Update on Quantum’s publication fees

Summary of changes: Published authors now have the option of donating more to Quantum: 450€. For legal reasons explained below, we make this the “default” publication fee. You can still publish for free, or choose the reduced fee of 100€, no questions asked. The new option kicks in in May 2020.

Summary of motivation: National science agencies in various European countries want to support Quantum, but can only do it via paying the publication fees, not through direct donations to a specific journal. Quantum needs the money to pay the editorial assistants, who make the peer-review process run efficiently. Quantum’s current running costs are 16’000€/year, and expected to increase to 40’000€/year in the next semester, culminating in expected running costs to stabilise with an upper bound of 50’000€ per year in 2021.

Main message to authors: Please only pay the higher fee if you can afford it (e.g. if your funding agency covers publications fees). Else, write us an email to have the fee waived, or select the discount fee.

 

Background

The mission of Quantum is to make science more open and to demonstrate that the scientific community can run a professional journal with high quality standards independently of commercial publishers.

In addition to the usual open access principles, two central pillars of our endeavour are:

  • No financial barriers: No scientist should ever be excluded from publishing in Quantum on the grounds of insufficient funding

  • No interference between science and finances: All editorial decisions should be made without considering the financial status of the journal.

To ensure financial viability without compromising on our central principles, we have thus far followed a two-tier approach: Article Processing Charges (APCs) with an unconstrained waiver policy, combined with institutional support.

 

What has changed

In light of recent changes to the publishing landscape, governmental funding institutions can often spend their open-access funding exclusively on APCs, but cannot sponsor individual journals directly. We have learned this through discussions with different institutions who would like to help support Quantum.

Indeed, as a consequence of Plan S, several European institutions now offer (or will offer in the near future) automatic APC coverage agreements, so that the publication fees are not paid from the researcher’s or university’s internal funds, but directly from these agencies. Through several negotiation rounds with Quantum, the funding agencies made it clear that they could only justify covering an APC that was set as the default charge.

This means that instead of seeking direct institutional support, we will increase the default publishing fee, but leaving our no-questions-asked discount and waiver policies intact. For authors, nothing changes, except that now you have three options: pay the higher (default) fee, pay the reduced fee of 100€, or pay nothing.

So how much is the new default fee? We set it to 450€ starting from May 2020 and re-evaluate based on actual and expected running costs on an annual basis.

Quantum is run by a non-profit organization which, by construction, cannot run a sustained surplus; all editors and the executive board work for free, so authors can be sure to never be overcharged.

 

Running costs of Quantum

Currently, the running costs of Quantum are around ~16’000€ per year (for 2019), with the bulk of it spent on salaries for the management assistants. In order to cope with an expected increase in submissions once Quantum receives an official impact factor, we will likely have to increase the hours of our staff, and predict running costs of up to 50’000€ for 2021. We explain this below. You can always consult Quantum’s public accounting here.

Current costs

At the moment, we employ three members of staff in part-time positions, summing up to 26h/week, which is equivalent to 65% of a full-time position, and costs 29.000€ per year. These are one administrative assistant who is responsible for editorial assistance (communicating with authors, referees and editors and making sure that the workflow is maintained and no manuscript is delayed through inaction; publishing on our webpage, including the correcting submission of DOI and funding data to crossref and appropriate databases), one responsible for the finances of the non-profit organization (writing and filing invoices and receipts, communicating with funding agencies and university libraries, double and open bookkeeping, yearly declaration of taxes, managing salaries and employee health insurance) and a third assistant currently training in both of those areas to guarantee a more smooth operation at all times (e.g. holidays or illness, etc.). Several of our editors agree that more editorial assistance would be helpful.

In addition, there are other expenses: DOI, Crossref, the Scholastica platform, insurance and other costs. These are all necessary, but about an order of magnitude lower than salaries.

Future costs

We expect a rise in submissions in the second half of 2020, partially due to Quantum receiving an official impact factor, which will be attributed in summer. As such, we will likely need to increase the hours of our editorial assistants.

Ultimately, we believe that the journal would benefit from staff employment adding up to 1-1.5 full-time equivalent positions: bookkeeping/financial management/taxes, editorial assistance/author communication/publishing, programming/social media/press.

In the next year, we will increase staff hours slowly and progressively, and routinely ask our editors for feedback on whether it is helping. As such, we expect the running costs for 2021 to be roughly 50.000€.

Since we cannot, by law, make any profit, it may well happen that we overshoot. This implies that the following year’s APC will automatically reduce, once we have a comfortable buffer.

 

Discussion

We welcome the community feedback on the new policy, and are happy to clarify whatever is necessary. Please discuss on this reddit thread, and we will be happy to respond within a few days.

Update on Quantum’s publication fees