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The Open Access rising tide: Gates Foundation ends support to Article Processing Charges

For Björn Brembs and Luke Drury, the recent announcement by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of their new Open Access Policy signals a growing consensus regarding the imperative to transform the scholarly publishing landscape.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has recently announced their new Open Access Policy. Three key points stand out: 

  • Discontinuation of Article Processing Charges (APCs); 
  • Mandatory posting of grantees’ work as preprints; 
  • Commitment to providing assistance for open science infrastructure. 

These policy changes are warmly welcomed and reflect a growing consensus in academia.  

The scholarly community has long recognized that a stratified journal landscape based on publishing fees (Article Processing Charges, APCs), which privileges only the wealthiest institutions or scholars with access to high-ranking journals, would exacerbate the inequalities and issues stemming from the commercialization of academic publishing. This model also perpetuates an antiquated mode of scholarly communication that fails to fully embrace the reality and potential of our digital world.  

One promising approach to address these challenges is post-publication peer review of preprints. Preprint servers are increasingly becoming normalized as primary publication venues, reflecting the expectations of open science values such as concurrent data sharing and highlighting the necessity to rethink the peer review process.  

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in the US was among the first to call for a shift away from traditional journals towards preprint-based publishing platforms, advocating for a peer-review process that is “transparent, journal-agnostic and consultative.” Similarly, a group of scholarly experts suggested to “replace academic journals” with modern digital infrastructures. 

A significant milestone occurred when the Council of EU science ministers also concluded that, to tackle the vendor lock-in preventing equitable scholarly publishing, they would “encourage Member States and the EU Commission to invest in and foster interoperable, not-for-profit infrastructures for publishing based on open-source software and open standards.”  

On the same day, ten major scholarly organizations issued a common press release in support of the science ministers’ conclusions. The International Science Council reached similar conclusions when advocating for the reform of scientific publishing. Around the same time, a coalition of funding agencies, including the Gates Foundation, known as cOAlition S, launched their own initiative, “towards responsible publishing.”

The Case for Reform of Scientific Publishing

This discussion paper has been developed by International Science Council as part of the Council’s Future of Publishing project and is a companion piece to the “Key Principles for Scientific Publishing” paper.

After decades of grappling with various challenges, it seems that the scholarly community has finally reached a consensus. Expert after expert, institution after institution, organization after organization, and funder after funder, all are converging to the inevitable conclusion that a federated institutional infrastructure needs to supersede the longstanding dominance of for-profit journals and the multinational surveillance conglomerates that own them. It is both reassuring and gratifying to see the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation add their voice to the chorus and align their Open Access policy with this growing consensus. 


Björn Brembs, Professor, Neurogenetics, Universität Regensburg, Germany 
Luke Drury, Professor Emeritus, School of Cosmic Physics – Astronomy & Astrophysics Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

The information, opinions and recommendations presented in this article are those of the individual contributor/s, and do not necessarily reflect the values and beliefs of the International Science Council.

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Picture by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

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