scientists to open access publishing
and to raise the visibility and the positive perception of their journals.
However, there are some points that
we cannot address in our study. First, it
is unclear to what extent the payments
we have seen in The Surgery Journal
depend on the journal’s field (for example, medicine). It is likely that financial
resources vary across different scientific disciplines and thus affect voluntarily paid APCs. Consequently, the
PWYW model may be better suited for
some publications and fields than for
others. In this regard we would like to
refer to the experiment at Cogent OA,
where the comparison of payments
across the 15 journals can allow for
cautious conclusions in this direction.
In general, we believe we need more experiments on PWYW as a pricing model for open access publishing and our
contribution can be seen as a starting
point in this direction.
1. Beaudouin-Lafon, M. Open access to scientific
publications. Commun. ACM 53, 2 (Feb. 2010), 32–34.
2. Boisvert, R.F. and Davidson, J. W. Positioning ACM for an
open access future. Commun. ACM 56, 2 (Feb. 2013), 5.
3. Celec, P. Open access and those lacking funds. Science
303, 5663, (2004), 1467.
4. Cerf, V.G. Open access. Commun. ACM 56, 4 (Apr. 2013), 7.
5. Gneezy, A. et al. Shared social responsibility: A field
experiment in pay-what-you-want pricing and
charitable giving. Science 329, 5989 (2010), 325–327.
6. Gneezy, A. et al. Pay-what-you-want, identity, and
self-signaling in markets. Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
109, 19 (2012), 7236–7240.
7. Malakoff, D. Scientific publishing. Opening the books
on open access. Science 302, 5645 (2003), 550–554.
8. Mann, F. et al. Open access publishing in science.
Commun. ACM 52, 3 (Mar. 2009), 135.
9. Schmidt, K.M. et al. Pay what you want as a marketing
strategy in monopolistic and competitive markets.
Management Science 61, 6 (2015), 1217–1236.
10. Schröder, M. et al. Pay-what-you-want or mark-off-your-own-price—A framing effect in customer-selected pricing. Journal of Behavioral and
Experimental Economics 57, (2015), 200–204.
Martin Spann ( email@example.com) is a Professor at the
Institute of Electronic Commerce and Digital Markets,
LMU Munich, Germany.
Lucas Stich ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Assistant Professor at
the Institute of Electronic Commerce and Digital Markets,
LMU Munich, Germany.
Klaus M. Schmidt ( email@example.com) is a Professor
at the Department of Economics, LMU Munich, Germany.
See the EC Workshop on OA publishing: http://bit.ly/1MWD0tF
The authors gratefully acknowledge data provision from
Thieme Publishers and financial support by the German
Science Foundation (grants SCHM 1196/5-1 and SP
702/2-1, and CRC TRR 190) and are also grateful for many
helpful comments from the European Commission
Workshop on “Alternative Open Access Publishing Models”
in Brussels on Oct. 12, 2015 and the Open Access Days
2016 in Munich. There are no financial interests of the
Copyright held by authors.
possible forms (that is, experimental
conditions) to make their PWYW payments. On both forms, all authors are
informed about the recommended
“regular price” of the publication fee of
$1,600. On one form they have to state
their PWYW payment directly. On the
other form they have to specify a discount from the regular price (a 100%
discount was possible).
So far, authors of 27 papers made
their payment decisions with a mean
payment of $480 across conditions. Only
four (15%) authors paid zero, and eight
(30%) authors paid less than $100. Two
authors paid the recommended “regular
price” for the publication fee of $1,600
and one author even paid 50% more
than the recommendation ($2,200). Altogether, five (19%) authors paid $1,000
or more. In the condition where authors
had to specify their discount from the
recommended publication fee, mean
payments are substantially higher ($616
vs. $333; see the accompanying figure
for the distribution of PWYW payments
according to payment form). However,
the standard deviation of the payment
amounts is high ($588.7), which might
be attributed to heterogeneity in social
preferences, available funds as well as
cultural norms. The 27 publications
came from a total of 12 different countries, which differ in terms of development. 11 publications came from developing countries, 16 from developed
countries (thereof six from the U.S.).
Payments from developed countries (M
= $728.9, SD = $654.4) were significantly
higher than those from developing
countries (M = $118.2, SD = $124.6) at
the 1%-level using a Mann-Whitney U
test. These findings are directionally
consistent with preliminary and aggregated findings provided by Cogent OA.
They report that 55% of authors decided to pay something and some authors
are paying even more than the recommended APC ( http://bit.ly/2wM5X8l).
Although these constitute early em-
pirical results and the sample size is
limited, we can derive a few implica-
tions. The observed payments from our
experiment together with the prelimi-
nary results from other experiments
(that is, Cogent OA) indicate that
PWYW may work in the context of open
access publishing. The results suggest
that a substantial fraction of authors
do pay APCs voluntarily, in some cases
even more than regularly asked. From
discussions with the publisher, we
learned the submissions exceeded
their expectations compared to similar
new open access journal introductions
in this field. Also, the share of about
40% of publications from developing
countries where authors might other-
wise not be able to pay the regular APCs
can be regarded as rather high. It must
be noted that many publishers have in-
troduced schemes that give authors a
significant discount or the option to
completely waive APCs if the authors
cannot afford them. However, such ar-
rangements often require the disclo-
sure of the financial situation of the
authors that can be uncomfortable for
them. In contrast, the advantage of
PWYW is that it allows authors to pay a
reduced amount and thus allows them
to save their face as part of the regular
publication and payment process.
Clearly, PWYW is credible only if the
journal takes the acceptance decision
first and only then asks the authors how
much they are willing to pay for the pub-
lication. One important aspect that will
influence the sustainability of this pric-
ing model for scientific publications is
whether funding bodies such as the NSF
permit authors to make positive pay-
ments voluntarily (within reasonable
limits) despite the common require-
ment to use funds economically.
We believe the high motivation of
scientific authors to achieve a wide dis-
semination of their work and an inter-
est to support and help sustain the
journal that publishes their research
facilitate the applicability of PWYW in
open access publishing. For publish-
ers, using the PWYW pricing model
can be a strategy to attract even more
For publishers, using
the PWYW pricing
model can be a
strategy to attract
even more scientists
to open access