A study comparing open-access versus paywalled publications finds less geographical diversity among authors who choose open access (see Nature https://doi.org/gpkt87; 2022). This does not surprise us in Brazil, where article-processing charges (APCs) typically correspond to many months, or even years, of a scientist’s stipend. Yet we are not eligible for waivers or discounts under the open-access initiative Plan S (see go.nature.com/3d1qh), or for research-accessibility programmes such as Research4Life.

Both schemes support publications from low-income and lower-to-middle-income economies. Because Brazil is classed as an upper-middle-income economy, requests for APC waivers and discounts are generally turned down, in our experience. Many of us opt instead to publish behind paywalls. But that might not be possible after 2024, when Plan S transformative agreements will end and journals will transition to exclusively publishing open-access content.

If the open-access movement genuinely favours inclusion, authors in the global south must be able to publish papers as well as read them without barriers. Plan S and the principal editorial companies must consider the extraordinary differences in national scientific budgets and investment. They should offer upper-middle-income countries, such as Brazil, significant discounts or APC waivers upfront (see go.nature.com/3ipsh).