Article processing charges for open access publication—the situation for research intensive universities in the USA and Canada

Authors : David Solomon, Bo-Christer Björk


Open access (OA) publishing via article processing charges (APCs) is growing as an alternative to subscription publishing.

The Pay It Forward (PIF) Project is exploring the feasibility of transitioning from paying subscriptions to funding APCs for faculty at research intensive universities.

Estimating of the cost of APCs for the journals authors at research intensive universities tend to publish is essential for the PIF project and similar initiatives. This paper presents our research into this question.


We identified APC prices for publications by authors at the 4 research intensive United States (US) and Canadian universities involved in the study.

We also obtained APC payment records from several Western European universities and funding agencies. Both data sets were merged with Web of Science (WoS) metadata. We calculated the average APCs for articles and proceedings in 13 discipline categories published by researchers at research intensive universities.

We also identified 41 journals published by traditionally subscription publishers which have recently converted to APC funded OA and recorded the APCs they charge.


We identified 7,629 payment records from the 4 European APC payment databases and 14,356 OA articles authored by PIF partner university faculty for which we had listed APC prices.

APCs for full OA journals published by PIF authors averaged 1,775 USD; full OA journal APCs paid by Western European funders averaged 1,865 USD; hybrid APCs paid by Western European funders averaged 2,887 USD.

The APC for converted journals published by major subscription publishers averaged 1,825 USD. APC funded OA is concentrated in the life and basic sciences.

APCs funded articles in the social sciences and humanities are often multidisciplinary and published in journals such as PLOS ONE that largely publish in the life sciences.


Full OA journal APCs average a little under 2,000 USD while hybrid articles average about 3,000 USD for publications by researchers at research intensive universities.

There is a lack of information on discipline differences in APCs due to the concentration of APC funded publications in a few fields and the multidisciplinary nature of research.

URL : Article processing charges for open access publication—the situation for research intensive universities in the USA and Canada


A longitudinal study of independent scholar-published open access journals

Authors : Bo-Christer Björk, Cenyu Shen, Mikael Laakso

Open Access (OA) is nowadays increasingly being used as a business model for the publishing of scholarly peer reviewed journals, both by specialized OA publishing companies and major, predominantly subscription-based publishers.

However, in the early days of the web OA journals were mainly founded by independent academics, who were dissatisfied with the predominant print and subscription paradigm and wanted to test the opportunities offered by the new medium.

There is still an on-going debate about how OA journals should be operated, and the volunteer model used by many such ‘indie’ journals has been proposed as a viable alternative to the model adopted by big professional publishers where publishing activities are funded by authors paying expensive article processing charges (APCs).

Our longitudinal quantitative study of 250 ‘indie’ OA journals founded prior to 2002, showed that 51% of these journals were still in operation in 2014 and that the median number of articles published per year had risen from 11 to 18 among the survivors.

Of these surviving journals, only 8% had started collecting APCs. A more detailed qualitative case study of five such journals provided insights into how such journals have tried to ensure the continuity and longevity of operations.

URL : A longitudinal study of independent scholar-published open access journals


Open access versus subscription journals: a comparison of scientific impact

Authors : Bo-Christer Björk, David Solomon


In the past few years there has been an ongoing debate as to whether the proliferation of open access (OA) publishing would damage the peer review system and put the quality of scientific journal publishing at risk.

Our aim was to inform this debate by comparing the scientific impact of OA journals with subscription journals, controlling for journal age, the country of the publisher, discipline and (for OA publishers) their business model.


The 2-year impact factors (the average number of citations to the articles in a journal) were used as a proxy for scientific impact. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) was used to identify OA journals as well as their business model.

Journal age and discipline were obtained from the Ulrich’s periodicals directory. Comparisons were performed on the journal level as well as on the article level where the results were weighted by the number of articles published in a journal.

A total of 610 OA journals were compared with 7,609 subscription journals using Web of Science citation data while an overlapping set of 1,327 OA journals were compared with 11,124 subscription journals using Scopus data.


Overall, average citation rates, both unweighted and weighted for the number of articles per journal, were about 30% higher for subscription journals. However, after controlling for discipline (medicine and health versus other), age of the journal (three time periods) and the location of the publisher (four largest publishing countries versus other countries) the differences largely disappeared in most subcategories except for journals that had been launched prior to 1996.

OA journals that fund publishing with article processing charges (APCs) are on average cited more than other OA journals. In medicine and health, OA journals founded in the last 10 years are receiving about as many citations as subscription journals launched during the same period.


Our results indicate that OA journals indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus are approaching the same scientific impact and quality as subscription journals, particularly in biomedicine and for journals funded by article processing charges.