In their article “Publication Fees in Open Access Publishing: Sources of Funding and Factors Influencing Choice of Journal,” David J. Solomon and Bo-Christer Björk report on a study of authors who have recently paid Article Processing Charges (APCs) to publish journal articles open access. Solomon and Björk consider journals across the disciplines, although they only include 1 humanities journal out of their survey of 74. They aim to determine the author reception of APCs, as well as what factors are involved in choosing a journal to publish in. Solomon and Björk find that most authors are willing to pay* (*”paying,” in most cases, means locating funds from an institution or grant to cover all or part of the fee) to publish, if journals meet their publishing priorities; primarily, if the journal is within the scope of their research, and if it is perceived to be of high quality. Speed of publication is also important to the authors surveyed, as well as who the readers are. Whether a journal is OA or is likely to accept an author is less important to the group sampled (“Overall previous research seems to indicate that the ‘openness’ of a journal is only a minor consideration for most authors, when they decide where to submit” ).
Overall, Solomon and Björk offer a straightforward overview of APCs and author views toward them. They do, however, seem to assume that APCs present the only funding model for OA publication, which is not entirely accurate. For instance, Solomon and Björk write:
Since an increasing number of highly reputed publishers (Springer, Nature Publishing Group, Sage, and Royal Society) are now launching APC funded OA journals the reaction of potential authors to pay such charges will be very important in deciding if and how rapidly scientific publishing will move towards the OA model. Authors “vote” with their manuscripts and only by getting a sufficient inflow of good quality submissions can OA journals become successful. (3)
It is arguable that the move toward OA since this article’s writing has not hinged entirely on “the reaction of potential authors to pay.” Rather, I would credit the significant increase of notable OA journals, the tendency for newer fields to release field journals that are OA from inception, and an increasingly common attitude in the academy that publicly-funded research should be publicly-available.
One of the most notable suggestions that came out of this article was the gap between the sciences and the humanities in regards to APCs. Not only are APCs more common in the sciences, but they are also more easily paid, as there is a significant difference in grant and institution funding between the sciences and the humanities. Referring to a parallel study, Solomon and Björk state that “their study showed substantial differences between disciplines with researchers from the physical sciences having least amount of difficulty [to pay APCs] with researchers in the social scientists and humanities claiming the highest level of difficulty” (9). In some ways, this is a detriment to humanities scholars, as they are less able to “keep up” with their colleagues in the sciences. In others, it offers an opportunity, as the smaller scale of the humanities allows its publications to be more agile, and less dependent on funding models like APCs, which, to be frank, widen the gap between established scholars and less-established scholars. Even if scholars are not paying out of pocket to publish, their ability to find funding elsewhere, either through a grant or their institution, is contingent on their track record to date and how well they are positioned in an institution.
Solomon, David J., and Bo-Christer Björk. 2013. “Publication Fees in Open Access Publishing: Sources of Funding and Factors Influencing Choice of Journal.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 64 (5): 24pp.