IOP Publishing, owned by the Institute of Physics, has pledged to donate all of its article processing fees (APCs) from retracted papers to the nonprofit Research4Life. The announcement follows the repeated recommendation of Guillaume Cabanac, an associate of computer science professor at the University of Toulouse in France, who helped to create the Problematic Paper Screener that uses machine learning and human assessment to flag dubious published articles.

‘On occasions articles are retracted from the scholarly record because of misconduct – for example because of plagiarism, or they’ve come from a papermill,’ stated Miriam Maus, IOP Publishing’s chief publishing officer. ‘We can’t refund the money to the authors for obvious reasons, but it isn’t right for us to keep it. So we have donated to Research4Life,’ she added. Research4Life is a platform that provides low-income and middle-income countries with free or low-cost access to academic and professional peer-reviewed publications online.

In its announcement, IOP Publishing extended an invitation to other organisations to follow its example, providing contact details for those seeking more information about how to join this movement.

‘APCs of retracted papers should not be kept by publishers (this would hinder incentives to correct the record),’ Cabanac told Retraction Watch. ‘They should not be returned to authors (especially when they are papermill customers),’ he continued. Transferring APCs to a charity or Retraction Watch’s parent nonprofit, the Center for Scientific Integrity, will ‘support a good cause’, Cabanac added.

Further, he suggested that ‘sleuths should unite in a kind of nonprofit association funded by the APCs of retracted papers’, arguing that this money would encourage sleuthing and support those who dedicate time and effort to correct the literature for free.