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Open Access Doesn’t Need APCs Part II: Making inclusion our foundation with Global Equity

This blog is part of a series exploring our APC-alternative models from Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOS. Read our previous post here.

When we made the decision to launch new journals at PLOS last year, we knew we had to build these spaces from a new blueprint in order to surface all research of the highest quality and fulfill our aims, namely, to:

  • Include the broadest range of researchers’ voices globally
  • Ensure that these new Open Science platforms would be shaped at every level by the communities they aimed to serve
  • Avoid simply extending existing power structures

That gave us an opportunity to try something new: supporting the cost of Open Access publication in a regionally equitable way.

A New Model for New Journals

PLOS Climate, PLOS Global Public Health, and PLOS Water share a mission to represent the broadest range of high-quality research from around the world, foster knowledge-sharing and collaboration, and ensure previously underrepresented perspectives have an equally powerful voice in shaping scientific literature in these critical areas.

 “…Our aim with the journal is to amplify the work of researchers and practitioners, especially from lower-middle-income-countries, historically underrepresented groups, and individuals working and living within their impacted communities,” 

Madhukar Pai, Co-Editor-in-Chief, PLOS Global Public Health

Inclusion is the foundation of these journals. From their broad scopes, to the diversity of the editorial boards who will shape content, policies, and practices reflective of the research communities working in these fields. As spaces that will drive rigorous, evidence-based approaches to global challenges, authors of all backgrounds should feel like they have a place to make their research heard in these journals. To support them, we needed inclusion to be built into our foundation—including an alternative to APCs.

Like our other institutional partnership models, the Global Equity model provides a pathway for institutions to cover the cost of unlimited publications for their authors and eliminate APCs. What makes this model different, is that partnership fees for each institution are adjusted by World Bank lending tier groups to be more reflective of their regional economy.

A Simpler Open Access Solution for All Authors

At all economic levels, institutional partnership through the Global Equity model makes it easier for authors to publish in Open Access journals. Institutions in low and middle-income countries as well as those in high-income regions are able to provide unlimited publishing opportunities for their authors with greater efficiency and financial stability than individual APCs. The model also automatically includes institutions in Research4Life countries as partners, enabling these authors to publish for free.

PLOS has always offered publication support to ensure researchers who lacked funding for APCs were able to publish in our journals. However, the need for that very support system is evidence that the APC model underlying most Open Access journals has carried on a legacy of barriers in scholarly communication disproportionately affecting researchers in lower-resourced countries, making it harder for those perspectives to achieve the same recognition in scholarly literature. 

The Global Equity model systematically acknowledges economic differences and offers an appropriate solution so that authors in these regions do not need to ask for assistance, they are simply included.

We will still have a robust publication fee assistance program for any researcher who cannot afford APCs, but we hope that as our partnerships with institutions expand, this will no longer be the only recourse available to researchers, merely a backup option.

Stronger Together

We believe broader voices and better collaboration, leads to better quality science and immediate expansion of the “leading” solutions impacting how we address global challenges. These journals will empower urgent action and collaboration–between researchers, policy-makers, and other leaders–based on research of the highest ethical and methodological standards, underpinned by transparent, Open Science practices. By removing financial barriers for institutions to support Open Access we hope the Global Equity model makes it easier for institutions in all regions to partner with us in this vision.

“It has never been more important to connect scholars and practitioners working to close the gap in access to water and sanitation services with those focused on managing freshwater resources in a changing climate.” 

Jenna Davis, Co-Editor-in-Chief, PLOS Water

“We hope to be a platform for communicating [robust science] with a strong emphasis on opportunities for early career researchers in addition to established researchers, as well as those from groups and countries traditionally underrepresented in this field.”

Emma Archer, Editor-in-Chief, PLOS Climate

We will always have more work to do in making science, and the process of publishing science fair and equitable for every researcher and we are continually learning how we can evolve our practices to amplify diverse voices in the ways that they want to be heard.

For any authors who are interested in publishing in these journals, we encourage you to check our list of institutional partners to see if your institution has already partnered with PLOS to cover your publication fees, and to reach out to your librarian directly if you would like to encourage them to join.

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