The current approach to APC management can be highly fragmented and beset by inefficiencies in process and scarcity of resources. Academic institutions themselves face many of the same problems, and so publishers and institutions have significant incentive to collaborate on streamlining the process. With these few simple steps, you can better support an open access ecosystem.

Develop Relationships with Institutional Administrators

Author engagement is crucial to the success of the open access movement, but many authors need support in navigating a complex and ever-changing web of funder mandates and an equally varied set of publisher policies. They may also need help in accessing institutional funding for APCs and complying with institutional mandates and procedures.

As a result, a two-way relationship between author and publisher is transforming into a three- or four-way relationship involving the institution and potentially an external funder.

Karen Hawkins, Senior Director, Product Design at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), explains, “What we find is that authors are not always clear on funder requirements and the license that they want, and so we know that we need to make the process more institution-friendly.”

This means recognizing that in some cases institutional administrators themselves may need to use manuscript submission and payment systems on behalf of their authors. Publishers can also overcome some of the delays in the open access workflow by developing good working relationships with key members of staff in the library or research support office, particularly at the most research-intensive institutions.

Develop a Scalable Approach to Management and Billing of APCs

As the volume of APCs continues to rise, both institutions and publishers acknowledge that manually processing individual invoices for each article is an unsustainable model. A few institutions remain cautious about the value of aggregated billing arrangements, fearing a loss of transparency in APC pricing, but such arrangements can be invaluable in reducing the administrative burden on both universities and publishers. Some publishers are also exploring more innovative arrangements, by which agreement is reached with a national funder or a consortium of libraries to offset article-processing charges against subscription costs.

Ensuring scalability should be uppermost in the minds of all publishers as they develop new business processes to support open access.

Related Reading: 7 Steps to Help Authors through the APC Maze

Adopt Emerging Data Standards and Promote Interoperability

The key to helping institutions meet funder requirements lies in obtaining better quality data at an early stage from publishers.

“What we need are actual APC costs, date of payment, license type, DOI and agreed publication date,” observed Valerie McCutcheon, Research Information Manager at the University of Glasgow.

The adoption of standards also creates opportunities for efficiency savings for publishers themselves. Many are already integrating ORCID and FundRef into

their workflows, and with the release of the National Information Standards Organization’s (NISO) Recommended Practice on Access and Licensing for e-content, standards are beginning to emerge in this area. Publishers also have a vital role to play in shaping the development of new standards, for example, by contributing to the work of the Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration Information (CASRAI).


A version of this article originally appeared in Book Business.


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Author: Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson is the founder and director of Nottingham-based Research Consulting.
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