As a person from a developing country, we (most of the times) do not have funding to pay for publishing papers. As more and more journals in the field (neuroimaging) become open-access, I find myself with reduced publication opportunities in journals which are widely read (for example, NeuroImage).

In the last open-access journal submission, in our initial cover letter to the Editor-in-Chief (EiC), we mentioned that we would like a full or a partial waiver on the publication charges. The paper went through three rounds of revision and then got accepted but the EiC/Journal did not reply to our query on whether a waiver was granted. Eventually after many email reminders (and an unnecessary two month delay), the journal granted us a full waiver and the paper got published.

My questions are:

  1. Is there a way to check about the possibility of a waiver before sending the paper? I mean it would be a difficult situation for everyone if the paper is accepted but we can't afford to pay the money! However, pre-submission inquiries are not meant for this

  2. This is likely journal and EiC dependent but is this sort of behaviour acceptable? I mean if the journal is open-access, doesn't it automatically imply that folks who cannot pay shouldn't approach the journal?

  3. What are the factors that decide whether such a waiver request is granted? Track history of publication in that journal? Having a good reputation in the field?

  4. What about the repeatability aspect of waivers? For example, would it be exploitative to send papers to the journal which was kind enough to give us a waiver once?

Side note: I am from India. Until recently, India was usually on the list of countries where the journal automatically provided (at least) 50% waiver; India is no longer on that list

Related questions:

  • I suspect that a query prior to submission would be fruitless. The value to them of forgiving fees might well depend on the quality of the paper.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 19:32
  • To elaborate on Buffy's point, editors' and reviewers' work is as at least as precious to the journal as money. To reject a paper because the authors can't pay, after having invested all that work in it, would be painful to the journal. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 7:36
  • 1
    @Buffy and SylvainRibault seem to be making opposite points. I would think (as Sylvain suggests) that the journal would be happy to tell you about a waiver beforehand in order to avoid wasting their own time (as well as yours). Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


Answering your questions in order from my perspective of working in an editorial capacity at an academic journal:

  1. Generally fee waivers are list on the journal site, or the publishers site. Failing that, if that information isn't listed, you could write to the journal's Editorial Office or Editor in Chief and ask about a fee waiver. In my experience this could be a kind of pre-submission inquiry – it's a little bit of pre-sub inquiry as well as a policy inquiry.
  2. From my experience, it sounds like the EIC and/or Editorial Office wasn't responsive to your initial letter, which was an issue on their part. I would say that unfortunately these mistakes happen on the editorial side. Perhaps going forward I might pause submission of a revision until the fee waiver was confirmed, to make it more straightforward on everyone.
  3. Generally there is a limited quantity of fee waivers, and if such waivers are used up for the quarter/year, a journal cannot grant any more. While certain journals may have their own policies, fee waivers should not be determined by previous publication or by your reputation in the field. If so, I would recommend finding another journal that grants them as an allotment or on a case by case basis (based on a request and description of circumstances that prevent someone being able to pay the fee).
  4. I don't think repeatability is a red flag or exploitative if done in moderation. If waiver requests are submitted 2 times per year? That seems reasonable. Two times per month or more? That would be cause for additional evaluation about distribution of resources.
  • Thank you for your answer and insight! I wonder how an editor would make a decision about the possibility of a waive, if one sends a pre-submission enquiry (without having read the paper). Perhaps a tentative go-ahead is what one would get in these cases?
    – stuckstat
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 7:00

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