UK universities sign deal to waive Plos publication fees

Three-year deal will allow researchers to publish papers without paying additional article-processing charges

October 14, 2020
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UK universities have signed a major deal with a US non-profit publisher that will allow researchers to publish without incurring article-processing charges (APCs).

Under the new three-year agreement announced by Jisc and the Public Library of Science (Plos) on 14 October, researchers at institutions affiliated with the UK digital services provider will be able to publish in seven journals owned by the San Francisco-based publisher without paying additional APCs.

The deal – which, in theory, would allow researchers to publish as many times as they wanted, pending the peer-review process, in a handful of Plos titles – is the first time that a large university consortium has provided collective agreements as an alternative to APCs at this scale, said Sara Rouhi, director of strategic partnerships for Plos.

At present, researchers who are unable to find APCs from their employer can ask for a fee waiver from Plos, but this deal would eliminate the need for these requests, Ms Rouhi told Times Higher Education.

“No one wants to ask for a handout, even if it is about asking for support for your research,” she said, adding that the deal would help to address the “inequalities in research which mean that some people do not have access to APCs”.

Under the flat fee agreement, which begins in January, annual fixed prices will cover unlimited publishing for corresponding authors in five journals, including Plos Genetics, Plos Computational Biology, Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases and the megajournal Plos One, which published 142,000 articles between 2006 and 2015.

A second agreement would enable unlimited publishing in a further two PLOS titles – Plos Medicine and Plos Biology – for both corresponding and contributing authors.

In May 2020, Plos One charged $1,695 (£1,306) for the publication of research articles, while the APCs for Plos Medicine and Plos Biology were $3,000 (£2,300).

Caren Milloy, Jisc’s director of licensing, said the group, which negotiates deals with large publishers on behalf of UK universities and research institutes, was “pleased to have reached these pioneering agreements with Plos, which will make it easier for researchers to publish open access and offer affordability and sustainability to institutions”.

“These collective action agreements have the potential to help shape the future of [open access] funding,” said Ms Milloy.

Plos had previously signed a similar deal with the University of California system. This was seen as protecting Plos periodicals at a time when they faced a potential threat from the transition of traditional subscription-based publishers to “read and publish” deals in which universities pay publication fees upfront in return for the removal of paywalls.

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