March 2019

The open access fee is so expensive!

Recently, I submitted a paper to an open access journal, called BMC Public Health. In the final step of submission, I have to agree with the following statement.

The open access fee of $2,031 made me afraid to click any button on that page, and I had to log out and thought about where to get the funding for this. Before I continue to tell the story. Let me introduce this journal briefly. BMC Public Health is a journal produced by BioMed Central (BMC), which is located in the United Kingdom. BMC is the first and largest for-profit scientific open access publisher in the world. On the journal’s website (, it states

Aims and scope
BMC Public Health is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on the epidemiology of disease and the understanding of all aspects of public health. The journal has a special focus on the social determinants of health, the environmental, behavioral, and occupational correlates of health and disease, and the impact of health policies, practices and interventions on the community.

Open access
All articles published by BMC Public Health are made freely and permanently accessible online immediately upon publication, without subscription charges or registration barriers. Further information about open access can be found here.
As authors of articles published in BMC Public Health you are the copyright holders of your article and have granted to any third party, in advance and in perpetuity, the right to use, reproduce or disseminate your article, according to the BioMed Central license agreement.
For those of you who are US government employees or are prevented from being copyright holders for similar reasons, BioMed Central can accommodate non-standard copyright lines. Please contact us if further information is needed.


In my opinion, open access is a good thing for scientific research. First, it spreads new findings to a broader audience and increases the impact of research. Second, as everyone can see one’s work, open access may stimulate collaborations between researchers and prevent intentional research misconducts. However, the open access fee charged by a journal is often above $1,000. Who can afford it? Here are a few examples: researchers in developed countries, scholars working in decent universities, and research teams with plenty of grant. For those researchers who are not so lucky, open access movement can be another barrier to publish their work if they cannot pay the open access fee. Should poor researchers be discouraged in this way? No.

As a current student at Virginia Tech, I asked several people for help to find potential funding to cover this fee, including my advisors and librarians. Three months later, I finally had the courage to click the “I agree” button and submitted my manuscript. I belong to the lucky group now but may not have the good fortune to submit to an open access journal in the future.

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8 comments to The open access fee is so expensive!

  • Ruoding, thanks for your post. I agree that individual cost that the authors have to incur in publishing their articles can be challenging. However, in compared to the aggregate benefits, probably the cost the authors had to pay would only be a fraction. However, as a graduate student who might have to pay for publishing in an open access journal, I can understand your experience. And, I am glad that you found a way to pay the fee and managed to click “I Agree” button and submitted your manuscript.

    • Ruoding Shi

      Hi Farha, thank you very much for your comment. As an economist, I feel the aggregate benefit is hard to measure, and the cost is more obvious. You may ask a librarian to see if there is fund for open access journals.

  • Renata Vieira Carneiro

    Thanks for sharing your story with us! I had no idea the fee was so expensive to publish in an open access journal. I agree when you say that it restricts the opportunities to wealthy researchers and intuitions, which I think is pretty sad. I’m glad that you got resources to pay for your fee though!

  • mgbullar

    Thank you for this post!! It’s so important that we recognize that the ability to afford to publish in an open access journal is a form of privilege. I wonder if there are ways that we could make it more accessible to newer researchers or researchers who aren’t in the same boat when it comes to having that privilege. This type of fee definitely doesn’t encourage graduate students to publish in open access journals. I worry that if this isn’t something that we encourage early, it won’t be something that new professors go to when they’re trying to publish in journals that will get them tenure. They won’t encourage their graduate students to publish there either. It’s hard to see a solution here.

  • Isil Anakok

    In my opinion, if all of the journals become an open access one day, the feel will drop and people who can afford to pay the current fees still should publish in open access to support. I am glad you found a way to pay the fee to publish.

  • This is bad. The open-access thing should be free if there is so need for revenue, the fees should be minimal.