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Plan S looking at variable pricing

Funders said to be talking to publishers about pricing options for weaker economies

Funders signed up to the controversial open access initiative Plan S are talking with publishers about whether publishing charges could vary depending on the wealth of the country in which the authors or their funders are based, the initiative’s interim coordinator has said.

Researchers supported by the Plan S funder group Coalition S will be required to make their papers openly available immediately in specified outlets from 2021. The funders have said that they or researchers’ institutions will pay any publication fees, and that journals and platforms must offer article-processing charge waivers and discounts for low and lower-middle income economies respectively to meet their requirements.

Interim Coalition S coordinator Robert Kiley said in an article published on the professional networking platform LinkedIn on 18 February that the funders are discussing variable APC models with some publishers.

“A single, global APC price for any given journal may not always be the most equitable way to cover publishing costs,” Kiley wrote. “We have started to discuss with a number of open-access publishers the idea of linking the APC to the purchasing power parity of different countries.”

On Twitter the previous day, Plan S ‘champion’ Johan Rooryck issued an informal call for thoughts on making such fees more equitable. He asked: “Any ideas and policies out there for purchasing-power-adjusted APCs?”

Rooryck criticised the current system, in which authors from low and middle-income countries are “only offered (patronising) waivers”. He argued that, like costs of basic items such as food, article fees should reflect a country’s economy.

“A 33cl bottle of Coke costs $0.43 in India, and $3.35 in Norway,” he wrote. “But [an open access] APC costs the same in India and Norway, while subscriptions don’t.”