AAS Journals Transition to Open Access

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 will be transitioning its entire journals portfolio to fully open access (OA) as of 1 January 2022. As of that date all content — past, present, and future — will be 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 takes effect 1 January 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Have questions about the AAS journals transition to open access? Browse the FAQ categories below, or type a word or phrase into the bar below to search all questions. Click here for an accessible version of the FAQ.

The Big Picture

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’ new, 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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 has obtained further support for the move from major US research funding agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation. AAS leaders have provided additional statements of support for this transition, which can be found here.

The Details

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.

From 1 January 2022, all articles — past, present, and future — published in AAS journals will be 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.

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

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.

The new AAS OA article publication charges will come into effect for articles submitted on and after 1 January 2022. The current charges remain in place for authors submitting until that date.

All articles accepted for publication in AAS journals after 11 October 2021 will be 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 — becomes freely available for all to read on 1 January 2022. Subscription fees will no longer be assessed after this point.

The Finances

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 2022, 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
2022 rates
ApJ, ApJS and AJ
Tier 1 ≤ 30 quanta $1,149
Tier 2 31–50 quanta $2,599
Tier 3 51–100 quanta $4,499
Long-article surcharge > 100 quanta $250
ApJL (rates include $450 handling fee)
ApJL Tier 1 ≤ 40 quanta $2,400
ApJL Long-article surcharge > 40 quanta $400
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

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.

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 2021 and 2022 for several different example articles that have different quanta counts. In most cases, the 2022 open access charges are lower than our 2021 optional gold open access charges.

2021 Rates
2022 Rates (OA)
2022 Tier
AJ, ApJ, and ApJS
Example 1: 8-page article with 6 figures, 3 tables, 2 data components 22 $770 $1,243 $1,149 Tier 1
Example 2: 12-page article with 8 figures, 1 table 30 $1,038 $1,737 $1,149 Tier 1
Example 3: 19-page article with 4 figures, 7 tables 40 $1,382 $2,323 $2,599 Tier 2
Example 4: 19-page article with 13 figures, 3 tables 50 $1,732 $2,888 $2,599 Tier 2
Example 5: 20-page article with 24 figures, 7 tables, 3 data components 56 $1,974 $3,115 $4,499 Tier 3
Example 6: 77-page article with 24 figures, 22 tables 138 $4,784 $7,958 $4,749 Tier 3
Example 1: 9-page article with 4 figures 18 $765 $1,712 $2,400 ApJL Tier 1
Example 2: 12-page article with 7 figures, 3 tables, 7 data components 35 $1,220 $2,655 $2,400 ApJL Tier 1
Example 3: 8-page article with 14 figures, 5 tables 64 $2,359 $4,367 $2,800 ApJL Tier 1

Note that these rates do not include any waivers or AAS member discounts.

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.

Other astronomical and physics journals have open access publication charges that range from $3,080 to $4,000 for full open access, while high-profile journals like Nature charge as much as $11,390.

Based on articles submitted to AAS journals 2017–2019, we expect ~84% of articles submitted to AJ, ApJ, and ApJS to fall into the lowest two tiers, resulting in article page charges of $1,149 to $2,599. Only 15% of articles are expected to be larger articles that fall into the third tier, and fewer than 1% of articles are likely to be so large that they are assessed the surcharge of $450.

For articles submitted to ApJL, we expect ~99% to fall into the lowest tier, resulting in article page charges of $2,400. Only ~1% are likely to be so large that they are assessed the surcharge of $250.

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, we have built a significantly increased and flexible author waiver budget into our new pricing model.

Our financial waiver budget is substantially higher under the new OA model. If authors request a financial waiver for an article in AJ, ApJ, or ApJS, the Editor in Chief can authorize a waiver of 5–100%, depending on need. If authors request a financial waiver for ApJL, up to 80% of the article publication charges can be waived, based on need. We are requiring that authors pay a $450 handling fee for all ApJL articles to cover the extra costs related to the speed of publication. More information about waivers can be found here.

In addition, 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.

Articles that are submitted before 1 January 2022 are subject to 2021 article publication charges, with the continued option of paying the 2021 gold open access charge, which will allow your article to be read immediately by everyone as soon as it is published. Articles submitted to AAS journals (except PSJ) after 1 January 2022 will pay the new 2022 article publication charges listed above.

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.

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.