I am interested to know the cost of publishing an academic article. I do not mean in the simple sense of "what does a given journal charge an author to publish?" or "what does an association or publisher charge a library for access to the journal?"

Instead, I want to know the actual costs of translating a manuscript into a final publication (for web or print). This matters for open science - and open access specifically - because there is an enormous amount of debate about the financing models for open access journals. The two dominant models are one where the end-user pays (library, reader, etc.), which is often seen as antithetical to open science, and one where the author pays a fee after manuscript acceptance. Neither the charges paid by libraries nor the charges paid by authors necessarily illustrate the true cost of publishing an article (due to "prestige", between-publisher variation, profit margins, journal bundling, discounts, etc.).

So, what is the actual cost? And what are components of that cost (e.g., copyediting, typesetting, server space and internet bandwidth, etc.)? In short, if an author (or someone else) were to express academic publishing costs on a per-article basis, what would that number be?

12 Answers 12


Ubiquity Press breaks down their £300 ($500) APC as follows:

Ubiquity Press' graphic showing breakdown of their APC. © Ubiquity Press

  • 38% indirect costs for things not related to the publishing of a single paper but which are needed for the business (£114 or $190)
  • 34% covers editorial and production aspects, which appears to be the costs associated with producing the paper, managing submissions, responding to authors, preparing proofs, typesetting, XML etc. (£102 or $170)
  • 16% is a waiver premium charged so they can offer 0 or low APCs to people who genuinely cannot pay (£48 or $80)
  • 8% is used to pay for indexing, archival (in case they go bust), DOI etc (£24 or $40)
  • 4% goes towards costs of billing you and taking payment (£12 or $20)

Depending on what you consider to be the actual publishing costs (here probably the 34% editorial & production costs + 8% Indexing & Archiving) you would be looking at ~ £126 or $210.

Ubiquity don't break their indirect costs down into server/platform costs; this all goes into the 38% indirect cost column.

  • 15
    This is excellent. I'm now left to ponder why APC's at general, high-profile journals (Science, PLoS, etc.) tend to fall in the $1000-$5000 range.
    – Thomas
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 20:40
  • 10
    @Thomas a combination of very high profit margins for the major publishers (30-40%+, higher than almost every other industry) and systematic incompetence and inefficiency. PLoS is a little different: they charge more in order to invest heavily in outreach, campaigning, and waiving fees for those who can't afford them.
    – Richard Smith-Unna
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 19:37
  • 12
    Is it ever written explicitly that those percentages sum up to £300? From what they write, they could sum up to £1, and the other £299 is their profit. Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:31
  • 3
    According to this breakdown the publisher makes zero profit. Hard to believe. Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 15:40
  • 3
    @henning well the linked website says "Our fees are fully transparent - you can trust us that every penny goes towards providing a high quality, sustainable publishing service, and not towards sky-high publisher profits." So perhaps, as Gavin says, they reinvest all their profits in the company. In the US this would mean they could potentially attain non-profit status like university presses. But they are British so perhaps they are unable or there is no value in it, since they never actually use the term. Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 3:31

I know this doesn't refer strictly to the final version of a paper, but the arXiv pre-print server provides a useful bit of information to contribute to this discussion. According to its website, it receives around 76,000 publications per year. Its operating costs are on the order of $826,000 per year.

You do the maths, and it comes to just over $10/article/year. This is without any of the bells and whistles that come with traditional publishing, but provides a nice baseline estimate of what it takes to publish a research article online.


It depends to an extent on how technically-savvy the author community is, and thus what services they need or do not need to be done for them.

For computer science journals, the cost of production is extremely low because authors can typically be expected to do their own typesetting.

An efficient, peer-reviewed, top quality journal can thus be run at a cost of just $6.50 per paper. There is an excellent, detailed breakdown of this figure given by Stuart Shieber about the Journal of Machine Learning Research (JMLR) here.

