From January next year, researchers from lower income countries will pay less to publish in Elsevier’s open access journals. In a new pilot scheme, the publisher will structure its article processing charges (APCs) according to the gross national income per capita (GNI) of the countries in which corresponding authors are based. The changes will affect APCs across 142 open access journals.

The new pricing structure introduces six tiers, based on GNI, across which authors will pay a fixed proportion of the listed APC price. For example, researchers based in countries defined as low income by the World Bank – where GNI per capita is below $1135 (£930) – will have APCs waived completely. Researchers based in lower–middle income countries would be asked to pay 20% of the list APC. Researchers based in upper–middle income countries would be expected to pay between 45% and 90% of the list price.

While many other publishers waive fees or offer discounts for researchers based in low-income countries, Elsevier’s scheme appears to go further in terms of tailoring fees to researchers’ ability to pay.

‘We acknowledge that economic disparities between regions are one of the barriers to achieving a more inclusive world of research. With geographical pricing for open access, we aim to test and learn from a more globally equitable model that reflects local economic circumstances to help researchers in low and middle–income countries to publish open access and contribute to scientific advancement for the benefit of society,’ said Elsevier managing director Stuart Whayman. ‘There is more to be done to achieve inclusive and equitable open access publishing, we hope this is one incremental step that supports this journey.’