Knowledge Exchange examined different routes in achieving the vision of 'having a layer of scholarly and scientific content openly available in the internet'. One of these routes involves exploring new developments in the future of publishing. Work is being undertaken investigating interesting alternative business models which could contribute to the transition to open access. In this light KE has commissioned a study investigating whether submission fees could play a role in a business model for Open Access journals.
The general conclusion of the report bearing the title ‘Submission Fees a tool in the transition to open access?', written by Mark Ware, is that there are benefits to publishers in certain cases to switch to a model in which an author pays a fee when submitting an article. Especially journals with a high rejection rate might be interested in combining submission fees with article processing charges in order to make the transition to open access easier. In certain disciplines, notably economic and finance journals and in some areas of the experimental life sciences, submission fees are already common.
Overall there seems to be an interest in the model but the risks, particularly those involved in any transition, are seen by the publishers to outweigh the perceived benefits. There is also a problem in that the advantages offered by submission fees are often general benefits that might improve the system but do not provide publishers and authors with direct incentives to change to open access. To support transition funders, institutions and publication funds could make it clear that submission fees would be an allowable cost. At present this is often unclear in their policies.
Author acceptance of submission fees is critical to its success. It is an observable fact that authors will accept them in some circumstances. Author acceptance would require further study though.
Based on the interviews and the modelling in the study one model in particular is regarded as the most suitable way to meet the current requirements (i.e. to strengthen open access to research publications). In this model authors pay a submission fee plus an Article Processing Fee and the article is subsequently made available in open access. Both fees are set at levels that balance acceptability with the author community with securing a meaningful mix of revenues for the Publisher.