OA funding FAQs
Many journals offer authors the option of paying an article-processing charge (APC) in order to make their article immediately openly available on the journal website. For information on APC pricing in particular journals, please visit the individual journal website.
Over 200 funders and institutions worldwide provide APC funding to help authors publish via the open access (OA) route. The following FAQs provide guidance on how to locate APC funding and what steps should be taken to secure it.
- When should I begin thinking about APC funding?
- Where should I look for APC funding?
- How are APC funds distributed?
- Do APC funding opportunities vary globally or by discipline?
- How can I access my funder or institution's APC funding?
- How can I access my funder's APC block grant?
- Can I use my research grant to pay the APC?
- Does my institution have a membership with BioMed Central?
- What restrictions or criteria might apply to my APC funding?
- Do funders limit the amount of APC funding they provide?
- My research has not been funded. How can I fund my APC?
- What options do I have to publish OA without funding?
- How and when do I apply for APC funding?
We recommend that authors begin thinking about how they will fund their APC when they are selecting a journal for manuscript submission. This will allow authors to confirm that funding is available prior to committing to paying an APC, and to determine whether the journal meets the criteria of their APC funding source(s).
Where possible, we also advise researchers to consider publication charges when applying for research funding, as some funders permit authors to include publication costs in the budget of main research grants. Learn more.
As support for open access increases, many research funders and institutions are providing funding to cover the costs associated with researchers’ open access publications. Information about OA funding may be available on funder and institutional websites.
BioMed Central provides a free service to assist authors in identifying OA funding. Check our list of organizations with OA funding for further details, or contact our OA funding support service for personalized advice.
There are four main routes used by research funders and institutions to distribute funding for APCs:
- Dedicated funds set aside by organizations to be used for OA publication charges
- OA block grants provided by funders and distributed by a specific set of institutions
- Provisions for (open access) publication costs to be included as part of main research grants
- Participation in prepayment memberships or centralized billing programmes with publishers
Funders and institutions may provide funding via one or more of these routes. Authors may be able to combine multiple sources of funding to pay an APC.
At present, OA funding availability and the methods used to distribute funds vary globally. In regions such as Northern and Western Europe, where immediate (gold) OA is more strongly supported by funders, authors may have access to a wider range of sources of APC funding, including ‘block grants’ or other funds specifically dedicated to OA publishing. In China, Australia, and North America, authors are often encouraged to use their main research grant for publication costs, although institutions may also make funding available. Elsewhere in the world, there has been less focus on open access publishing, so formal mechanisms for APC funding tend to be less established.
OA funding availability also differs according to research discipline. To date, OA publishing has been more prevalent within STM subjects and, in particular, the life sciences, which authors may find reflected in funding opportunities provided by their research funder.
Learn more about different APC funding routes, or about options for authors who do not have access to OA funding.
A number of funding bodies and institutions have dedicated funds for open access publication charges. Authors will usually need to apply to the fund administrator on an article-by-article basis. For further information on applying for funding see here.
In the UK and Germany, where there is significant support for gold OA, a number of funders have established methods of covering their funded researchers’ APC costs in the form of ‘block grants’ to institutions or collaborative APC funding schemes.
Several UK funding bodies provide a ‘block grant’ to a specific set of institutions. These institutions then distribute the APC funds on request to affiliated authors whose research has been supported by these funding bodies.
The organizations that provide OA block grant funds are Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the members of the UK Charity Open Access Fund (COAF), including:
- Arthritis Research UK
- British Heart Foundation
- Cancer Research UK
- Parkinson’s UK
- Wellcome Trust
Authors in receipt of research funding from these organizations can check our list of organizations with OA funding to find out whether their institution has been awarded these funds and how to apply. RCUK or COAF grantees based at an institution that does not receive OA block grant funds may be able to apply direct to their funder or use remaining grant funds to cover APCs. Authors should check their funder’s open access webpages for further details.
The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) also provides OA funding to institutions through their open access publishing program, which establishes APC funds that are jointly-financed by the institution and DFG. All submitting or corresponding authors based at the institution may apply, regardless of whether they receive DFG grants. Check our list of organizations with OA funding to find out which institutions have been awarded these funds.
Some funders allow grantees to use remaining research funds to pay APCs, while others may permit or require that APC costs are appropriately budgeted during the initial grant application process. If in doubt, authors should check their grant terms or contact the grant administrator to confirm whether funds may be used in this way.
Our list of organizations with OA funding includes a number of funders that make APC funding available via main research grants.
Authors planning to use research grants to pay APCs should consider that APC payments are usually made at the point of the manuscript’s acceptance, which may be after the applicable research grant has been closed.
Some publishers have established membership programs with institutions to support authors publishing OA content in their journals. Depending on the type of agreement, authors affiliated with member institutions may have the cost of their APCs fully or partially covered by the institution, which may pay the publisher through prepayment accounts or centralized billing.
