Cost hurdles to open access publishing: A citizen scientist perspective

 Author : Wenfa Ng

Besides offering fun activities for non-scientists to explore the natural world through experiments, simulations or games, the evolving concept of citizen science is increasingly allowing some serious publication quality science to be published by the practitioners (citizen scientists) themselves.

The latter is in contrast to the common perception of citizen science, where most citizen science projects such as Foldit are distribution of piecemeal segments of complex projects suitable for solution by individuals, and where the results are pooled together, or used to inform the design and direction of more complex research initiatives.

Usually novices in science publishing but nonetheless aware of the importance of journal articles as the primary medium for communicating new research to the wider community (scientific and general public), citizen scientists do encounter significant challenges in science publication.

One challenge is in navigating the lengthy and time-consuming peer review process of most journals. But, as benefactors of open access publishing where most journal articles are within pay walls inaccessible to citizen scientists without any research funding, open access publishing is one platform sought after or exist as an option for citizen scientists.

Is the option open? Yes, at the preprint level where figshare, and PeerJ Preprints help provide an avenue for citizen scientists to have a published non peer reviewed article online, but no at the higher end “journal article” level where the manuscript needs to be peer reviewed. Even the biological sciences preprint server, bioRxiv, is closed to citizen scientists as publication on the server requires an institution affiliation with either a university or research institute. Most open access publishers (except eLife) charge a publication fee (in the thousands of dollars per article) to defray the cost of maintaining an online presence for a peer reviewed manuscript as well as those for copyediting during final stages of journal publication.

This is a significant barrier to cost constrained citizen scientists who want to contribute to the scientific discourse. For the scientific enterprise, this represent a loss, whose magnitude or severity cannot be quantified since ideas help seed new research or entirely new fields.

Thus, can we as a community provide citizen scientists worldwide a chance to publish open access peer reviewed articles without significant cost through a competitive publication fee subsidy scheme where each application is reviewed by the national science funding agency?

If the above is possible, it would open up another area where ideas from citizen scientists could percolate into the scientific mainstream, where, as always, vibrancy and diversity of ideas power science forward.

URL : Cost hurdles to open access publishing: A citizen scientist perspective


Hybrid open access—A longitudinal study

Authors : Mikael Laakso, