'APCs in the Wild' - Whitepaper

The whitepaper which was published in April 2020, explores data from Springer Nature authors on the source of article processing charge (APC) funding, along with feedback from institutional interviews to facilitate a greater understanding of where funding for APCs originates and how these sources are being used. 

Accelerating the transition to OA will involve bringing together multiple different funding streams, as well as tackling complex questions regarding redistribution of existing funds. Developments in OA business models and infrastructure are improving the ability to monitor article OA status and spending, a step that is crucial to enabling institutions and research funders to make informed decisions about funding for Gold OA, in particular with regard to agreements with publishers. However, there are still many APCs 'in the wild', in other words payments that are harder to monitor and that institutions and funders may be unaware of. This report explores the scale of ‘wild’ funding streams that remain for the most part unmonitored but which could be harnessed to accelerate a transition to OA.

“A high number of APCs are funded through sources that are ‘in the wild’, being harder for an institution or funder to monitor or track.”

Carrie Webster, Vice President of Open Access at Springer Nature 

Key findings

  • APC funding is complex. Authors use a wide range of funding sources, often in combination.
  • Monitoring is a challenge as many APCs are still 'in the wild', particularly for fully OA journals.
  • To support the OA transition institutions need a more comprehensive view of APC funding sources.
  • Authors’ use of funds from outside of the library budget (other institutional funds or from research funders) demonstrates the opportunity for publisher OA agreements to consolidate multiple sources, as has been the case for some existing Springer Nature agreements.

APC funding sources and distribution mechanisms

Authors cover the costs of their APCs from a variety of sources. When framing our research questions for this study, it was our expectation that institutions may find it more challenging to monitor APC payments that are sourced from or distributed outside central institutional management.

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