BioMed Central has a membership program for institutions; further details can be found on our membership page.
Funders and institutions may require authors to meet certain conditions in order to be eligible for APC funding. Confirmation that these requirements are being met may be requested prior to the release of funds, for example as part of an application form, or compliance may be retrospectively monitored.
Common eligibility criteria for APC funding include, but are not limited to, the following areas:
- Funders or institutions may only offer APC funding if the affiliated author/grantee is a corresponding or submitting author.
- Eligibility may also be determined by date on which the paper was submitted, accepted, or published.
- Where funds are provided or distributed by an institution, eligibility may be determined by:
- Employment status/role, e.g. faculty, all employees, students
- Institutional department
- Affiliation at the time research was conducted
- Affiliation of co-authors: institutional funding may be restricted or pro-rated for articles co-authored by researchers from different institutions
- Availability of APC funding from alternative sources, e.g. research funders
- Where funds are provided by a research funder, eligibility may be determined by:
- Grant programme
- Proportion of research supported by the funder: funding may be restricted or pro-rated where the research for the article was supported by other funders
- Funding may be limited to articles published in fully open access journals.
- Funding may also be limited to journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). All fully OA journals published by BioMed Central journals are submitted to DOAJ as soon as they have published sufficient content.
- APC funding may only be provided for articles published under particular open access licenses, usually the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (although other non-commercial licenses may be permitted). All articles in BioMed Central journals are published under a CC BY license.
- Authors may be required to deposit the final published version of record in a specified institutional or subject repository. To find out more, view our guidance on meeting funder and institutional requirements for self-archiving.
- Where funding is provided for APC charges, there may be a restriction on whether additional publication charges, for example that of color, figure, or page charges may also be covered. Charges for color, figures, or pages are not levied for publications in BioMed Central journals.
Meeting APC funding requirements
Authors should check that they are able to meet the funder’s requirements prior to submitting their article, including checking the policies of their chosen journal:
- Links to funder and institutional OA funding information are available on our funding and policy support page, along with summaries for several major funding bodies.
To find out more about BioMed Central policies on licensing and self-archiving, see our journal policy and indexing pages. In addition to the requirements attached to APC funding, many funders and institutions have open access policies that relate to all researchers affiliated with or in receipt of their research funding. For information on identifying open access policies and meeting requirements, read our OA policy FAQs.
Funders and institutions may place a cap on the amount of APC funding that they provide to authors. Common limits include caps on the amount available per publication, per project, or per author per year.
Some institutions or funders place limits on funding for publications in hybrid journals. These caps do not apply to BioMed Central journals which are all fully OA.
Certain organizations such as DFG will only provide APC funding if the full APC price charged by the journal is within a specified limit, while other organizations only provide funds up to a certain amount per article but will allow authors to ‘top up’ the APC payment from other sources.
Before applying for funding, authors should check whether the APC of the journal in which they plan to submit their article exceeds any pricing caps their funding may enforce.
Usually authors will not be eligible to obtain APC funding from an organization unless they are affiliated with or have received research funding from the organization in question. However, authors who do not personally have access to APC funding from an institution or research funder should consider whether co-authors may be eligible for funds from their institution or research funder.
See below for guidance on options for authors without access to APC funding sources.
Open access journals and publishers may have an APC waiver or discount programme to assist authors in financial need. Authors who have exhausted all potential sources of APC funding or do not have access to any funds should check the policies of their chosen journal and publisher for further information.
Learn about our APC waiver policy for authors submitting to BioMed Central journals.
BioMed Central authors who are struggling to identify potential sources of APC funding can also contact our free OA Funding Support Service for assistance.
How do I apply?
Application routes for APC funding vary by organization. In some cases no formal application is necessary, for example if authors are permitted to use unspent grant funds to pay APCs, or if an OA publication allocation is automatically added to all research grants. In many cases however, authors will be required to formally request APC funds, either by completing a dedicated application form, by contacting the fund administrators directly, or by including projected publication costs in the budget of their main research grant application. Check your funder or institution’s website for details of application processes, or contact our OA Funding and Policy Support Service for assistance.
When should I apply?
Authors should also check when they are required to make their application, as this will differ depending on the funder or institution’s workflows. Some organizations require that authors apply for APC funding prior to submitting their manuscript, while others require that an application is made once the manuscript has been accepted for publication, or after payment has been made (for reimbursement).
What information will I need?
As part of an APC funding application, authors may need to provide information about the journal and/or publisher, or a justification of the benefits of open access publication.
For BioMed Central journals, details of APC pricing license can be found within the journal pages listed here. Information on BioMed Central’s policies for OA licenses and other aspects of publication relating to open access can be found on the centralized policy and indexing pages.
If you have any feedback on these FAQs, including suggestions for further information on OA funding you would like to see, please let us know at OAsupport@springernature.com.