Scholarly publishing is going through a transformation as a result of digital means of communication, coupled with the financial predicament of libraries. With the most recent economic downturn, access to scholarly articles, so important to research progress and public advancement, will no doubt suffer.

Open-access scholarly journals have arisen as an alternative to traditional subscription scholarly journals. Open-access journals make their articles available freely to anyone, while providing the same services common to all scholarly journals, such as management of the peer-review process, filtering, production, and distribution. Since open-access journals do not charge subscription or other access fees, they must cover their operating expenses through other sources, including subventions, in-kind support, or, in a sizable minority of cases, processing fees paid by or on behalf of authors for submission to or publication in the journal.

Universities subsidize the costs of subscription journals by subscribing to them. Universities and funding agencies can provide equitable support for the processing-fee business model for open-access journals — to place the subscription-fee and processing-fee models on a more level playing field — by subsidizing processing fees as well.

The compact for open-access publishing equity supports equity of the business models by committing each university to "the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in fee-based open-access journals and for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds."

A full account of the motivation for the compact can be found in the article "Equity for Open-Access Journal Publishing" published in the open-access journal Public Library of Science Biology.

Additional universities are encouraged to sign on to the compact at this web site.