AAS Journals Open Access FAQ (Accessible)

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is an international non-governmental organization with a mission to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community.

To further support the Society’s mission and provide immediate access to important research, the AAS transitioned its entire journals portfolio to fully open access (OA) on 1 January 2022. All content — past, present, and future — is now immediately and openly accessible: anyone can read, download, and share anything in the portfolio and there will be no subscription fees or paywalls.

The AAS announced this transition publicly on 1 September 2021. The transition took effect 1 January 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Have questions about the AAS journals transition to open access? Browse the FAQ below.

The Big Picture

Why go open access?

Paywalls and subscription fees limit who is able to read, share, and benefit from the latest developments in scientific research. When only researchers at well-funded institutions have immediate access to the latest research results, collaboration and scientific progress are impeded.

In the past, the AAS has attempted to mitigate this problem by maintaining very low subscription fees, making articles free to read 12 months after publication, and allowing authors to post their work to preprint servers like arXiv. The AAS journals’ fully open access model takes this a step further, ensuring that all people everywhere are able to immediately access the important research published in the journals.

What does it mean for the AAS journals to be open access?

As of 1 January 2022, the AAS journals now all qualify as “Gold OA.” This means that all articles and related content in AAS journals — past, present, and future — are made freely and permanently accessible to everyone immediately upon publication. Subscription charges to AAS journals have been eliminated, and the journals are fully supported by article publication charges (APCs) assessed to authors. All articles are published under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) 4.0 license, under which the authors retain copyright to their work.

Will the content of the journals change in any way?

No. The journals will retain the same rigorous editorial standards and scope as before the transition to full open access. This change merely increases the reach, visibility, and high impact the journals are known for.

Why should I publish in an open access journal?

OA publishing means that the final, best version of your article is immediately available to astronomers everywhere. Your work is more likely to be widely read and cited.

As an example, consider all articles published in AJ, ApJ, ApJL, and ApJS in 2019. For this set, the median number of downloads in 2019 for OA articles was more than 250% higher than that for subscription articles, and the median number of citations in 2019 for OA articles was 25% higher than that for subscription articles.

Why should I publish in a journal at all, as opposed to sharing my work for free?

Formal publishing in a journal like the AAS journals provides significant benefits, such as:

  • Peer review improves the final article and establishes a trusted version of record
  • Additional review from professionals like the AAS statistics and data editors help strengthen article results and make them more accessible
  • Digital assets like figure sets, animations, and interactive figures are integrated into the article, enhancing the article
  • Professional typesetting ensures an easy-to-parse, consistent final article with important features like integrated citation linking
  • Journals provide for long-term archiving, curation, and preservation, as well as migration to new standards as they develop
  • Journal publicity vehicles like AAS Nova and the AAS Journal Authors interview series ensure that authors’ work ends up in front of a large and broad audience

Publishing in a journal greatly increases the value and impact of your work by making your article stronger, more trustworthy, and easier to find, read, and cite, while also ensuring that the version of record is preserved in perpetuity.

Does the transition to OA have community support?

The AAS Board of Trustees voted to approve the transition to OA, as endorsed by the AAS Publications Committee and recommended by the AAS senior management team and Editor in Chief. The AAS obtained further support for the move from major US research funding agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation. AAS leaders provided additional statements of support for this transition, which can be found here.

The Details

What journals are included as part of this transition?

Is the Planetary Science Journal included in this transition?

The Planetary Science Journal (PSJ), the AAS’s newest journal published in partnership with its Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), is already a fully OA journal. Submission fees for PSJ will not be governed by the joint rate structure that will be instituted for all other AAS journals in 2022; instead, PSJ will maintain its own, separate rate structure, a decision made by DPS leadership.

What copyright will apply to my paper under the fully open access model?

Effective 11 October 2021, all articles accepted for publication in all AAS journals are published under a CC-BY 4.0 license. With this license, authors retain copyright to the content and grant the AAS a license to publish it.

Upon the transition to OA, what happens to past content published in the AAS journals?

From 1 January 2022, all articles — past, present, and future — published in AAS journals are fully open access: free to read, download, and share. Content published prior to 2022 under the subscription model will be labeled “Free Access.” This content will be free to access, download, and share, but it will not be subject to a CC-BY license unless it was accepted after 11 October 2021. Permission to reuse content accepted before that date will still be required.

Once this change is made, will the AAS journals be compliant with recent funder mandates requiring publication in an OA journal?

Yes, as of 1 January 2022, publication in the AAS journals fully complies with funder OA mandates like Plan S, UKRI’s OA policy, and others.

Will AAS journals enter into any additional publisher agreements with individual institutions?

No. The AAS has always maintained a low subscription rate and assessed article publication charges to authors to support the journals. With our low subscription rates, institutional agreements such as transformative agreements or read-and-publish agreements do not fit with our mission for the journals and would be difficult — if not impossible — to implement from a business standpoint, given that our current hybrid model relies heavily on publication charges as the primary source of revenue.

What are important dates related to the transition of AAS Journals to fully OA?

The new AAS OA article publication charges came into effect for articles submitted on and after 1 January 2022.

All articles accepted for publication in AAS journals after 11 October 2021 were assigned a CC-BY 4.0 license, with the authors retaining copyright. From that date authors will no longer be asked to transfer copyright to the AAS.

All AAS journals content — including both new publications and back content — became freely available for all to read on 1 January 2022. Subscription fees were no longer assessed after that point.

The Finances

What are the 2024 article publication charges for AAS journals?

The AAS calculates article publication charges using an approach that counts “digital quanta,” units of information in digital form that the author supplies. Digital quanta can include words, figures, tables, data components, and figures within a figure set.

