Article retracted when authors don’t pay publication fee

In March 2020, a group of biologists published a paper on the website of an open access journal. 

Nearly three years later, the publisher, Wiley, withdrew the article because, according to the withdrawal notice, the authors were “unable to finalize” payment of the fee to publish the version of record, known as the Article Publication Charge or APC. 

The manuscript, “Eco-evolutionary factors that influence its demographic oscillations in Prochilodus costatus (Actinopterygii: Characiformes) populations evidenced through a genetic spatial–temporal evaluation,” had appeared on the site of the journal Evolutionary Applications “as an Accepted Article,” according to the notice, but the full text is no longer available online. It had not been indexed in Clarivate’s Web of Science before being withdrawn on February 27. 

The notice stated that the article 

has been withdrawn by agreement between the authors, journal Editor-in-Chief Louis Bernatchez and John Wiley and Sons Ltd. The withdrawal has been agreed because the authors are unable to finalize the APC payment for their article for publication in the journal as the Version of Record.

When we wrote to Bernatchez with questions about the notice, he referred us to a Wiley staffer. A spokesperson for the publisher told us that the statement was “incorrect,” and “we will be working with the author to resolve and potentially republish the article.” 

We asked what exactly was wrong with the withdrawal note, and a spokesperson replied: 

The withdrawal statement incorrectly lists the authors as agreeing to the withdrawal, when in fact they were only informed of this action. We are now working with the authors to resubmit the article to the journal. 

The spokesperson also said that the final version of the article “was not published in alignment with our Open Access Publication Charges policy.”

Previously, a Wiley account had tweeted:

Evanguedes Kalapothakis, a biologist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and the last author of the withdrawn paper, has not responded to our request for comment.

We’ve seen just a handful of cases like this before:

Hat tip: K van M

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9 thoughts on “Article retracted when authors don’t pay publication fee”

  1. Seems to me the publishers should be paying the authors for providing content for their publication.

    1. Yes, or perhaps since the publisher no longer has copyright they can publish it on a pre-print server as having been reviewed for and accepted at the journal.

  2. I wonder how often open-access journals provide waivers for researchers who have no funding for APCs. In my own experience it seems that only a 30% discount would be granted even if proof is provided that the affiliated department and organisation do not have funding for APCs. It’s sad.

    1. sadly they’re sometimes more likely to provide full or partial waivers for well-known reputable researchers with ample funding. it’s partly about that symbolic capital an author brings. of course if an author doesn’t have enough of that, it’s all about the money dolla dolla bill yall

      that said, i’ve seen a fair number of full waivers and significant discounts (think 70-80%) given to researchers who *really* needed them

      wiley fumbled this like a bunch of idiots though. could’ve easily left the paper in the ‘in press’ limbo for all eternity (as they have done for 3 years apparently), but i guess they got offended by authors ignoring their emails / invoice and were out for some sort of revenge

      1. They assume the authors still have access to those email addresses. If the authors have moved emoloyers, it’s very possible their access was removed (as most decent IT policies would require).

  3. I oppose how publishers make a profit with content and labor that is offered to them for free, *but*:
    The cost of research is usually exceeds a hundred thousand dollars per study even if no materials or equipment are needed. Nowadays, funding agencies usually cover APCs, which are a pittance compared to personnel costs. If researchers can’t cover APCs, my first assumption would be that they screwed up (e.g., by not putting publishing costs into their research proposal). In fact, judging from the Wiley tweet, such a screw-up and communication issues seem to have caused this. Wiley has every right to act if a researcher doesn’t abide by contractual obligations. People shouldn’t enter contractual agreements if they can’t do that.

    1. Not all funding agencies cover APC.
      In Brazil we have to choose between buying consumables or paying journal fees. That’s the dire situation.

      1. Actually this is the same situation even in developed countries. Speaking from my own experience, for junior researchers who may only have small grant amounts of 10-20k USD, there’s simply not enough money to cover the hefty and unjustified APCs. Even eClinicalmedicine is now charging an APC of 5000 USD.

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