APCs paid in the wild

As part of the Lessons in Open Access Compliance for Higher Education (LOCH) project we have been looking at the problems of identifying Article Processing Charges (APCs) that the Library is not currently aware of – which we colloquially call ‘APCs paid in the wild’. We have written a short case study that is currently under open review at The Winnower:

Improving estimates of the total cost of publication by recognising ‘APCs paid in the wild’

The take home message from our ‘APCs paid in the wild’ case study can be summarised as:

We estimate that these costs could account for up to 20% extra in the total cost of publication that is not currently being accounted for. This additional cost is important to take into account when institutions are negotiating fair offsetting agreements for open access publishing.

We would welcome any constructive criticism on the work so please have a read and leave an open review so that we can improve the article.

Open Access in the College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

My name is Anna Krzak, and I am an Open Access Research Publications Administrator for the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. I have been in this role since March this year. Previously, I worked as an Open Access Publications Assistant (also for MVM) so I am not entirely new to the University and its Open Access (OA) project. I have been assisting academics within the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine with the RCUK OA policy implementation since April last year but, since I used to work mostly from home, I should introduce myself properly now.

The main purpose of my new role is to gather Open Access full text versions of research papers and the accepted peer-reviewed manuscripts and to upload the files to the Institutional Repository. As part of that, I ensure that the licensing terms and conditions are adhered to, including any embargo periods, and that any licenses or set phrases are acknowledged in PURE. In addition, I often advise academic staff on research funders’ Open Access policies and relevant Open Access options. If necessary, I consult the publishers in regard to their often unclear self-archiving policies (this is probably my least favourite bit..). As such, my role combines both theoretical and practical aspects of the OA implementation project that’s currently being undertaken throughout the University.

As the RCUK OA policy has been in force since April 2013, I thought it would be a good idea to evaluate the progress of its implementation in my College:

Please note that the collected evidence refers only to peer-reviewed research articles (including review articles) and conference proceedings that were submitted for publication after 1 April 2013 and that acknowledge the RCUK funding (as per the RCUK OA policy).

RCUK Compliance for the reporting period 1/04/13 – 4/06/14:

Approximately 224 research outputs have been identified, of which 192 have open access documents available to the general public. This means an 85% open access compliance rate (as of 4th June 2014).

All outputs All Open Access Gold/Gratis OA Green OA
         223      191      164            27

However, a more detailed analysis of the RCUK requirements for OA has revealed few secondary problems:

  • Licensing: Although the majority of all OA articles have been published under the CC-BY and CC-BY-NC licence (as required by the RCUK), in approximately 18 cases the articles were published under the CC-BY-NC-SA or CC-BY-NC-ND licences
  • Length of embargo periods: In 18 out of 27 cases the embargo periods were 12 months and longer
  • Self-archiving issues: In several cases journals didn’t offer any green options

If we take these points into consideration, the compliance rate for the specified period stands at approximately 67%, as compared to the required 45%. Overall, it’s quite a good result for MVM.

I’m afraid that my introduction has come across all too serious. However, in a face-to-face conversation you may find out that I am not really that bad 😉

-Anna Krzak, Open Access Research Publications Administrator, MVM

Three different traits of open access publishers

This week I’ve been compiling some data for the next meeting of the RLUK Ethical and Effective Publishing Working Group. Some of the data itself is pretty interesting so I thought I would write a quick blog post and share some preliminary thoughts on what it means. The table below shows the top 5 publishers in terms of money spent on article processing charges (APCs) from the RCUK open access block grant in 2013-14.

Publisher Total spend No. of APCs Average APC Discount on list price
Elsevier £52,596 36 £1,461.00 25%
Wiley £51,781 35 £1,479.46 25%
Public Library of Science (PLOS) £23,737 24 £989.04 0%
Nature Pub Group (NPG) £21,226 8 £2,653.25 0%
BioMed Central (BMC) £20,746 16 £1,296.63 15%

Article processing charges (APC) for the most popular journals for Edinburgh authors.

We found that 2 publishers stood head and shoulders clear from the rest of the field. In terms of gross spend and number of articles published the top publisher was Elsevier, with £52.6k and 36 articles. In second place, with a similar publisher profile was Wiley with £51.8k and 35 articles. Both of these publishers were followed by PLOS, NPG and BMC who all had broadly similar spends of around £20k. Whilst the total cost per publisher is interesting, what is really noteworthy is the number of articles that money pays for, revealing something of the publisher’s strategy in the open access market place.

The lowest APCs are incurred from the open access journals – PLOS and BMC – who have fees roughly a third less than the other publishers. The highest APCs are incurred by hybrid journals, who also make money from subscriptions, and article reprints. NPG stand out from the crowd as they charge nearly double compared to their competitors.

In summary, what we see here are broadly 3 groups of publishers with different traits:

Money Makers – traditional publishers with the biggest market share, the highest number of articles published, APC set to the highest they think market can bear without losing submissions, initially offering biggest discounts for institutional deals to get sign ups (and easier access to authors).

Prestige reputation – traditional publishers trading on their reputational status. Significantly less articles published but with larger APCs levied to publish in the journals with the highest impact factors. Strategy of selling high end products and services to those that can afford them.

