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PLOS Price Transparency Update 2021

Plan S Price & Service Transparency Framework 2021

We encourage researchers to give transparent insight into their work for the benefit of community understanding and assessment and we want to give you the same insight into ours. 

One of the ways we do this is through the Plan S Price & Service Transparency Framework. PLOS has participated in the framework since its pilot phase in 20201 and we’re pleased to once again share our reporting here to give our community insight into how our publication fees are used to support journal activities and operational costs. 

Price Transparency data 2021

Publishers completing the framework divide their Article Processing Charge (APC), per journal, into eight different services (you can find a description of these services in last year’s post). Data for the framework is reported at the end of the following year meaning the data in the table below reflects our publication fee breakdown for the year 2021 based on the APC for a Research Article in each journal. You can find our full report from the framework in this spreadsheet.

Isn’t PLOS moving beyond the APC?

Yes! We recognize APCs are an imperfect solution for truly equitable Open Access opportunities and we’ve been working with institutions to establish new models of Open Access support. Each of our journals offers APC-alternative models that can significantly reduce or entirely eliminate APCs for authors. In time, we believe we can entirely eliminate APCs — but there is more work ahead of us yet. By the close of 2021, PLOS had signed partnerships with 93 institutions and we’re continuing to make this a priority. To give you a peek at our most recent data, those partnerships nearly doubled in 2022 to include 181 institutions across 26 countries. We hope future iterations of the framework will enable us to represent this data alongside APCs. In the meantime, keep an eye on our blog for more announcements and updates.  

PLOS Computational BiologyPLOS GeneticsPLOS Neglected Tropical DiseasesPLOS PathogensPLOS BiologyPLOS MedicinePLOS ONE
2021 APC price$2,575$2,575$2,420$2,575$4,000$4,000$1,749
% of price for journal and community development10%12%10%11%24%23%10%
% of price from submission to first decision12%13%10%12%26%24%17%
% of price for peer review management13%13%10%14%20%17%17%
% of price for services from acceptance to publication21%19%18%21%9%11%15%
% of price for services after publication8%7%6%8%3%4%8%
% of price for platform development9%9%15%8%2%7%9%
% of price for sales & marketing to customers or of articles18%18%21%15%13%15%17%
% of price for author and customer support9%9%9%10%2%3%8%

Differences in journal editorial structures and services drive variance in the percentages of the APC value allocated to each category. For PLOS, this difference is most apparent in  PLOS Biology, PLOS Medicine, and PLOS ONE which rely on in-house editorial teams. More detail on the operational differences of PLOS’ editorial models can be found in our original transparency post

You may also remember 2021 as the year PLOS launched new journals. Publication fee breakdown for those journals will be provided in the following year’s report to reflect their first full year of publishing activity. 

Comparisons to our 2020 data

This year, we’ve made adjustments to more accurately distribute costs previously reported in the ‘Platform development’ category. Maintaining digital services that support peer review and article assessment, as well as marketing have been allocated accordingly. (The “Platform Development” category was introduced to the framework last year.) We’ve also reported upper and lower bounds of institutional membership costs for our Community Action Publishing (CAP) model2. CAP is a collective-action model for PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine which equitably distributes the cost of highly selective publishing based on several factors to institutional members. 

Of course, there is also a natural fluctuation in the allocation of costs over time to provide further resources to specific areas of journal development. For PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine for example, our shift to CAP required slightly higher spend to set up ‘sales and marketing’ infrastructure that will enable us to expand institutional partnerships that eliminate author fees. 

Investing in our communities

As a nonprofit organization, our organizational activities are developed with the sole purpose of meeting the needs of researchers and reinvesting in the scholarly community in ways that support and further our mission.

Many of those activities go beyond the breakdown you see here. Our highly regarded publishing ethics team works to raise awareness of publication ethics standards across the scholarly community, as well as developing policies and processes to further research integrity at our journals. We aim to help researchers increase the visibility and impact of their work by connecting authors to publication opportunities and career-building tools like our Peer Review and Writing Centers, and through dedicated media promotion of their published articles. Staff across the organization are also passionately involved in researching, developing and implementing Open Science practices at scale, and partnering with organizations around the world to better understand researchers’ needs in order to make participation in the research ecosystem more transparent, efficient, and fair across all demographics, geographies, and disciplines.

For more information about our finances, PLOS provides an annual update on our financial overview page. We’ve also shared our pricing information for our emerging business models in our FAQs. And of course, we’ll always share updates on our work and important milestones like this one through our blogs network.

  1. Ten publishers took part in the 2020 pilot reporting data from 2019: Annual Reviews, Brill, The Company of Biologists, EMBO Press, European Respiratory Society, F1000 Research, Hindawi, IOP Publishing, Springer Nature
  2. Community Action Publishing is not a traditional subscription model–member fees cover the cost of publishing fully Open Access content which is never paywalled or otherwise restricted from readers at PLOS. Membership costs are reported in this section of the framework per the PLAN S guidelines. Pricing for our Flat Fee Agreements has not been included as this model simply provides an easier way for institutions to cover their authors’ APC costs and pricing is therefore customized to each institution based on publishing activity.
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