Diamond open access in Latin America: the challenge of a sustainable publishing model

It is no secret that access to scientific information and publishing in certain journals is not equally distributed across the globe. Open Access has been adopted more or less extensively in different regions, and some countries have developed in-house solutions to assure the visibility of their scientific production through community-owned infrastructure.

In Latin America, the scholarly publishing ecosystem is publicly financed, and 75% of the region’s scientific output is produced in public universities1. Diamond open access is the most prevalent model, and only 10% of the journals charge APCs2. This is corroborated by a recent survey carried out by ALAEC (Latin American Association of Scientific Editors) with 350 journal editors from 14 countries of the region, which also showed that 90% of the journals of the region are Diamond Open Access.

Therefore, university journals and institutional repositories play a crucial role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge and equal access to scientific content. Very often outside of the international top scientific landscape, Latin America developed several remarkable initiatives to promote equal access to scientific knowledge and tools, highlighting scholarly-led regional infrastructure such as SciELO, Redalyc, Latindex, and LA Referencia.

Although many Latin American journals are completely absent from the mainstream international circuit, they serve specific functions that are fundamental for a truly diverse, equal, and global science.They offer a space for initiation into publishing, playing different important roles: training for early career researchers; knowledge-bridging by providing a link between articles in mainstream journals and articles read by communities with limited access to them; and publishing topics that are not well covered by mainstream journals, gap-filling knowledge3.

However, this robust scholarly communication infrastructure is facing strong sustainability challenges. Economic instability and the lack of a national open science legal framework in countries like Brazil, responsible for 50% of the articles published in the region, are obstacles that put current practices at risk. While Redalyc continues to promote and support diamond open-access, SciELO is indexing journals that charge APCs (with fees significantly lower than those charged by mainstream publishers).

Given the fees charged by major publishers, open access with APCs reveals tensions in a fast-changing editorial industry and increases asymmetries and breaches. Moreover, big publishers are approaching the large consortia, with whom they have long-term commercial relationships due to the national subscription agreements that are predominant in the region. These discussions reveal a clear discrepancy between the significant budget allocated to subscriptions (and potentially to transformative agreements) and that allocated to help university journals thrive.

Transformative agreements are presented to the community as a way to channel the funds towards open-access publications in the subscribed journals from big international publishers. Given the different models and sources of mainly public funding for publications, how can we measure the national impact of APCs in low and medium-income countries?

Due to the evolving nature of open access publishing and emerging business models, it is challenging to evaluate them within a regional or international context.  There are significant differences that can have an impact on the research undertaken and published in respective regions of the world. As scholarly publishing becomes more global, it is increasingly important to consider these factors and their effect on publishing scientific advances.

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By Ana Heredia, PhD, Affiliate Senior Associate, Latin America

Ana is a consultant at Heredia & Viggiani and an Affiliate Senior Associate at Maverick Publishing. She is a former Behavioural Ecologist with an MSc in Neurosciences (Université Paul Sabatier) and a PhD in Sciences (Université Libre de Bruxelles). After two post-doctoral positions, Ana started her career in scholarly publishing at Elsevier as a Research Advisor for Latin America, driving the academic relations for the region. As a Publishing Manager, Ana was responsible for the journal’s business strategy and editorial and production workflows. After 10 years at Elsevier, Ana joined ORCID as a Regional Director for Latin America, driving the membership and engagement strategy at national levels. Ana chairs the Global Perspectives Taskforce (SSP) and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EASE), and is part of the Advisory Board of the Latin American Association of Scientific Editors ALAEC).

Further Reading

The road to Open Access is paved with unintended consequences

Insights on new publishing models from R2R 2024

Maverick’s Open Access service sheet


  1. Albornoz et al., 2017. Las universidades lideran la I+D en América Latina. Report El Estado de la Ciencia (RICYT).
  2. Chavarro et al., 2017. Why researchers publish in non-mainstream journals: Training, knowledge bridging, and gap filling. Research Policy. 46(9):1666-1680.
  3. Beigel et al., 2022. OLIVA: The scientific production indexed in Latin America and the Caribbean. Disciplinary diversity, institutional collaboration, and multilingualism in SciELO and Redalyc (1995-2018).