  • 9
    Might be illuminating to get the perspective of the Journal of Statistical Software which has been running out UCLA for well over a decade. AFAIK main cost was a RA running the editorial desk plus custom programming. But JSS is about to move ...
    – Dirk Eddelbuettel
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 21:33
  • I agree, that would be very illuminating. The more data from a variety of journals and disciplines the better!
    – rmounce
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 13:29

The closest thing that I was aware of (before reading the other answers - thanks for these) was a report about SciELO. It states that, for Brazilian journals within their portfolio, it costs about USD 200-600 per article from submission via peer review and publication to dissemination and archiving.

It also gives a more detailed breakdown:

Considering the overall operation of the SciELO Brazilian collection, including the costs related to technical co-operation for the development and interoperation of the other national and thematic collections, the online up-to-date publication of the entire collection averages about US$90 per each new article. This estimate includes the actual publishing of the new article ($56 per article, or 62% of the total cost); the operation of the SciELO network portal ($4.20, or 5%), which provides access and retrieval to all of the collections, journals, and articles; SciELO governance, management, and technical co-operation ($2.90, or 3%); the development and maintenance of the technological platform ($22.70, or 25%); and the marketing, dissemination, and expansion of the network ($4.20, or 5%). Alternatively, if the complete editorial flow, from the reception of manuscripts, the peer-review process, editing, and the online SciELO publication, is taken into account, the total cost for each new SciELO Brazilian collection article is estimated to be between US$200 and $600.


The cheapest journals are typically those controlled directly by academics themselves, although they're not necessarily the most efficient.

There is now (2019) a more comprehensive study of the costs by Alexander Grossmann and Björn Brembs​:

Here we provide a granular, step-by-step calculation of the costs associated with publishing primary research articles, from submission, through peer-review, to publication, indexing and archiving. We find that these costs range from less than US$200 per article in modern, large scale publishing platforms using post-publication peer-review, to about US$1,000 per article in prestigious journals with rejection rates exceeding 90%. The publication costs for a representative scholarly article today come to lie at around US$400. We discuss the additional non-publication items that make up the difference between publication costs and final price.

Another article from a while ago, Roger Clarke (2007), finds that for-profit publishers spend thousands of dollars per article on functions which a fully open access and non-profit journal doesn't need or want:

For–profit publishers have higher cost [...] much greater investment in branding, customer relationship management and content protection. [...] a computed per–article cost of US$3,400 compared with US$730 [for non-profit electronic journal].

However, prominent open science advocate Martin Paul Eve warns about The Problems of Unit Costs Per Article.

The problems are well illustrated by the very transparent article by eLife (2020), eLife Latest: The costs of publishing, which shows the differences between fixed and variable costs and the relationship with acceptance rate. Mind you, eLife is a very particular case because of its high selectivity and expensive ways of functioning, for instance it shells out hundreds of dollars to editors and reviewers (on average by published article, so less than half that for each reviewed article).

My own older summary follows.

Some universities run their own OJS instances, either in house or with some external contractors. Hosting often relies on existing infrastructure and staff time is often borrowed from employees the institution already has, so the costs are rarely easy to calculate, but we can figure out the order of magnitude.

For example, take the University of Bologna and the University of Milano: they publish 28 and 23 journals respectively (mostly in humanities), for a total of over 400 and over 600 articles per year respectively (according to DOAJ). For context, this size is comparable to top 15 publishers of OA Italian publications, where the biggest pure OA publisher has around 600 articles per year and the others vary between 500 and 2000.

They're both run with approximately 1 FTE "reserved" employee or less, as far as I know, which costs around 30 k€/year considering the national contract and pension contributions. Additionally they spend a few thousands euro/year on technical support. Even if you triple that amount to account for inefficiencies and unstated costs, that gives you less than 200 €/article in costs. Of course it's just an example for their case.

Some other publishers (typically public research entities or consortia) are transparent enough that we know their costs to provide certain services. See for instance:


"The Cost of Publishing an Electronic Journal" is an old article, but it is still worth a read.