Emerging challengers – new business model and products, more reasonable APCs to attract a market share. However, it is worth noting that since being bought out by Springer, BMC have attracted criticism for raising APCs much quicker than the rate of inflation.

When we get round to submitting the final RCUK report we’ll release our full dataset of article processing charges.

[Minor edits made to original to correct grammar, headings and stylesheet]

University of Edinburgh Open Access update: March 2014

As of 31st March there are approximately 76,800 records in our Current Research Information System (PURE), of which 16,795 have open access documents available to the general public (22% open access). In addition there are 170 records with documents waiting for validation.

Looking specifically at just journal articles and conference proceedings:

All time OA docs Open access % 2008 onwards OA docs Open access %
Medicine & Veterinary Medicine 6513 33 4476 41
Humanities & Social Science 3002 22 2509 36
Science & Engineering 5687 22 3826 30

Monthly application figures to the Gold Open Access funds:

Month Applications to RCUK Applications to Wellcome
January 2014 32 13
February 2014 24 13
March 2014 23 14

Status of the RCUK fund – currently there is £367,400 left in the fund*, with an additional £74,400 committed on articles submitted for publication. Altogether the fund has 35% left in the account.

(*this figure was slightly wrong last month – apologies!)

Status of the Wellcome fund – since the start of the new reporting period (November 2013) the cumulative open access spend has been £137,078

University of Edinburgh Open Access update: Feb 2014

As of 27th Jan there are approximately 75,700 records in our Current Research Information System (PURE), of which 15,486 have open access documents available to the general public (20% open access). In addition there are 71 records with documents waiting for validation.

Looking specifically at just journal articles and conference proceedings:

  All time OA docs Open access % 2008 onwards OA docs Open access %
Medicine & Veterinary Medicine 6450 26 4537 32
Humanities & Social Science 2667 19 2239 32
Science & Engineering 5514 22 3688 30

Monthly application figures to the Gold Open Access funds:

Month Applications to RCUK Applications to Wellcome
October 2013 23
November 2013 27 20
December 2013 19 9
January 2014 32 13
February 2014 24 13

Status of the RCUK fund – currently there is £327,222 left in the fund, with an additional £65,011 committed on articles submitted for publication. Altogether the fund has 39% left in the account.

Status of the Wellcome fundsince the start of the new reporting period (November 2013) the cumulative open access spend has been £108,372

Gold Open Access: Counting the Costs

The Digital Library team at the University of Edinburgh have written a new paper analysing the cost of Gold OA over the past few years. The data arises from managing the Wellcome Trust’s Open Access grant awarded to the university.

Some of the article’s main take home messages are:

  1. Hybrid journals seem to be more popular venues for Open Access  publication, and
  2. Hybrid journals generally charge more than full OA journals independent of journal impact factor, and
  3. There is a positive correlation between APC cost and impact factor for both hybrid and full OA journals.

Some more reflective points arising from the work:

  1. It appears that Open Access policies require rigorous compliance monitoring to be successful, and seem to be more effective when punitive sanctions are imposed.
  2. Research-intensive institutions are likely to be hit by a cost ‘double whammy’; they not only publish more articles, but they also publish them more frequently in high-impact-factor journals.
  3. Institutions need to be more open about costs, and publish the data in a format that allows reuse.

The full article is available here:


The data set upon which the article is based is available here:



Gold OA: how much will it cost us?

As the administrator of our institutions Wellcome Trust open access grant it’s that time of year when we have to prepare a report on last years spend on open access publication charges.

Given that the recent RCUK OA policy has a strong steer towards Gold OA it gives us a chance to look at some real facts and figures at what this policy change could cost for a research intensive institution.

Looking at the basic figures for last year we spent approximately £170,000 on 100 articles published in 75 different journals, working out at an average cost of £1700 per paper.

Extrapolating upwards the University of Edinburgh publishes in the region of 4000 peer reviewed journal articles per year – this figure does not include other publication types like conference papers not affected by the RCUK policy. Assuming an average Article Processing Charge (APC) of £1500 (more in line with other institutions) the total publication costs will be in the region of £6M. It is clear that even with guaranteed funding from HEFCE large research intensive universities will not be able to pay for all of their research to be published under Gold OA. How to allocate funding to researchers will be a difficult choice that many institutions are currently asking themselves – will it be on a first come first served basis, funder specific, or will REF submitted material take priority?

A more detailed analysis of Gold OA costs from the past 5 years is being written up for publication in a forthcoming article of Ariadne. Here is a taste of some of the data we will be looking at:

Price range JIF Range JIF Mean JIF Median Number of articles* Type
£0-£999 2.263 – 10.472 4.849 4.537 41 44% hybrid 56% full OA
£1000-£1999 0.856 -15.389 6.328 5.117 108 63% hybrid 37% full OA
£2000-£2999 0.986 – 12.594 4.411 3.441 61 100% hybrid
< £3000 5.971 – 15.710 12.363 10.881 17 100% hybrid

Table.1: The range of journal impact factors and mean/median values for the 4 main prices ranges (*discounting 3 journals which were not allocated a JIF in the Journal Citation Report). Journals with high impact factors seem to charge significantly more than other types of journal for gold open access