Article Processing Charges Waivers and Global Inequities
In their recent piece on article processing charges (APC) waiver programs, published in Science Editor on February 21, 2022, Sara Rouhi, Romy Beard, and Curtis Brundy note that, even though the transition to Open Access publishing programs gathers pace, APCs likely pose a cost barrier to scholarly authors, while representing an author equity issue. At the same time, journal publishing models not based on Open Access invariably involve reader-facing paywalls, which amounts to a reader equity issue, since readers without relevant academic affiliation or disposable funds are not able to access scholarly content. In other words, the transition to Open Access resolves the reader equity issue by removing reader-facing barriers to scientific content at the expense of introducing the researcher equity considerations, as scholarly journals need to remain financially viable after they make their output freely accessible. In her opinion piece, Sara Rouhi, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOS, has approached the APC equity issue by contrasting equality and equity, while indicating that Global South researchers from low- and middle-income countries likely suffer from funding limitations, as compared to their Global North colleagues. Similarly, Romy Beard, formerly the Licensing Programme Manager at Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) working with libraries and consortia from developing and transitioning economy countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, has contrasted the exigencies of the pay-to-read and pay-to-publish approaches, while indicating that APC discount policies fall short of fully redressing the inequities between the Global North and Global South countries. Yet, higher levels of APC waiver awareness, information availability and application uniformity can be expected to alleviate these disparities. In response, Sarah Rouhi explores the publisher perspective on APC waivers, such as at the PLOS, while exploring the attendant aspects of financial sustainability, cross-discipline differences, workflow shortcomings and inclusion effects. By presenting an institutional perspective, Curtis Brundy, responsible for collections oversight and scholarly communications at the Iowa State University Library, draws attention to the growing prevalence of transformational agreements that have the APC-offsetting arrangements built-in.