Best practices for APC waivers
Article Processing or Publishing Charges (APCs) are a feature of some Open Access (OA) publishing models. Many publishers offer APC waivers to researchers from lower and middle-income countries. It can be difficult for eligible researchers to discover and understand what waiver policies exist and how they are applied.
These guidelines offer a checklist of considerations when setting and implementing a waiver policy and provide recommendations on how best to communicate your policy to potential authors from the Research4Life user community.
These guidelines are not intended to influence how policy is set, only to make recommendations that provide maximum transparency and clarity for users, particularly potential authors.
Research4Life publishes its eligibility criteria for access to its collection on its website. If you choose to use the same criteria for APC waivers, it would be useful to include this link, since it cannot be assumed that all users are aware of their country’s Research4Life status.
If you choose to mirror the Research4Life eligibility criteria for APC waivers, consider whether you will offer a waiver to authors in countries where your content is not accessible due to exclusion decisions. Authors and others may assume that the two are linked, so it is worth being clear on this point.
It should be clear to which author the waiver policy applies, for example the corresponding author only, the co-authors and/or the first author.
If you set different waiver policies within your portfolio of journals, this should be made explicit, so that authors do not assume that one journal’s policy automatically applies to all titles.
If you do not offer a waiver for hybrid titles, this should also be stated explicitly.
If you publish open access titles with other business models (e.g. Diamond OA) where no fees are required to publish and therefore no waiver is required, this should be stated clearly.
To cover all circumstances, we recommend creating a separate page on your website that deals solely with the issue of APC waivers, to which all relevant journals should link. This page can also form part of the metadata required by the Directory of Open Access Journals and can help publishers comply with funder transparency requirements.
Including information on this page about any of your open access journals that do not require an APC fee (for whatever reason) will help provide clarity for authors looking for affordable ways to publish OA.
In the interests of clarity, simple English terminology should be used to explain your waiver policy, particularly for authors less proficient in English. You might consider providing information in a range of non-English languages, particularly languages of countries from which you hope to attract authors.
Adding the right information
In order to encourage submissions from authors who are entitled to a waiver, information about eligibility and how to claim it should be presented as early in the submission process as possible.
You should make clear whether a qualifying author needs to claim an APC waiver or if it will be allocated automatically on acceptance of their manuscript. Clear instructions on how an APC waiver can be claimed should be included.
If you offer partial waivers, consider including clear guidelines on how payment should be made and which currencies are acceptable. We do not recommend that you require a payment that will later be refunded if a waiver is applied, as this approach may prevent the initial submission of articles by qualifying authors.
These guidelines were composed by a special taskforce comprised of resprentatives of Research4Life publisher partners as well as The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), STM and Yale University.
Currently, the following publishers have expressed support for the guidelines: Elsevier, SpringerNature, Hindawi, Wiley, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, IOP Publishing, Canadian Science Publishing, Sage, Taylor & Francis, the Royal Society and SPIE Press.
How Research4Life helps
Research4Life has created a page with links to publisher APC waiver policies so that its users can quickly find this information. The page will be updated once a year along with other information that is requested of participating publishers. Please ensure that you keep Research4Life informed of any changes to the relevant URL by contacting the Research4Life helpdesk.
The Research4Life Capacity Development team is also working on the creation of training material that explains how to navigate the system of Open Access publishing and how to understand APC waiver policies. We encourage publishers to promote this resource to their authors once it is available.