Publication fees: what are the different ways of covering article processing charges?

There are a number of ways of funding publication fees in addition to the option of researchers and their institutions covering the costs themselves. The possibilities are many and varied and largely depend on the specific institution. It is advisable to check what funding options are available at your institution.

Publication fund

Numerous universities have set up publication funds. These funds can be used for publishing articles in full open access journals. There may be requirements, e.g. the journal offers a professional-standard quality assurance process. In addition, the publication fee may not exceed a certain amount.

These funds are typically limited and each university has its own system for deciding how they are distributed. The staff responsible for open access at each institution can generally provide more information.

Reducing publication fees through membership models

To keep within budgetary constraints, institutions often sign membership agreements with individual publishers. These agreements provide a discount on publication fees. The staff responsible for open access at your institution will generally be able to tell you which agreements are in place and which publishers they refer to. You may also be able to find more information on this subject on the website of your institution's library.

Covering costs through Project DEAL agreements

A project group set up by the Alliance of Science Organizations in Germany has signed centrally negotiated contracts with the publishers Wiley and Springer Nature. These include an agreement to allow reading access as well as open access publishing in the majority of these publishers’ subscription journals. This agreement only applies to the publishers’ hybrid journal portfolio; publications in gold open access journals are still subject to article processing charges (APCs), though a 20 percent discount now applies to APCs for many of these journals. A welcome change for authors is the centralised billing system which means they no longer receive an invoice directly from the publisher. Please contact the person responsible for open access at your institution to find out the extent to which your institution is entitled to make use of agreements made under Project DEAL. They should also be able to tell you which journals are covered by the agreement and how any costs incurred are apportioned.

Further information on the Project DEAL website and DEAL Publishing Open Access


Funding from a research funding body

With many funders, the publication fees are reimbursable or can be factored in and applied for under the heading of equipment and resources in the corresponding budget. Some funding bodies such as BMBF have set up so called post-grant funds that subsidies publication emanating from already finished projects. Funding is possible under certain conditions. The BMBF Post-Grant-Fund has exspired.

Funding from professional societies

In the case of journals that are published by a professional society, the publication fees are often funded through membership fees. Authors generally – or indeed exclusively – come from the ranks of the journal's members and readers. Members of the respective professional society generally receive information on the available offers. In some cases these offers may provide sufficient incentive to join a professional society. To find out more about the available offers, please consult the websites of the professional associations you are interested in. 

Combining different sources of funding

It is also possible to cover publication fees by accessing funds from more than one source. For example, it may be possible to reduce a publication fee by drawing on the advantages of an institutional membership combined with a publication fund. 


Some universities have founded their own publishing house in order to provide publishing services to their members. These services generally cater to monographs and collections (edited volumes). However, some university publishers also offer services for publishing journals. Information on appropriate services can be found on the webpage of the Working Group of University Publishers (German only).


Important note: The information and links provided here do not represent any form of binding legal advice. They are solely intended to provide an initial basis to help get you on the right track. ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences has carefully checked the information included in the list of FAQs. However, we are unable to accept any liability whatsoever for any errors it may contain. Unless indicated otherwise, any statements concerning individual statutory norms or regulations refer to German law (FAQ updated 01/2021).


Jasmin Schmitz,

Dr. Jasmin Schmitz
Head of Publication Advisory Services

Phone: +49 (0)221 478-32795
Send mail

Related links

Project DEAL website
DEAL Publish Open Access
Post-Grant-Fund BMBF (expired)

on professional societies in the field of life sciences in Germany: 

German Life Sciences Association (VBIO) 
German Association of Scientific Medical Societies (AWMF)

These links only provide access to a small selection of German professional societies which are covered by these two umbrella organisations. There are many other professional societies both in Germany and worldwide.