3 SPEC Kit 353: Funding Article Processing Charges
noteworthy that the majority of respondents to this survey have either discontinued an APC fund (18%)
or have no plans to implement one (44%). The number of APC-supporting institutional funds can also
be counted on the Open Access Directory or the websites of OA journals that list funds as a service to
authors. For example, Springer Nature lists 69 institutional funds in North America (55 in the U.S. and 14
in Canada http://www.nature.com/openresearch/funding/).
Of the 36 libraries that currently have or formerly had an APC fund, a majority (58%) began
with a pilot project. Pilots ran from four months to four years with two years being the most common
timeframe. The earliest APC fund began in 2005 and the most recently established fund is less than one
year old. Twenty-nine of these funds (81%) were started within the last six years.
An overwhelming majority of respondents (31 or 86%) collect or archive the articles they fund for
the institutional repository (typically a requirement of receiving funding). From respondents’ comments,
it appears that library staff usually follow up to make sure articles are deposited.
Financing APCs
Despite the fact that APC funds have existed for over ten years, libraries struggle to determine
appropriate funding models or are still evaluating whether to even establish such a fund. Of the 36
libraries with an existing or discontinued fund, all but one contributed money from the library budget.
Over half of these libraries also received some external funding, typically from the provost or research
office. Two libraries used gift money to start their funds, and two received seed money from their
consortia. In 2014, a global survey of libraries found that 70% were drawing funds from their materials
budget, while 24% had some external funding to support APCs.4
We asked respondents for their FY16 fund allocation (in USD). For discontinued funds, they
reported the allocation for the last fiscal year the fund was in operation. Allocations vary widely—from
$15,000 to over $260,000. The median fund is $40,000. Half the libraries responded that funding levels
for FY16 are about the same as the previous year. Most libraries with an existing fund have allocated
about the same amount for FY17. However, one library increased its allocation by 57%, and one decreased
its by 50% due to lack of support from campus partners. None of the reporting libraries are adding staff to
handle any increases in APC funding requests. Four libraries submitted position descriptions and half of
those specifically mention that a scholarly communication librarian is responsible for managing the OA
fund, among other duties.
Respondents reported receiving requests to fund APCs as low as $74 and as high as $5200.
The libraries did not necessarily cover the entire amount for higher fees, however. The two libraries
that reported the highest APCs have a per-article funding cap well below that amount. No library paid
more than $3000 per APC authors had to make up the balance from other funds. The annual limit
on reimbursement to individual authors ranges from $1000 to $5000, though all but two of the 27
responding libraries set the cap at $3000 or less (nine have a cap of $2000 or less).
Twenty-seven respondents (90%) reported that requests to fund APCs are sometimes denied,
most often due to policies or practices that exclude hybrid OA journals or because authors have other
sources of funding. Other reasons for denying requests included the article being accepted by what the
funding authority deemed to be a “substandard” journal, lack of funds, or because co-authors were at
other institutions.
Providing adequate funding for APCs is the biggest challenge for most libraries. Lack of financial
resources drove numerous policy changes, including discontinuing the APC fund. A plethora of requests
caused 49% of the surveyed institutions to reduce funding for authors, either by reducing the amount
paid per article, placing a cap on individual reimbursement, or both. In other cases, funds no longer
accepted applications for hybrid journal APCs.
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