Mark Ware Consulting has been commissioned by Knowledge Exchange (www.knowledge-exchange.info), a partnership of JISC (UK), SURF (Netherlands), DEFF (Denmark) and DfG (Germany), to conduct a study into the feasibility of submission fees in open access journals (i.e. as distinct from publication fees).
An open access business model based on submission charges could have real advantages over OA based (solely) on publication charges. For example, at present and under gold OA, authors have an incentive to submit their paper to an unrealistically prestigious journal or conference, since there is no cost to them, their paper might be accepted, and even if it is not, they will receive good feedback from senior reviewers. They can then re-submit the paper to less and less prestigious journals or conferences until it is accepted. There is little cost to them but great cost to the wider scholarly communications community. An approach based on submission charges may also introduce a greater level of competition into the scholarly communication domain by more closely relating payments to services provided. It might also provide a better OA model for high-rejection-rate journals where otherwise the publication charge has to cover the costs of peer review of all the rejected papers.
There may be, however, risks in a model based on submission charges, for example funders may find it difficult to develop an acceptable mechanism to limit the payments they are called on to make. For their part, publishers may be reluctant to deter potential authors by introducing a fee not required by their competitors.
There has been some discussion of this model in the past, for instance in the Wellcome Trust 2004 report Costs and business models in scientific research publishing, while in October last year Gavin Baker raised the topic on his blog post Submission fees: a means of defraying costs for OA journals?, and more recently there was some discussion on the liblicense listserv.
The study will involve reviewing the literature and looking at the past experience of journals using submission charges, and then exploring possible models and testing these through consultation with major stakeholders including research funders, publishers, libraries and infrastructure providers, universities and researchers (as editors, peer reviewers, readers and authors).
At this stage we would be very pleased to hear from anyone with an interest in this topic.