“APCs have the unfortunate feature that the authors pay for the assessment of all the other submissions that ended up being rejected. Manuscripts rejected from multiple OA journals thus contribute to the APCs of several different authors. Is it fair for authors of good articles to pay for the peer review of others’ lower quality work? Moreover, journals that do lots of peer review to find one acceptable article have higher APCs, as illustrated by the figure below….
Breaking down an APC and how it relates to submission numbers and acceptance rates suggests another way to cover publication costs: a submission fee of $350 and a publication fee of $850 would generate the same revenue as the current APCs at these journals. (This approach has been suggested before, see here, here, and here.)…
The introduction of submission fees also affects submission patterns, most notably by steering away articles with only slim chances of acceptance. This effect would change the calculations in the figure above: fewer low quality articles arrive, so acceptance rates rise and hence reduce income from submission fees. However, a drop in submissions also means a drop in costs, as those weak articles no longer need to be processed through the system….
A drop in submissions is not fatal for the submission fee math – even a 30% fall can be accommodated by raising the submission fee to $500, or by raising the submission fee to $400 and the publication fee to $1100. Journals would adjust their submission fees within some reasonable range depending on their brand perception, current levels of submissions, and a desire to remain competitive with other journals in the field. Journals with high fees may even be able to signal the higher quality of their review and publishing process.
Submission fees have other useful properties. First, they are ‘pay as you go’ for peer review: they penalize authors who submit low quality articles over and over to different journals, and reward those who prepare their work to a high standard and submit it to the most appropriate outlet.
Similarly, submission fees counteract the perverse incentives created when authors receive financial rewards for publishing in high impact journals, which is a major driver for inappropriate submissions. If they had to pay each time, would as many authors take a wild stab at getting their incremental work published in a top journal, then working their way, journal by journal, down the Impact Factor rankings until they reach an appropriate level?
Submission fees also bring peer review into line with lots of other services that cost money regardless of whether you succeed or fail, such as professional exams or even dental check-ups. Viewed through this lens, the ‘no win, no fee’ approach of APCs seems like an anomaly….”