The SNSF is no longer funding Open Access articles in special issues

© Adobe Stock | Maksim Kabakou

More and more articles are appearing in special issues. This large increase and inconsistent processes have led to some negative developments. From February 2024, the SNSF will no longer fund Open Access articles in special issues.

Researchers who receive funding from the SNSF are required to make their results freely accessible to the public. In return, the SNSF covers the publication costs, for example for articles in Open Access journals. Since 2018, the SNSF has funded over 4,000 articles with contributions totalling around 10 million Swiss francs.

Special issues of journals are excluded from such funding according to the regulations. In practice, however, the SNSF has usually funded Open Access articles in special issues. This will change as of 1 February 2024 for several reasons.

Large increase

In the past few years, articles in special issues have no longer been the exception. In 2018, 33 SNSF-funded articles were published in special issues; by 2022, this number had risen to 315. Some journals now publish significantly more special issues than regular issues, with invitations being sent out en masse to potential guest editors.

Furthermore, bibliographic analyses show that the increase in the number of special issues is going hand-in-hand with shorter processing times and lower rejection rates. The "publish or perish" culture is being promoted, which runs counter to the funding policy and values of the SNSF.

The SNSF needs to operate sustainably and we cannot therefore support these negative developments. Publishing a large number of articles as quickly as possible does not add much value. Financial resources are used up, which are then no longer available to the SNSF for funding new research.

Inconsistent processes

Special issues, as the name suggests, are special cases: a journal dedicates a separate, additional issue to a specific research topic. Each special issue is usually managed by a separate publishing team and processes can therefore vary.

No more funding from February 2024

For the reasons mentioned above, the SNSF has decided to stop paying any Article Processing Charges (APCs) for Open Access articles in special issues from 1 February 2024. Articles submitted to a journal by 31 January 2024 will still be funded.

Of course, researchers can continue to publish their articles in special issues. If these articles are freely available when they are published, they fulfil the SNSF's Open Access requirements. However, the SNSF will no longer cover the corresponding publication costs. To avoid unpleasant surprises, therefore, researchers should clarify at an early stage whether or not their article will appear in a special issue.

Sustainable funding of publications

With this change, the SNSF is taking a step towards more sustainable funding of publications. Some time ago, it already introduced processes in its evaluation of research proposals that focus more directly on the performance of researchers. The number of articles researchers have published in the past no longer matters.