My manuscript has got accepted and published online as "in press" in an Elsevier journal. I noticed that it is an open access journal late after its acceptance. I have not signed any forms yet, but the "in press" manuscript is online. I cannot afford the cost and asked for a waiver. They declined my request. Can anybody recommend me what to do? What happens if I don't pay the fee? Will it affect my chances of future publications in other journals of the same publisher?

Please let me have your thoughts. Thanks

  • 4
    Will your employer pay the fee? Some will.
    – Buffy
    Oct 16, 2020 at 20:43
  • 1
    You probably accepted some kind of contract when submitting your manuscript. Have a look at the journal guidelines and agreements that you accepted.
    – Mark
    Oct 16, 2020 at 21:14
  • 1
    @Mark, implicit contracts are problematic. I doubt that there is any thing enforceable until you sign something. A submission is just an offer, not a contract.
    – Buffy
    Oct 16, 2020 at 21:41
  • @Buffy, no, they won't. The open access journals is a red line for them. Oct 17, 2020 at 3:30
  • 2
    It is very strange: usually there are some forms to sign before they can even start the publishing process. There may be some fine print on the journal web page saying something like "by submitting the paper, you agree to the following terms and conditions", of course (or even some "I agree" button that you might click without reading what you are agreeing to as most people do). You may want to check that to see to what extent the "contract" is enforceable. Unfortunately, I have no answer to your main question. Promaster1 may be right but that doesn't sound like a real threat, just nuisance.
    – fedja
    Oct 17, 2020 at 5:43

2 Answers 2


Can anybody recommend me what to do?

Apologize and retract the paper.

What happens if I don't pay the fee?

Your paper will not be published by this journal.

Will it affect my chances of future publications in other journals of the same publisher?

Probably not. I doubt they track this behavior. Many of Elsevier's journals are edited independently, and will not care about a mistake made in a different journal.

  • Why is this answer being downvoted?
    – JeffE
    Oct 18, 2020 at 15:27
  • @JeffE because the last part is dangerous - this kind of behavior can be tracked, and journals can also feel aggrieved since it's rather exploitative of their resources. If you were the editor/publisher of an open access journal, would you send a paper out for review knowing that the authors had earlier reneged on an implicit agreement to pay the APC?
    – Allure
    Oct 19, 2020 at 23:49
  • 1
    Rather than depublish the paper, it's more likely that they'll paywall it (unless this is a pure open access journal).
    – henning
    Jan 29, 2021 at 19:01
  • @henning--reinstateMonica The question is clear it is pure. Jan 29, 2021 at 23:45
  • 1
    Irrespective of weather the last part is true or not (the answer says "Probably"), there really is no other option than withdrawing the paper. Jan 30, 2021 at 11:39

Assuming you can't pay the fee, then you should make it clear to the journal that you can't pay the fee. What happens next is up to them. It's possible they will retract the article; it's also possible they will publish it anyway as a gesture of goodwill.

Will it affect your chances of future publications in other journals of the same publisher? It's possible. Modern editorial management systems are capable of tracking submissions by the same person, and the data can be shared between journals. The real question is whether the journal will take action. They are more likely to take action if they think you were being exploitative, and less likely if they think it was a genuine mistake. In the former scenario, the exploitative author submits to the journal knowing they will not publish there, but are making use of the journal's resources/time to get "free" peer review for their paper. It's similar to how taking up "free consultation" services with no intention of actually purchasing the service can be viewed as exploitative. To avoid looking exploitative, you should definitely say that you noticed the journal was open access too late.

  • "making use of the journal's resources/time to get "free" peer review for their paper." That's both an ineffective and an unethical way to improve your work. I doubt anyone has ever done that. Jun 2, 2021 at 5:09

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