There was a dramatic increase in the volume of manuscripts submitted to The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery (JBJS) between 2009 and 2012. This resulted in increased journal administrative costs. To offset this financial burden, in May 2013, JBJS started charging authors an administrative processing fee at the time of submission. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of the administrative fee on the volume and characteristics of manuscripts submitted to JBJS.
Our analysis included 866 manuscripts submitted to JBJS between November 2012 and November 2013. We compared manuscripts submitted 6 months prior to fee implementation and prior to the announcement (denoted as the baseline group), in the several months prior to fee implementation but after the fee implementation announcement (denoted as the fee announcement group), and in the 6 months after fee implementation (denoted as the fee implementation group). Manuscripts were reviewed for institutional and author demographic characteristics, as well as for general study characteristics.
In the first full calendar year (2014) after the implementation of the fee, the annual volume of submissions to JBJS declined by 33.5% compared with the annual submission volume in 2010 to 2012. In a comparative analysis, the geographical region of origin (p = 0.003), level of evidence (p < 0.0001), funding, and specialty differed between the 3 submission periods. However, subgroup analyses demonstrated that differences were attributable to the fee announcement group and that there were few important differences between the baseline and fee implementation groups. Reporting of funding information improved significantly between the baseline and fee implementation groups; in the post-fee implementation period, studies were more likely to have declared no external funding source (p = 0.001).
The administrative processing fee at JBJS has been associated with a decrease in submission volume, but, overall, there has not been a change in the characteristics of studies submitted. However, decreased overall volume implies a decrease in the absolute number of high-level studies submitted to the journal. Administrative processing fees at high-volume journals may be a financially viable way to offset high administrative costs without substantially changing the characteristics of submitted articles.