Another low cost concession from journal giant Elsevier

The for-profit journal giant announces a “geographical pricing pilot to support authors in low – and middle- income countries with equitable open access publishing options.”

The company’s gold open access model makes journals free to readers with authors paying to be published. However, the pilot will base article charges on economic conditions and average income in selected countries.

“There is more to be done to achieve inclusive and equitable open access publishing, we hope this is one incremental step that supports this journey,” Elsevier’s Stuart Whayman says.

It is another concession in the publisher’s defence of its immensely profitable model of charging for articles it does not pay authors for and are generally based on publicly funded research. In the first half of 2023 Elsevier’s revenue was £2.9bn (A$5.5bn) with an operating profit of £1.07bn ($A2.06bn).

The company’s core business model has long been attacked, notably in the EU where publicly-funded research must be free to read immediately on journal publication. The gold OA model seeks to preserve the basics of the for-profit model, by switching the cost of access from readers to authors.

By presenting itself as a friend of researchers in poor countries Elsevier now appears willing to sacrifice some of its immense margin to preserve its core business model.

Open access publishing means there are now low-cost alternatives to publishing in Elsevier and its commercial competitors’ journals. But Elsevier and its ilk have been publishing research for a long time and their high-status journals still attract prestige-focused authors.

Elsevier may be hoping that low-cost concessions reduce the reasons for funding agencies to insist that the research they fund must appear in real OA – as in journals that are free for readers and writers both. 



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