In short: with 5 papers per issue, the cost per paper is around 1000$, for a law journal.

By comment: the price is probably lower for fields where authors are using latex or similar text processing tools.

  • 3
    Can you include more of the relevant information from the article, such as the cost breakdown?
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 14:34
  • 2
    Adjusting for inflation, that's 1500 USD today. The paper considers 2 to 5 articles per issue typical -- different from most other disciplines. Commented May 3, 2018 at 7:24
  • 1
    Why does the number of papers per issue make any difference to electronic journals? (for that matter, what does "issue" even mean...)
    – Flyto
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 14:43

Most of these answers deal with small jounrals. Most "glam" journals are much more tight-lipped about where all your money goes.

However, eLife (which aims to be glam publication) has had a go at this here and here.

They divide their costs into "technology and innovation" (22%) and "publishing costs" (78%). They further divide "publishing costs" into fixed and marginal (i.e. per article), and claim that per-article costs are £1,798. They claim that their APC covers only the per-article part of their costs, with the rest coming from the institutional funders (Wellcome Trust, Howard Hughes, Max Planck).

Of this about they say about 50% goes on paying editors. eLife is unusual in that not only do they pay their full time editorial staff, but they also pay 39 senior academic editors and 300 reviewing editors for their time (or actually I suspect they buy that time off their employers). This is about 18hrs per article of a professor level editors time I reckon. Seems generous even if that's 1 hour of a full time editor, 2 hours of a senior academic editor and 15hrs of a reviewing editor.

Then there is "Staff and outsourcing" being non-editorial staff "involved in handling submissions and published articles, and outsourced service providers" at about £350. If they publish 1,400 articles a year, I reckon this works out at about 10 full time staff on a postdoc type salary.

Finally there is "online platforms" and "fee collection and waivers". Each at just over £300.

These numbers are all approximate because I'm putting together stuff from two different articles, dealing with two different years and in some cases estimating from graphs.


Schloss Dagstuhl Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik publishes several open-access computer science conference proceedings, mostly through their LIPIcs imprint. LIPIcs charges a publication fee of 60 (sixty) EUR per published paper, all of which is used to defray Dagstuhl's direct costs. (Other Dagstuhl imprints charge similar publication fees.)

By far the most significant cost is the human labor of copy-editing and assembling complete proceedings. (Most of the actual typesetting is done by authors using Dagstuhl's latex templates; however, Dagstuhl staff do edit each paper to enforce their strict formatting guidelines. Similarly, the work of assembling proceedings is split between Dagstuhl and the conference organization.) Smaller costs include DOI acquisition, metadata extraction/maintenance, archiving, and server maintenance. Dagstuhl's publications are also permanently archived by the German National Library.

In reference to @Allure's rather dismissive answer, Dagstuhl does not publish anything on paper; they do significant marketing (compared to competing conference publishers like ACM, IEEE, or Springer); they "attend conferences" only in the sense that its scientific members are themselves active researchers; they use their own document management system (which was developed over many years with the support of European research grants); they do not do plagiarism checks (in part because program committees and reviewers already do that themselves); and they leave the actual content of proceedings (but not the formatting) entirely up to the conference organization. As usual in computer science, all substantive editorial work is done by volunteers.

Notably, LIPIcs does not charge their small publication fee to authors, but rather to conferences, where they are typically covered by registration fees. Conferences have to apply to publish their proceedings through LIPIcs, and their acceptance is decided by the volunteer editorial board, based primarily on the likely quality, impact, and longevity of the conference.

Dagstuhl's primary activity of hosting research workshops (again, largely organized by volunteers) makes significant/expensive marketing unnecessary. Dagstuhl doesn't have to advertise to the research community, because the research community already comes to them.

When LIPIcs was established, these publication costs were heavily subsidised by Dagstuhl's general fund, which primarily comes from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. In 2015, Dagstuhl was informed by their primary funding agency that their general fund could no longer be used to support publishing activities, because EU regulations forbid government interference in the private publishing market. So I believe the 60EUR fee is an accurate reflection of Dagstuhl's actual per-paper publication costs.

