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Chapter 3/4

Understanding the cost of Open Access

Understanding the different requirements and the specific terms of a grant is certainly no cakewalk. 

This third chapter focuses on funder requirements to make sure that you, as a researcher, avoid the risk of running straight into a dead-end street due to compliance issues and eligibility confusion.

The Funder Role

What role does the funder play in the context of research? An essential question. They issue grants and they pay money to cover research projects and the different aspects of it. 

This includes, for instance, salaries, supplies, research equipment, travel expenses, as well as charges that are involved with the research actually getting published – and, in the context of Open Access, the charge referred to is the article processing charge as discussed in chapter two in this guide.

One of the prominent issues with publicly funded money in open access publishing is that funders pay quite a large chunk of money to researchers, but still, a lot of research is not being published open access which means that funded money is still contributing to the research being locked up. 

That’s an issue because a lot of funders want research to be openly available so everyone can benefit from it and not be locked behind a paywall.

So, in 2018, cOAlition S was formed – a group of funders that began developing and agreeing on the next steps to help move the open access transition along a bit faster and drive the perspective that research should be published open access or archived straight away.

Understanding the Basics

An important aspect to bear in mind when looking at different funder policies is the versions of articles.

Three versions come into play – the submitted version, which is the one the author has submitted to the publisher, the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM), which is the version as it has been accepted, and the Version of Record (VoR) being the final published version. 

There are also a number of different roles that the researcher might come across when publishing. 

The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for the research grant and is likely also the primary grantee holder. The grantee is the person who has applied for the grant and successfully received research funding. Finally, there’s the Grant ID/Project ID, which refers to the ID number that the funder gives a grant which also links to the researcher / grantee.

Sample Policies

Naturally, funder policies are subject to the individual funder – depending on the open access policy in question, the requirements can be quite different, for instance, in terms of what the funder agrees to pay for. That said, what can one open access funder policy look like?

Let’s take the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) as an example. Essentially, all research published as a result of FNR-funded research must be published open access. 

To this, there are two ways for the author to meet the open access requirements. The first route is by depositing the publication in an online repository, which is the green route, immediately or after the publisher’s embargo period ends. 

The second route is to make the article available open access immediately by publishing in a hybrid or gold journal. All articles published via this route must have a CC BY license. It’s important to remember that even though a researcher’s published article isn’t funded by FNR, the author still needs to be sure that it has a CC BY license if it’s published in a gold or a hybrid journal.

To publish in one of those journals, it’s likely that the author will have to pay an article processing charge, also known as the APC – as an author, you can apply for money to fund this, according to a set of criteria.

So, in terms of APC funding, FNR will pay towards the two models: gold and hybrid journals, as said. They have a maximum APC funding of 2,500 Euros for gold journals and 1,500 Euros for hybrid journals. The article must be published immediately open access with no embargo, the author must acknowledge FNR in the grant number, and the grant must be given after January 1, 2017.

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has quite a similar open access policy. However, while SNSF also allow open access to be achieved via gold or hybrid routes, they have a delayed green route where it’s required that the embargo period is no more than six months for articles and twelve months for books and chapters. 

Unlike FNR, they only pay for APCs for gold journals that are in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). There is a maximum APC funding limit, but amounts that exceed the cap can be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

One of most common concerns we hear is “Why won’t my funder cover the APC?” –  an understandably frustrating situation that can originate from multiple reasons.

The answer is that it differs from funder to funder. The most common reasons can be that the wrong license has been applied, that the journal type isn’t eligible for payment by the funder, that the article is compliant with the open access policy but not eligible for APC funding, that there are additional charges on the invoice which the APC doesn’t cover, or that the embargo period is longer than what the funder requires.

Surely, there’s a lot to keep track of as an author when facing a funder. With all of these rules, it’s worth reaching out to the administrators at your university as they often help researchers navigate and manage this and they can also check with publishers if there are additional charges to be covered



Check what you’re allowed to do with an article (archiving). It also includes special conditions for authors funded by certain funders:


Check their list if 17,000 fully open access journals:


Has 43,000+ journals where you can filter by journal type and other criteria, and it includes information about archiving options.

Transformative Agreements


A transformative agreement (also referred to as a transitional agreement) covers a contract negotiated between institutions such as libraries or national and regional consortia, and publishers, that aims to reshape the business model, shifting away from traditional subscription models of pay to read to pay to publish, and transitioning toward reducing the cost to access the journal’s content over time. 

Open Access is a key objective for negotiating transformative agreements.

A transformative agreement is one type of open access agreement. Another type of open access agreement is a Read & Publish agreement. While these also aim to cover the cost of reading and publishing in one agreement, not all Read & Publish agreements are transformative or transitional in nature, if they do not aim to shift the cost from accessing to reading over time. 

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