Column / On Publishing Well – June 2019

Column: On Publishing Well
by Ashok R. Chandran


Plan S: An initiative launched in September 2018 to make research open access and implement some principles in scholarly publishing.

Coalition S: A group of research funders favouring and pushing open access. Plan S is an initiative of Coalition S.

Article processing charge (APC): The fee that a journal asks you to pay to make your article open access, or in some cases, publish your article in the journal.


Plan S guidelines have been revised. The deadline for implementation has been postponed by one year to 2021. Also, there will be no immediate cap on article processing charges. See the news reports in Nature or Science.


A journal is asking me to pay a ‘publication fee’ to publish my research article. Should I pay the Article Processing Charge (APC)?

Short answer: ‘No’. (But please also see my recommendations below.)

We see four types of journals today.

Type 1 (Open, No APC): Genuine journals that make your work open access and do not charge you any fee for publishing your research.

My recommendation: Submit your article for publication.

Type 2 (Hybrid): Genuine journals that do not charge any fee to publish your research, but ask you to pay their APC if you wish to make your article open access.

The fee is not to publish your article, but to make it open access. If you do not wish your article to be open access, or if you cannot afford the APC, your article will still get published in the journal.

My recco: Submit your article for publication. If APC is more than Rs. 20,000/- do not pay the APC. Scholars should not encourage exorbitant APCs.

Type 3 (Open, APC): Genuine journals that make your article open access but charge you a fee. They do not have paid subscribers, and they charge authors to meet publishing costs or to make a profit.

My recco: Submit your article for publication if APC is Rs. 20,000/- or less. Scholars should not encourage exorbitant APCs.

Type 4 (Predatory): Fraud journals, which (usually) make your article open access, but charge you a fee.

My recco: Do not submit your article. Resist the temptation to pay-and-publish quickly for your promotion or PhD. The UGC is revisiting the rule that doctoral scholars should publish articles before being awarded PhD.

How can we know a particular journal’s Type? Spend an hour doing a preliminary assessment of the journal.

  • Skim through 2-3 articles to assess content quality.
  • Review the editorial board for familiar or respected names.
  • Confirm the credibility of the academic institution or professional society that hosts the journal.
  • Read editorial/publishing policies to know the APC amount and time usually taken for peer review.

If a journal takes pride in its lightning-speed peer review (e.g., less than three weeks), it is most likely to have a low APC (less than Rs 3,000). Such journals are almost certainly Type 4 (Predatory). Their interest is in getting your money ASAP.

It is easy to identify Type 1 and Type 2 journals because they do not insist on APC. The difficulty is usually in distinguishing between Type 3 and Type 4 journals.

How do we know whether a journal is genuine (Type 3) or not (Type 4)?

If your preliminary assessment did not give you a clear answer, use the guidelines at Think. Check. Submit. to assess a journal in detail.

The world of scholarly publishing is in a flux. New models for article publishing are emerging. So, stay abreast of developments and adopt a studied approach.

Add your comment at the Kerala Scholars Messenger website.

Ashok R. Chandran is a book editor and writing trainer. He serves as Publication Officer, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. Views expressed are personal.

CC BY 4.0 Ashok R. Chandran, 2019.

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