Why I think ending article-processing charges will save open access

The way that the global north pays for publishing hampers public, scholar-led efforts in Latin America.

When the Public Library of Science, a non-profit organization based in San -Francisco, California, and other publishers popularized article-processing charges (APCs) in the mid-2000s, scholarly publishing in Latin America was already embracing open access (OA) using a different model: instead of charging authors, academic institutions published journals edited by faculty members. The approach is a type of ‘diamond OA’, which works without fees for readers or authors.

Over the same time period, APCs have become ubiquitous in the global north, embraced by for-profit journals and encouraged by many leading European and US funders. The vibrant publishing ecosystem in Latin America (and elsewhere in the global south) will not be left unscathed.

I know this ecosystem is vibrant and diverse because I’ve spent 15 years working at the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) — based at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada — and I am now co-scientific director of this initiative to make research publicly available. I have met hundreds of journal editors who work hard, often in challenging conditions, to bring the knowledge discovered by their communities to the rest of the world. An incredibly diverse set of journals now uses Open Journal Systems, free software developed by PKP, to manage, publish and index their work (S. Khanna et al. Preprint at SciELO preprints https://doi.org/jgbz; 2022). My and my colleagues’ work shows that many non-academics frequently access this content. Many titles focus on locally relevant issues, such as rural development, local histories and Indigenous cultures. There are, of course, journals of broad global interest as well.