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I am an undergraduate student in a private Indian university. Last semester I worked on a research project with another undergrad student and under the mentorship of a PhD scholar.

We have submitted a paper to an Elsevier journal which charges a mandatory open-access fee of $500 on acceptance of the paper. In such cases, does the university typically cover these costs or are they borne by the authors of the paper?

Which department of the university should I contact to ask for funding for the same?

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    Not an answer, but still important: This is something you should have found out before submitting the paper. – Tobias Kildetoft May 31 '18 at 6:24
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    @TobiasKildetoft I will take care of it next time. We had glossed over the open source access charges until we found out when submitting the paper. – shortstheory May 31 '18 at 6:26
  • Talk to the library also, some UK universities (at least) have allocated money for paying for open access in the library – Ander Biguri May 31 '18 at 8:39
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Talk to your professor who will know better than us. It's possible your professor has a grant that also has an open access component, in which case that's where the money will come from. It's also possible your university's library has set aside some funds for open access. Here's an example page from the University of Hull. If your university has something similar, you might be able to get funding from there.

If you find you don't have funding, you can pay the OA fee out of your own pocket (probably not a good idea even if you are wealthy), decline OA (if it's a hybrid journal which publishes both OA and non-OA papers), ask for a waiver (Elsevier might grant this since you are from India, which is a developing country), and finally withdraw and submit elsewhere. If you take the last option, do so quickly so as not to waste the journal's time.

  • You're right, it is an individual problem and can't be answered in general. Most of the contracts between universities and publishers are secret, a centralized database isn't there and it is impossible to anticipate the behavior of the individuals under such conditions. – Manuel Rodriguez May 31 '18 at 6:10
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    +1 "Ask for a waiver" – axsvl77 May 31 '18 at 10:17
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    Even if they don't waive it entirely, they may be able to work with you on a reduced rate that your department could more easily afford. – corsiKa May 31 '18 at 15:37
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    Just want to point out that the money that university libraries in the UK have to pay for OA comes from a RCUK block grant to pay for the publication of RCUK funded research and is UK specific and publications must be associated with an RCUK grant code. I guess there maybe major national funders in other countries that run similar schemes, but i've not heard of them. – Ian Sudbery Jun 1 '18 at 9:09
  • @IanSudbery there's also funding for e.g. researchers affiliated with the Max Planck society (mpdl.mpg.de/en/…), and Kansas State (lib.k-state.edu/publishing-fund) - one has to look to know. – Allure Jun 1 '18 at 9:39
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does the university typically cover these costs or are they borne by the authors of the paper?

This seems to be a false dichotomy — usually it is not an "either-or" (unless you submitted to an open access journal with a mandatory Open Access fee).

It might be possible that your university does not cover the Open Access fees of this journal. However, that doesn't mean you as authors have to or should pay. Many universities subscribe to journals in order to make sure their researchers and students have access to papers which are not Open Access.

In other words, even if you don't pay the Open Access fee, many if not most researchers will still have access to your work. (Looking at the journal page on Elsevier you can look at the list of Open Access papers in that journal — often it's a minority.)

In fact, you are probably allowed to "self-archive", i.e. upload a preprint to the arxiv, for example. That way your article is available to everyone freely (open access). Again, you are probably even allowed to update the content of the preprint to match the content of the published version.

Check with your journal for their policy on self-archiving — the database http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/search.php is also a useful resource.

  • @ASimpleAlgorithm I had already slightly edited my answer just before you posted your comment. "We have submitted a paper to an Elsevier journal which charges USD 500 for Open Access Fees on acceptance of the paper." doesn't say anything about whether the fee is required or not, so I left a comment on the question. – Earthliŋ May 31 '18 at 7:11
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No the university is not generally expected to cover publication fees just automatically. There are, commonly, a couple different mechanisms that are used to cover OA fees:

  1. Lab resources. Many labs, including my own, budget for some OA publication fees in grants, startup packages, intentions for unallocated funding, etc. This would be my first stop in your case - ask your professor.
  2. University resources. Sometimes the university has a pool of money set aside to pay OA fees where lab support is unavailable - usually for student projects and the like. This is often but not always done through the library, and is typically something you have to apply for (though the application might be fairly easy) and is not guaranteed
  3. University-Publisher partnerships. There are some journals that allow universities to pay a chunk of money and then have their researchers get either free or much reduced publication in a journal or bundle of journals.
  4. Waivers. If you genuinely don't have any other funding sources, you can ask the journal to waive the publication fees for an unfunded project. But generally, this needs to be genuinely unfunded, and not just "I forgot to budget for this".

Which one of these - or others - that are available to you will vary based on your particular institution.

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