Research Remix

November 25, 2009

Experience with BioMed Central Waiver process

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Heather Piwowar @ 9:55 am

I have a paper that would be a great fit for BMC Bioinformatics, but the article-processing charge of $1700US is beyond my means.

The Instruction to Authors page states that “waivers or discounts are granted on a case-by-case basis to authors who lack funds” so I decided to apply.  To do this, one must first upload all components of the submission, then check the box that says that you would like to apply for a fee waiver.  Here is the explanation I provided:

This work was done as part of my PhD dissertation.  I am currently unfunded and unemployed.  Although I received tuition support and a stipend during much of the research, there are no funds available for open access publication of the research outputs.  The grants of my advisor and co-author, Dr Wendy Chapman, are not related to this work.  [Details: Funding from National Library of Medicine (training fellowship 5T15-LM007059-19 to HAP, 5R01-LM009427-01 to WWC)]

I feel passionate about releasing this work into the open domain: the research is about openly sharing research outputs and facilitating retrieval.  It is especially important that researchers who may not have access to subscription journals can read about research methods and results such as those in our study, to ensure full participation in the opportunities (and potential limitations) of free, open, biomedical data resources.

Thank you for considering this request for a waiver.

Heather Piwowar

Within two days, they replied:

Many thanks for considering BMC Bioinformatics for your research. We have considered your waiver request, and although we cannot grant a full waiver in this instance, in these exceptional circumstances, we can agree to a discount of the article-processing charge.

This would mean that if your manuscript was accepted you would have to pay a GBP 820.00/USD 1,360.00/EUR 920.00 article-processing charge on this article. Since you are based in United States of America, you will be charged the price of USD 1,360.00.

If you can pay this charge, you should go back to the submission pages for your manuscript, click ‘I agree to pay’, and then finish submitting. The link to your submission page is: [link]

I hope that you are happy with this, and are able to submit your manuscript to us for peer review.


BioMed Central Waivers

Unfortunately, $1360US is still beyond my means, so I will have to pursue other options.

I wonder in what cases BMC Bioinformatics might give a full waiver?  Authors from developing countries, hopefully?  ??

It is worth noting that PLoS appears to be much more willing to grant waivers when needed:  “PLoS is committed to ensuring that our fee is never a barrier to publication and so we offer a waiver to any authors who do not have access to funds to cover our publication fees.”



  1. Hi Heather,

    I’m basing my reply upon the above and the comments (so far) on FriendFeed:-

    From personal experience, I’ve applied for three waivers to date when submitting to PLoS Biology (1) and BMC (2). The APC waiver didn’t come up as an issue at PLoS B although the Manu was not accepted and they suggested re-submitting to PLoS ONE. I was successful on the 2 submitted to BMC Journals.

    I would suggest either a) resubmitting to PLoS ONE, b) maybe to Discovery and Collaboration or c) check out the DOAJ and see what comes up there.

    Good luck !!

    Comment by Graham Steel — November 25, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  2. I would try again with BMC. It just happened to me this week and I got 50% after the first request, then 100% when I told them I could not pay the 50%.
    You can follow the details here ( Your case has been already brought there!!

    Comment by RKA — November 25, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  3. We went through a similar process with Chemistry Central Journal – initially we were offered a discount then got a full waiver. You might also want to consider J. Cheminformatics if the subject fits – they have full waivers till December I think.

    Comment by Jean-Claude Bradley — November 25, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

  4. This is just as crazy as closed source pay-to-subscribe journals. I remember asking my undergrad advisor how much he got paid to be the editor of a journal and how much he got paid per article. I think he’s still laughing.

    I think journals like JMLR are the wave of the future, where there’s no cost to publish or to read the articles.

    So where’s the cost? Copy-editing and typesetting, mainly, with nominal costs for the actual electronic publishing. All in, the Computational Linguistics Journal costs about $20K/year to run and that includes salary for a part-time admin assistant for the editor!

    I’m currently refusing to review for anything that’s not free to read. I think I’ll start boycotting pay-to-publish venues, too.

    Comment by lingpipe — December 7, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

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