PLOS and Carnegie Mellon University announce APC-free open access publishing agreement

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the Public Library of Science (PLOS) today announced a two-year open access agreement that allows researchers to publish in PLOS’ suite of journals without incurring article processing charges (APC). This partnership brings together two organizations that believe researchers should be able to access content freely and make their work available publicly, regardless of their access to funds.

“The evidence is undeniable — open access research enables the convergence of disciplines that drives scientific innovations,” said Keith Webster, dean of Libraries and director of Emerging and Integrative Media Initiatives for Carnegie Mellon University. “This agreement with PLOS gives our researchers more avenues to provide their work to the public, and, in doing so, increases readership and opportunities for societal impact.”

Under the agreement, which will be implemented in July, Carnegie Mellon will be charged an annual fixed flat rate over the two-year term, which will be based on prior years’ publication levels. CMU researchers will have unlimited opportunity to publish in PLOS journals over these two years and will not be charged any APC. This pilot will further PLOS’ mission of making open access publishing available to all while ensuring that its journals include research from authors representing a diverse array of disciplines, career stages and geographies.  

“The agreement with Carnegie Mellon University is yet another step in our goal of empowering authors who want to participate in open access publishing, and it continues the momentum following our recent agreement with the University of California and Iowa State University,” said Sara Rouhi, director of Strategic Partnerships for PLOS. “Both agreements demonstrate our effort to build a truly ‘open to read, open to publish’ environment for authors as well as our commitment to experimentation with our library partners.”


What’s happening?
From July 1, 2020, all CMU faculty, staff, and students who are corresponding authors on articles published in PLOS journals will be able to publish them open access without paying an article processing fee (APC).  Articles accepted on or after July 1, 2020 will receive no invoice from PLOS.

What is open access? 
The term “open access" describes materials that are freely accessible online, freely shareable and reusable, and easily discoverable in an Internet search. Providing open access to research and scholarship has become a worldwide movement serving the mission of higher education. Open access is strategic for Carnegie Mellon University, as it facilitates the broadest dissemination possible of works authored by the CMU community, encouraging use and increasing citations, impact and reach – particularly to practitioners and policy makers (individuals who do not have access to paywalled subscription content). Open access also enables the CMU community to access works authored elsewhere around the world, without needing to pay a subscription fee. While open access enables readers to read for free, there usually is an Article Processing Charge (APC) that authors arrange payment for, usually from research grant funds. CMU is working to create an “open to read, open to publish” experience for CMU authors, which is why CMU is partnering with PLOS to eliminate APCs for corresponding authors affiliated with the university. 

Are all articles published by PLOS open access?
Yes, all articles published by PLOS journals are open access. PLOS has always been a open access publisher and all their published research is freely and openly available. Additionally PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to all its published articles. Developed to facilitate Open Access, this license lets authors maximize the impact or their research by making it available for anyone, anywhere in the world to find, read and reuse. Under this license, authors agree to make articles legally available for reuse, without permission or fees, for virtually any purpose. Anyone may copy, distribute or reuse these articles, as long as the author and original source are properly cited.

What if my grant funding already covers Article Processing Charges (APCs)?
Under the terms of this new agreement, authors will no longer have to arrange payment of an APC for their PLOS publications. These funds can instead be used for other open access journal publications where the University Libraries does not have an open access agreement in place.

How do I take advantage of this publication benefit?
During the submission process, there are two sections where authors must correct identify their institutional affiliation to ensure they do not receive an Article Processing Charge invoice:

  1. “Additional Information”
  2. “Manuscript Data”

Read more about submitting to PLOS

For a step-by-step walkthrough, with screenshots, of both sections listed above, please refer to the “Author instructions for institutional accounts” PDF document.

Do I have to be the lead author on a paper for it to qualify for funding?
PLOS considers the corresponding author to be the “lead” author for the purposes of this agreement. The corresponding author must be a CMU affiliate for the paper to qualify under the agreement.

Who is eligible for this support? 
All CMU faculty, staff, and students, worldwide, who are corresponding authors on articles published in PLOS journals will be eligible for articles published on or after July 1, 2020.

Are all PLOS journals covered? What papers are eligible? 
The new agreement will cover APCs for publication in any PLOS journal and for all accepted types of papers in each journal. 
I submitted a paper to a PLOS journal in May 2020. Will it be covered by this agreement? 
Papers published on or after July 1, 2020, will be covered by this agreement. Articles submitted prior to July 1, that are still in the peer review pipeline, may be eligible if they are accepted after July 1, 2020.

What licenses can I choose from? 
All articles published by PLOS receive a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC-BY 4.0) License. CC-BY is the most accommodating of public copyright licenses as defined by Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that provides legal tools for sharing and use of creative works and research. The CC-BY license is recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials. All PLOS content is available under CC BY, meaning anyone is free to share and adapt the content provided the original source and authors are credited.

How many papers can CMU publish under this agreement in total?
The agreement covers an unlimited number of publications in total during the current agreement period, July 1, 2020-June 30, 2022. There are no restrictions on the total number of publications an individual author can submit.

I’m interested in submitting to PLOS. What else do I need to know? 
PLOS expects all authors to make their data openly available (when legally and ethically permitted). When you submit a PLOS manuscript, you are expected to provide a Data Availability Statement which describes how you will make your data open for others to reproduce your study outlined in the manuscript. Before you submit your manuscript, be sure your data are organized, described, and available to be shared. CMU Libraries offers data curation support for this process and can be contacted at

What else can I do to support open access? 
Consider making a contribution to the CMU APC Fund. Your contribution allows the CMU APC Fund to further support CMU authors, including graduate students, who wish to publish in open access journals, but who don’t have access to funds for publication. Give now, or contact David Scherer ( to learn more.