  • 2
    This could very well be accurate, but for conference proceedings only. I never dealt with CS proceedings, but in physics, they were really easy to handle because the papers just came to me and I didn't need to do anything other than produce them. In fact management actively encouraged us not to spend time on them because 1) tight deadline and 2) sales are going to be poor anyway. When you write "they "attend conferences" only in the sense that its scientific members are themselves active researchers" that's a sign that the publisher's staff aren't attending, as well.
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 21:09
  • 1
    Again, you're being unnecessarily dismissive. In computer science, conference proceedings are far more important than (dare I say "mere"?) journal articles. In particular, papers at strong conferences are reviewed by multiple peers, sometimes more strictly than journal articles. ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery, the primary professional society for computer science) makes a majority of its publication income from proceedings.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 0:46
  • 2
    I don't see how this is being unnecessarily dismissive. We're looking at this from the eyes of the publisher's costs, in which case the details of the peer review process aren't really relevant. The point is that when you handle a proceedings, you don't have to do anything except produce the book (you don't even have to market it, because the contract typically includes a bulk purchase). With journals this isn't the case - unless you are a top journal, you have to market the journal to keep getting new submissions, you have to pay for the EMS, etc.
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 1:15
  • 1
    In the same way the cost to produce an individual article in a review volume isn't the same as the cost to produce an individual article in a journal (at least this is the case for physics). Review volume articles tend to be more expensive than proceedings, because they take more effort. Regardless of how much time the publisher spends on proceedings for example, they're still not going to sell more than a handful of copies outside of the bulk purchase, but that's not the case for review volumes (which typically don't have a bulk purchase either).
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 1:17
  • 1
    Finally if the publisher's staff attend conferences, they'd usually do things like set up booths, talk to authors/reviewers/editorial board members, acquire new projects, and so on. Example from Springer attending the American Physical Society meeting: blogs.springeropen.com/springeropen/2018/02/28/…
    – Allure
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 1:19

In June 2019, the editorial team at the Journal of Open Source Software calculated that their total costs were just $2.75 per published article. However, they acknowledged that they'd got certain services, and certain items of fixed capital for free, for which most journals have to pay. They went on to construct an estimate of what their total costs would be if they had to pay the typical rate for those items, and came up with $140 per published article.


As one might expect, the price of publishing depends on how good a job the publisher wants to do.

The absolute minimum is around a few tens of dollars. This means the publisher passes copyediting and typesetting to the author, they don't do marketing, they don't attend conferences, they use Open Journal Systems (a free editorial management system that's rather less powerful and difficult to use compared to commercial ones), they don't do plagiarism checks, they leave running the journal entirely up to the editorial board, and so on. By "leave running the journal entirely up to the editorial board", I mean that they passively wait for instructions from the board and don't do anything on their own initiative. If you see a journal whose website looks like it hasn't been updated in years, that's an example. The publisher's staff-to-journal ratio is very low (or they simply don't have as motivated/confident/educated journal staff).

Including all of the above, the minimum increases to ~$500, still with wide uncertainties because a lot depends on human costs. If a publisher is based in a country like India for example, they can have significantly lower production costs than if they're based in the UK. The UK publisher can still outsource production to India, but they also have to pay their employees in the UK which is usually significantly more expensive than if they had been located in India. Acquisition costs is another big question mark, since again it depends on how good a job you want to do. Having PhD scientists as editorial staff (e.g. Physical Review Letters) makes things a lot more expensive.

I can't easily provide a source for this since it's based on my experience working in publishing. Still, you can get an indirect indication from article processing charges in open access journals. The absolute lowest non-zero APCs are a few tens of dollars (mostly coming from predatory OA publishers). Among non-predatory publishers the lowest APCs are a few hundred dollars. Ubiquity Press is such a publisher. When I visited them a few years ago they seemed to be taking the middle road, doing all the basic stuff but not doing the more expensive top end.

