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A while back, I (along with my collaborator) submitted an article for publication in an esteemed journal. A few weeks after the submission, I came to know that the journal is an open-access journal and, therefore, requires an APC charge if the article gets accepted.

After the first review report (which was in favor of publication), we mailed the editor to ask if the APC charge could be waived, considering that both of us are students and can not afford such a high value (considering the exchange rate between the countries). We didn't get any reply from the mail, so we paused the inquiry and submitted the revision to the article.

However, we are now worried that withdrawing would cause us a poor reputation and perhaps put us on a blacklist for the journal and its associates.

I would like some suggestions. What can we do? Shall we go along and wait for the second report to come and ask after acceptance whether there is a waiver or not? Or should we withdraw now since we don't have funds anyway? Or should I send a reminder to the editor? What if he says no?

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    You say "we paused the inquiry". What, exactly, does that do? It, potentially, makes it so the editor thinks you specifically know about and agreed to the APC, because you are no longer inquiring about it. The only legitimate thing to do is to contact the journal/editor and explicitly state something similar (and having all aspects of) "We recently became aware of your APC. Unfortunately, we are unable to pay the APC, because we are students. We request the APC be waved. If you, the journal, are unwilling to wave the APC, then the article we submitted is hereby respectfully withdrawn."
    – Makyen
    Dec 25, 2023 at 16:32
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    Ah, academia. The only place where content creators not only work tenfold to produce their content, but they have to PAY to get it published. Dec 26, 2023 at 19:29
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    @Makyen I meant, we didn't sent a reminder after the first mail for which we didn't get any reply. Dec 26, 2023 at 19:31

4 Answers 4

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A reputable journal would treat you fairly in the future, so I assume that isn't an issue.

If you haven't yet signed over copyright or given a license of your paper, then the journal can't refuse your withdrawal. They have no rights to the paper. They wont be happy, having spent some resources, but it happens often enough that it is a cost of business, not a cause for retribution.

In future, you should be more careful in researching venues for publication and understand the issues before you submit.

You should explain the situation to the editor, that you are unable to pay open-access fees and that if they can't be waived that you need to withdraw the article, with apologies.

Some journals will waive some charges in some circumstances. And, once you give a license (or copyright), the journal has those rights.

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    Ideally, OP should explain the situation to the editor now (rather than waiting for the reviews to come in), so that the editor can recall it from review if appropriate (i.e. if the journal will not waive the fee). It is not fair to let over-burdened reviewers work on something when their work might just get thrown away in the end.
    – Kevin
    Dec 26, 2023 at 0:06
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This won't reflect well on you, but it won't get you blacklisted either. You might get blacklisted if you confirm the APC (the journal will probably send you an "APC confirmation" before acceptance affirming what the APC should be), let the paper get accepted (even worse, published), and then tell them you can't pay. You've not reached that point yet, so it's not likely they blacklist.

In the meantime there's nothing to do but wait for a response from the journal. There's no need to withdraw until they say they won't waive the APC, and the onus is on them to not accept the paper while the APC is unresolved.

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"transfer" is an option! An editor may transfer a manuscript under review to a different journal for valid reasons, such as it being more appropriate, an I immagine they could also transfer it to one with a subscription model, without the need to withdraw.

But to answer the question, no you would absolutely not be blacklisted if you simply explain that you can't afford APCs.

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It is better to complete the entire submission process and strive for paper acceptance. I do not know if this is the case for you, some journals may implement a reduced fee policy for researchers from developing countries.

Reaching the acceptance stage and later encountering challenges with financing the fees is likely to be viewed more positively than preemptively withdrawing the paper due to fee constraints. This is because you will have completed all scientific inquiries requested by reviewers and the editor. Then, the rest is the administrative part of the editorial process.

It's improbable that journals maintain a blacklist policy. Nevertheless, it's important to recognize that editors are human. I've encountered instances where individuals, who may remember minor details, use their influence to impede the publication of papers presenting competing theories or literature. I don't believe this is the case in your situation.

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    IMO, this is, at best, disingenuous. They know now that they can't afford the APC. Continuing to proceed, without specifically informing the editor that they are unable/unwilling to pay, when they know that they can't/won't complete the process and pay, as explicitly told to them is part of the process, is, frankly, fraud, as they would be obtaining something of value, the reviews, through implicitly or explicitly giving false information (that they are willing/able to pay the APC, if accepted).
    – Makyen
    Dec 25, 2023 at 16:10
  • Well disingenuous or not, this is not important. However, I would not say fraud for this. Suppose that at the beginning you do not have any financial issues but in the meantime, you have. Then, why would it be a fraud? What is fraud is that a Springer or Elsevier journal which makes you pay a bunch of money for desk-rejecting your paper and without reimbursing you. What is fraud is that a journal does not pay either authors or reviewers. There is so much "free" stuff in academia. I do not see anything wrong in proceeding like this. Dec 25, 2023 at 17:00
  • The fact Springer, Elsevier etc. are profiting without paying authors or reviewers is sad but it's not these companies whose effort would be wasted here — it's the busy reviewers' effort... Dec 27, 2023 at 18:07
  • Can you elaborate why "will have completed all scientific inquiries requested by reviewers and the editor" will be viewed as positive? I don't see why the journal would prefer this — but it's good idea to tell the editor they'd be happy to go through the proccess if preferred, as the authors can certainly benefit from seeing the reviews. Dec 27, 2023 at 18:12

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