As of 1 January 2024, article publication charges will be assessed to authors according to the tiered rate structure below, with the tiers set by the number of quanta in the publication. The following table applies to AJ, ApJ, ApJS, and ApJL; the PSJ will maintain its own, separate rate structure.

Number of quanta
2024 rates
ApJ, ApJS and AJ
Tier 1 ≤ 30 quanta $1,292
Tier 2 31–50 quanta $2,923
Tier 3 51–100 quanta $5,059
Long-article surcharge > 100 quanta $250
ApJL (rates include $450 handling fee)
ApJL Tier 1 ≤ 40 quanta $2,699
ApJL Long-article surcharge > 40 quanta $450
Errata in any AAS journal No charge

Based on submissions to AAS journals in 2017–2019, we expect that more than 80% of ApJ, ApJS, and AJ submissions will fall into the lowest two tiers. We expect almost all ApJL submissions to fall into the first ApJL tier.

Plots showing number of articles vs. number of quanta per manuscript for articles published in AJ/ApJ/ApJS and ApJL 2017-2019

What about errata? Do I have to pay to publish needed corrections to my work?

No. The AAS believes that identifying errors in published research and correcting them through the publication of errata is an important part of maintaining the scientific value and integrity of the journals. There will be no charges going forward for publishing errata.

How do 2024 charges compare to 2023 charges?

Article publication charges are based on the number of digital quanta in each article. The table below shows a comparison of article publication charges in 2023 and 2024 for several different example articles that have different quanta counts.

2023 Rates
2024 Rates
2024 Tier
AJ, ApJ, and ApJS
Example 1: 8-page article with 6 figures, 3 tables, 2 data components 22 $1,195 $1,292 Tier 1
Example 2: 12-page article with 8 figures, 1 table 30 $1,195 $1,292 Tier 1
Example 3: 19-page article with 4 figures, 7 tables 40 $2,704 $2,923 Tier 2
Example 4: 19-page article with 13 figures, 3 tables 50 $2,704 $2,923 Tier 2
Example 5: 20-page article with 24 figures, 7 tables, 3 data components 56 $4,681 $5,059 Tier 3
Example 6: 77-page article with 24 figures, 22 tables 138 $4,931 $5,309 Tier 3
Example 1: 9-page article with 4 figures 18 $2,448 $2,699 ApJL Tier 1
Example 2: 12-page article with 7 figures, 3 tables, 7 data components 35 $2,448 $2,699 ApJL Tier 1
Example 3: 8-page article with 14 figures, 5 tables 64 $2,848 $3,149 ApJL Tier 1

Note that these rates do not include any AAS member discounts or support from the AAS Publication Support Fund.

How do 2024 charges compare to historical AAS journal charges?

The figure below shows the trend for publication charges assessed to authors in AAS journals over time. The charge for a typical article appearing in ApJ, ApJS, and AJ, normalized to the most common 2020 article length and adjusted for inflation using standard consumer price index tables, is shown for the past 30 years.

Historically, the article publication charges have trended downward over time, with a brief adjustment period when AAS journals transitioned from charging by page count to charging by digital quanta count in 2011. For the last three years, article publication charges have increased slightly each year to cover increased publication costs (which include increased costs in both editorial and production services), but they have remained well below historical charges.

Plot of average article cost over time, from 1990 to 2020. Plot shows a general downward trend from more than $3000 to just over $1000 in recent years.

How do the 2024 AAS charges compare to optional open access charges in other journals?

As of this writing (October 2021), other astronomical and physics journals have open access publication charges of around $4,000 for full open access, while high-profile journals like Nature charge as much as $11,390.

Why did article publication charges increase in the transition to open access?

Because the journals will no longer charge subscription fees, article publication charges will be the sole source of funding to cover journal operating costs. In our old business model, subscription revenue represented 32% of the total journals revenue. The total revenue must be collected to fund the journal operations.

In addition, to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity to publish in AAS journals despite the change in article publication charges, our new pricing model includes the development of a AAS Publication Support Fund to provide full or partial support for authors unable to afford publication charges.

What is the publication support budget for 2024?

Support available to authors for publication charges is substantially higher under the OA model. If authors request support from the AAS Publication Support Fund for an article in AJ, ApJApJS, or ApJL, the Editor in Chief can authorize support of 5–100%, depending on need. More information about the AAS Publication Support Fund can be found here.

Will US research funding agencies pay for additional publication charges?

Major US research funding agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have expressed support for open access publishing and generally cover publication costs — including costs of the new OA model — as allowable expenses for grants. The AAS is working closely with NASA and NSF to ensure a smooth transition for current grantees. The AAS recommends that grant applications submitted after September 1, 2021 include a publications budget that takes into account the estimated fees associated with the new OA model.

What version of the article is used to determine the article publication charge tier and what I have to pay?

The version of the article accepted by the Scientific Editor is what will be used to determine the article publication charge tier. A quanta estimation tool will be available to authors — for approximation purposes only — at submission and during the peer review process.

Will there still be an author discount available to active AAS members?

Yes, AAS members who paid their annual dues prior to the start of a given calendar year will be eligible for a 15% discount on their share of the article publication charges for one article submitted during that year. More information on author discounts can be found here.

For More Information

Where can I find the resources mentioned in this FAQ?

If I have additional questions about the AAS journals transition to open access, whom should I contact?

Please send any questions to OAquestions@aas.org or contact us directly:

Ethan Vishniac, AAS Editor in Chief: ethan.vishniac@aas.org

Kevin Marvel, AAS Executive Officer: kevin.marvel@aas.org

Julie Steffen, AAS Chief Publishing Officer: julie.steffen@aas.org