Note this excludes journals with $0 APCs. Journals that charge nothing generally have external funding. Depending on how much funding that is, they might be able to perform any or all of the activities described above.

  • Less powerful than which commercial software exactly?
    – Nemo
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 6:22
  • 7
    "Leave running the journal entirely up to the editorial board" is a feature, not a bug.
    – Nemo
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 6:27
  • 2
    Also, I agree on the first line. But for the rest you should at least check that it cannot be easily proven false. Publishers of APC-free open access journals exist, which also take care of marketing etc. The cost is often known. See for instance Open Library of Humanities (OLH): blogs.openaire.eu/?p=2940
    – Nemo
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 6:27
  • @Nemo such as Editorial Manager, which is more powerful than OJS (last I checked). Leaving a journal entirely to the editorial board is in my opinion a bad thing. Of course the publisher does not interfere directly with peer review, but there's also things like choosing which articles to feature on the journal's website, writing editorials, and find topics on for invited reviews. One can leave all these to the editorial board (and risk the editorial board doing nothing) or actively move them along.
    – Allure
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 6:49
  • 1
    +1 If you see a journal whose website looks like it hasn't been updated in years
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 13:43

I'm adding another answer because it's fundamentally different from the one I wrote above. All numbers sourced from this article. Note it dates from 2013; the absolute numbers are likely to have changed since.

tl; dr: it is a complex question. Here are some of the most relevant quotes.

First paragraph:

Data from the consulting firm Outsell in Burlingame, California, suggest that the science-publishing industry generated $9.4 billion in revenue in 2011 and published around 1.8 million English-language articles — an average revenue per article of roughly $5,000. Analysts estimate profit margins at 20–30% for the industry, so the average cost to the publisher of producing an article is likely to be around $3,500–4,000.

Second paragraph:

Neither PLoS nor BioMed Central [Ed: these were the largest OA publishers at the time the article was written] would discuss actual costs (although both organizations are profitable as a whole), but some emerging players who did reveal them for this article say that their real internal costs are extremely low. Paul Peters, president of the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association and chief strategy officer at the open-access publisher Hindawi in Cairo, says that last year, his group published 22,000 articles at a cost of $290 per article. Brian Hole, founder and director of the researcher-led Ubiquity Press in London, says that average costs are £200 (US$300). And Binfield says that PeerJ's costs are in the “low hundreds of dollars” per article.

Third paragraph:

The few numbers that are available show that costs vary widely in this sector, too. For example, Diane Sullenberger, executive editor for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, says that the journal would need to charge about $3,700 per paper to cover costs if it went open-access. But Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature, estimates his journal's internal costs at £20,000–30,000 ($30,000–40,000) per paper. Many publishers say they cannot estimate what their per-paper costs are because article publishing is entangled with other activities. (Science, for example, says that it cannot break down its per-paper costs; and that subscriptions also pay for activities of the journal's society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC.)

The article gives some details as to why the numbers are so different (two orders of magnitude between Hindawi/Ubiquity and Nature), but that's beyond the scope of the question. For the interested, I suggest reading the article.


SciPost publishes several entirely free journals (free for authors and readers) in the sciences and mathematics with open refereeing. (See also this question.) In their own words, the business model is

We don't charge authors, we don't charge readers, we don't send bills to anybody for our services, and we certainly don't make any profit; we are an academic community service surviving on donations coming primarily from Organizations which benefit from our activities.

They also take an entirely transparent approach, and provide statistics about the average publication expenditure per article. The current expenditure per publication in their largest journal (SciPost Physics) is currently around €600-€640 (up from €440 in 2019).

They don't quite provide the breakdown of what that expenditure entails. But, as can be seen from e.g. the 2018 Annual Report, the main operation costs are salaries paying for editorial administration (supervising refereeing and production processes) and the production of paper proofs.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .