Open Access journal article - how do authors split cost?
August 23, 2018 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I and three coauthors had an article accepted in a reputable open-access journal. The paper covers work I did as a grad student, and the coauthors were my advisor and committee members. We have not found funding for this and will be paying the $1250 publication fee out-of-pocket. Unless the accepted practice is "first author pays all," what is a reasonable split and how do I politely ask my advisor and possibly other coauthors to cough up?

I graduated in late 2016, the other three coauthors are all tenured profs at the university I attended. I will want to use them as references in future job searches. I am first author, advisor is last author. We are scientists.

I am working in a tangentially related research field. My current institution doesn't want to help pay for this. I will nag my coauthors again to ask their department chair. I could also try other folks at my graduate institution if folks recommend that?

I got a 15% discount on the fee by paying for membership in the professional society that publishes the journal. I will ask the journal if any further discounts are available given there is no grant funding for this.

My advisor said he is "kind of broke right now but we'll figure something out," and the most charitable spin I can put on it is that he just didn't think about what he was saying? Does he think my financial picture is rosier than his?

I can use savings to cover the whole fee, but it feels unfair. I'm already pretty frustrated that I've been putting in a lot of unpaid time to get this and another chapter of my diss published.
posted by momus_window to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My advisor always paid, as senior author, and in my department this was the norm. I would not have dreamed of paying a cent of my personal money and I'm a little horrified if your advisor wants you to pay (if the lab couldn't afford it they should have said that when deciding to submit to such an expensive journal). I'm not actually clear that he does - are you sure he doesn't mean that he just has to scrounge the funds up from somewhere himself?

Of course norms may be different elsewhere or in different fields (Canada/biomedical research here).
posted by randomnity at 3:22 PM on August 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

The norm in my field (vision science) is that the senior author pays. The idea that you would pay out of pocket for this would, in my end of things, be considered utterly wrong.

I'd read "kind of broke right now" as "I don't have spare grant money right now," not that your advisor is personally hard up for cash.

A thought, because I used a similar mechanism to cover the publication costs of one of my dissertation chapters after I graduated in 2015, is to see if your university library has a program for covering Open Access fees. You should still be able to use it even though you've graduated (in my case, I was able to do so because I could still log in to university systems as an alum).

If, in fact, no one involved with this paper has grant money to pay for it, and there's no campus program for paying for open access publications, you can always ask the journal if they're willing to waive the publication fee. There's almost always an option to do that, although they don't exactly go around advertising it. Your action editor (and the journal overall) want to see this work published, and they'll more than likely be willing to work with you.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 3:32 PM on August 23, 2018 [10 favorites]

"kind of broke right now but we'll figure something out"

Are you 100% certain you are on the same page about paying out of pocket, as in out of money that also goes towards food/medicine/heat for your family? In my department, this would mean "we're overspent on grants and who knows how the accounting will work out, it might have to go on a discretionary account." There would really be no possibility that anyone was paying personally. (Out of money that might otherwise go towards summer salary, sure, but that's a bit different.)

Honestly I would read that as a fairly clear statement that it will be Magically Handled (although author would slightly prefer not to have to, if there were an alternative). Your response: "Thanks, I really appreciate it - I was getting worried since we don't have any funding here that could cover the publication fees. Just let me know when you know [who I should send this info to / what cost object to list / etc.] No rush and thanks again!"
posted by cogitron at 3:43 PM on August 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

Have you checked to see if your library offers any compensation for publishing in an OA journal? Some do.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 3:43 PM on August 23, 2018

I read your advisor's response the same way the others did. It's saying they don't have an obvious grant/department source of funding but will find funding in another budget somehow. They will NOT expect you to pay out of personal money.
posted by lollusc at 3:52 PM on August 23, 2018

Don’t pay personal money. But: it’s possible that your advisor is trying to play chicken to get you to NOT pay open access fees for open access.

Eg a Wiley journal may charge $300 for page fees but $2k for open access. If it’s an open-access-only journal this of course does not apply.

But, as a scientist funded largely by public money in the USA, I feel we have an ethical obligation to make our work open access (and sometimes a legal obligation!).

So you should press for this and press them to ‘find’ that money — they have it lying under a couch cushion, so to speak.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:00 PM on August 23, 2018

Thanks, y'all. I tried to bring this up before submission also and got the same lack of an explicit answer. My attempts at googling kept getting "Open Access means you have to pay!!" stuff.

I've contacted the libraries at both institutions to ask if there's funding. I'll clarify with my advisor what his plan is. I'm glad I was apparently horribly misreading him.

(It is an open-access-only journal.)
posted by momus_window at 4:05 PM on August 23, 2018

Some institutions have campus-wide open access funds. SPARC has some info.

But yes, your university library should be the place to check. If they have someone listed as a "scholarly communications" librarian - they would be the one with the best information about your options.
posted by pantarei70 at 4:32 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think the others have this right morally, but I will say my own advisor was a renowned cheapskate and she 100% would have tried to foist this kind of expense on her students. I hope yours is nicer though!
posted by eirias at 4:59 PM on August 23, 2018

You should never pay open access fees out of pocket as the first / junior author. Let your former advisor find the money, and if there is none, let him request a fee waiver for the paper from the journal (some journals do this, others do not).
posted by jjray at 6:44 PM on August 23, 2018

Senior author pays. There are usually department/university slush funds for stuff like this.
posted by SinAesthetic at 6:58 AM on August 25, 2018

Follow-up: advisor found about half the money in a grant and shook down coauthors for the rest (coming out of their overhead funding, I think). Neither library had a funding pool for this. The journal didn't give me a further discount but I didn't push very hard.
posted by momus_window at 9:48 AM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

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