this problem.
In order to avoid untrammeled article processing fee increases, funding bodies should foster competition amongst publishers, and create price sensitivity to article processing charges in researchers publishing their results.
Imagine if they did the following:
- Require open access publishing of research results;
- Include in any grants a fixed amount for publishing results in open access journals;
- Allow researchers to spend either more or less than that amount on article processing charges, any surplus to be used for the research itself, or any shortfall to be paid from the research budget;
- Require any excess paid over and above the fixed amount to be justified by the researcher to the funder;
- Provide a fixed amount for more than one publication if the research project warrants that, but so that researchers have an incentive to limit the number of published articles instead of salami-slicing the results into as many articles as possible, again by giving them discretion over how the fixed amounts are spent.