Who pays? How to reduce scientific publishing costs for low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries

TDR news item
3 October 2014

Recommendations for ways to reduce scientific publication costs for both institutions and individuals in low- and middle-income countries have been published in the journal Public Health Action. The article addresses both the high costs of closed journals, as well as offering some options for covering the costs of publishing in open access journals.

Scientific publishing policies have been undergoing a revolution, driven by strong pushes to make published articles freely accessible, by anyone, anywhere, any time. Some journals have maintained a closed access system dependent on subscriptions, but have added options for purchasing single articles online. New online free access journals have been created, but they move the costs for editing and managing publication from the readers to the authors.

Nigerian researchers on a community health worker study
WHO/TDR/Andy Craggs

This Perspectives article written by members of the SORT IT operational research and training group offers solutions to consider for both closed and open access journals, in order to reduce the burden on those in low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries.

The authors write that policy-makers and health workers in LMICs cannot afford the costs of US$ 35-40 per article even if they are highly relevant to their programmes. In addition, annual institutional and personal subscription rates for a closed access journal such as the Lancet are simply unaffordable for most institutions, let alone individuals.

Open access definition: unrestricted, immediate access and unrestricted reuse

Public Library of Sciences (PLoS)

They suggest that publishing corporations waive subscription fees or offer free on-line access for individual operational research articles from LMICs, that all taxpayer-funded research be published as open access, and that the WHO HINARI programme of free journal access in LMICs should be expanded to include not only institutions but also individuals.

To reduce the burden among LMIC authors to submit research to open access journals, the authors suggest that annual research budgets from governments or international bilateral /multilateral donors include a line item to cover publishing fees. They also recommend publishing companies establish a dedicated annual fund for this group, that there be ‘pooled funding’ from donors, and that open access journals have waivers or subsidies with differential pricing, even if it means a marginal increase in fees for the rest of the articles from authors outside LMICs.

For more information, contact:

Andy Ramsay
Email:ramsaya@who.int