An online peer-reviewed journal set up by funders to challenge the hegemony of a handful of prestigious journals will begin charging authors next year.
Bioscience journal eLife will charge a $2,500 (£1,927) publication fee from January 2017 to help cover the cost of “future growth” to its business.
The journal, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust, has been publishing research for free since 2012. It was established to offer an online open access alternative to the big journals that dominate the life sciences, such as Nature, Science and Cell, which charge readers.
In an editorial published online today, eLife editor-in-chief Randy Schekman and executive director Mark Patterson write: “Given the continuing increase in submissions we are experiencing – on track to exceed 8,000 manuscripts this year – we have reached the point where we need a revenue stream to help cover the costs of future growth.
“We believe the time is right to introduce this fee, to help build our editorial board and support our growing community of readers, reviewers and authors,” the pair add.
They explain that the fee has been calculated so that it covers the marginal cost that is incurred for every additional article eLife publishes. “Payments to editors is the largest component of these costs,” they say.
Fixed costs such as staffing, technology and marketing will still be covered by the journal’s funders, which announced earlier this year that they would renew their investment for another five years.
The journal was set up with an £18 million grant from its backers to cover its first five years. Just under £25 million has now been pledged to take the journal up to 2021.
The editorial explains that a publication fee was chosen over a submission fee to make the processes fairer for articles that do not make the cut.
Earlier this year eLife said that it expects to spend £3,147 to publish each article. This is significantly less than the tens of thousands that Nature estimates it spends publishing each of its papers.