Frontiers APCs: Structure and Rationale

The number of peer-reviewed papers has been growing at a rate of 20% a year, with over 600,000 estimated open-access papers published in 2014. To keep up with demand, Frontiers has developed technological innovations that provide enhanced services and enable dissemination. We have also striven to find ways to remove the obstacles to  publication of sound research by developing a transparent fee structure that links service level to value created. On February 1, 2016, Frontiers introduced a new system for Article Processing Charges (APCs). The new system replaces the flat fee for each of the different article types across all Frontiers journals with a structure where APCs depend on how well the journal is established in the community. Importantly, the structure also takes into account differences in the level of research funding available in various disciplines. 

Frontiers APC Structure

APCs for Type A articles (Original Research, Review, Classification, Clinical Trial, Hypothesis & Theory, Mechanisms of Disease Reviews, Methods, Protocols and Technology Report) published in well-established journals, several of which achieve amongst the highest citation rates within their academic disciplines, and in disciplines where open-access publishing has strong financial support, have been adjusted accordingly from $1,900 to $2,490. For just under half our journals APCs for Type A articles remain unchanged. In all newly launched journals and in disciplines where financial support is hard to come by (such as Humanities, Social Sciences, some areas of Mathematics and others), APCs for Type A articles have been decreased from $1,900 to $1,150.

As before, APCs for other types of articles, such as Case Report, Clinic-Pathological Conference (CPC), Evaluation, Images in Medicine, Mini Review and Perspective, are lower and range from $1,150 to $700 depending on the journal. And for articles types, such as Code Report, Data Report, and Opinion, APCs are set at $450 for all journals.

A number of other Frontiers article types are published free of charge, such as Focused Review, Grand Challenges, Frontiers Commentary, General Commentary, Book Review and Editorial. Also, all articles are free of charge for Frontiers for Young Minds, our  journal for kids.

Waivers Policy

Our new APC structure includes an enhanced policy on waivers. Not only will we maintain our record of never allowing an author’s inability to pay the APC to become an obstacle that prevents the publication of sound science (waivers and discounts at Frontiers have reached ~$2 million/year; see Financial Commitment to Open Access);  we will also work with institutions to adjust the APCs, if necessary, to levels their policies can support. We will also continue expanding our efforts to support research communities in the form of honoraria and awards (see, for example, our Frontiers Spotlight Conference Awards).

Frontiers APC Rationale

The full spectrum of academia on one platform: Frontiers started with a mission of integrating the full spectrum of academic disciplines onto a single publishing platform, which we believe will open exciting new possibilities in cross-disciplinary research, collaboration and education. At Frontiers, numerous strategies catalyze cross-disciplinary integration, including our uniform peer-review standards that span across disciplines, the cross-listing of specialty sections in different journals, and cross-cutting Research Topics and Loop, our research network that brings diverse academics together. Crowdsourced Article Impact Metrics (see Frontiers Digital Innovations) allow the most outstanding research, that is also socially the most relevant, to tier up in the form of free Focused Reviews. Focused Reviews place the research into a broader context to make it more easily accessible to researchers in other disciplines.

Lower APCs for articles in fields with low research budgets are essential if authors in these areas are to benefit from Gold Open Access publishing and the enhanced digital services that Frontiers offers. This is only possible if disciplines that can support open-access publishing also support the spread of Open Access to other disciplines.

Driving Digital Innovations: Frontiers was formed as a digital publisher (see Born Digital) and therefore naturally invests significantly into digital technologies, offering our authors and editors measurable value from a large repertoire of services. It is clear that Open Access could be served cheaply if everyone worked without pay, digital innovations in peer-review were scrapped, typesetting was eliminated and articles were archived on university servers instead of independent repositories – and if all these were actions were done with the single goal of simply reviewing and getting papers online. We believe such a model eliminates the benefits of the digital age and the incredible potential for digital innovations to review, publish, communicate and disseminate 21st century research.

Frontiers has developed a range of value-adding technology, including a digital editorial office, an interactive peer-review forum, mechanisms for post-publication discussion, article impact metrics that allow the crowdsourced spotlighting and tiering of impactful papers, the Research Topics platform that allows for grassroots, organic launching of “mini-journals”, free eBook production, and Loop, which enhances discoverability and dissemination of articles and brings visibility to Frontiers authors and editors with online profiles (see Born Digital and Frontiers Services). Other Open Access publishers are also experimenting and innovating in all aspects of digital publishing. We believe digital innovation is a crucial component to fuel the Open Access transition and allow society to maximally benefit from research. The cost of innovation is built into our APC structure.

Service Value-APC relationship: There have been diverging discussions on Open Access APCs, even though scholarly publishing has been costing academia ~$7,000/article in the subscription model (see Growth of Open Access), and most likely much more than that when considering the lost time and opportunities when valid research is rejected and shuffled around to find a suitable journal. We want our publishing fees to be proportional to the value we offer our authors. We believe a clear correlation between the value of the open-access service and the level of the fees will help clarify these discussions.

With Frontiers, authors benefit from a 3-month (on average) peer review period, focused on enhancing the quality of the paper, along with real-time tracking of their article impact reflecting substantial readership and downloads. The effectiveness of these digital strategies in producing impact is measurable; several Frontiers journals are ranked at the top of their categories in terms of citations when compared to other Open Access Journals in comparable fields (see Open Access Journal Ranking). We feel that explicitly and transparently linking APCs to the value of publisher’s services will help make the cost of publishing for authors, institutions and funding agencies more transparent, and in the long run, more affordable (see Future of Academic Publishing).

We hope our redistributed APC structure will begin to highlight: a) the importance of a transparent rationale between the level of fees and the value of the services, b) the importance of taking the different funding conditions across disciplines into account, c) the important role that researchers with strong research budgets have in supporting those that struggle to benefit from the Open Access transition, d) the benefits of bringing all of academia onto a single platform, e) the exciting innovative digital technologies that Open Access could inspire, and f) how much more can be done in Open Access with article revenues that are about one third those of the subscription model. All of these factors will accelerate the global transition to Open Access and could save academic research around $10 billion per year (see APCs and Global Research).

Learn more about the quality and impact of the Frontiers Journal series: 

Learn more about how Open Access innovation help to increase quality and impact:

Learn more about Frontiers’ commitment to the academic community:

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