On Tuesday, Nature released the terms of its open access agreement, which goes into effect in 2021, for researchers submitting papers to Nature as well as to 32 other journals associated with the brand.

If the story sounds familiar, you may recall that in late October, Nature inked a similar agreement with Germany’s Max Planck Digital Library in Munich. That contract, which also goes into effect in January, is being offered to 120 German institutions that subscribe to Nature properties. Organizations that sign up will pay a lump sum of €9,500 (US$11,200) to publish, which covers OA costs in Nature’s 34 journals and provides access to papers in 21 Nature Reviews titles, making the research free to read.

Tuesday’s announcement is different, as it reveals the options for any author who would like to publish ‘Gold OA’.

But like the German agreement, there is a steep price tag attached, with authors paying €9500 to participate.


Nature has also unveiled a trial ‘scheme’ called Guided OA, involving six journals. If authors present their paper and pass screening, they pay a non-refundable fee of €2,190, which covers editorial oversight and the peer-review process. They are then provided with a “detailed editorial evaluation.”

But this doesn’t mean the paper is accepted, and the €2,190 is not returned to the authors of rejected papers. Authors who are rejected or opt-out of publication can, however, use the feedback received to submit their work to other journals.

If papers are screened, peer-reviewed, and make it to publication, authors then choose which of the participating journals they’d like their work to appear in. From there, the paper may be granted publication in the requested journal, or it may be “guided” to less-selective properties.

Papers that make it to the publishing step and wish to proceed pay a “top-up” of €2,600 to make their papers OA.

“The total fee of €4,790 is half the standard OA fee for Nature Physics, and a slight increase on the price of publishing in Nature Communications, the only Nature-branded title that is already fully OA,” Nature says.


In an October statement relating to the high cost of the German agreement, parent publisher Springer Nature says its cost-per-published article is steeper than less-selective journals because of Nature’s high rejection rate.

Only about 8 per cent of submissions to Nature properties are published, Springer says, and 60 per cent of editors’ time is spent on evaluating pieces that aren’t ultimately run.

In an email to Nature, Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer, librarians and scholarly communication researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, call the fee “exorbitant” and say the steep price tag does “nothing to improve the accessibility and equitability of the scholarly publishing system, and merely show everything can be had if you just throw enough money at it.” 

For comparison, most U.S. journals ask for around US$6,000 or lower for OA publication.


Nature says the change was inspired by the ‘Plan S’ movement, which requires scientists and researchers from twelve European countries who receive state funds to make their work OA by 2021.

“At Springer Nature we have been committed to driving the transition to open access, for 20 years. This is why, using our experience, we have been able to come up with a range of options to enable authors to publish OA in our highly selective titles,” Alison Mitchell, Chief Journals Officer of Springer Nature, said in a statement.

“While transformative agreements are the biggest driver of OA transition and largely avoid the need for significant additional funding from authors themselves, these take time for institutions to put in place and are not suitable for all organisations. I am delighted that we are now able to open up this opportunity to ALL authors and also to experiment with brand new ways of helping our authors succeed via the guided OA pilot.”

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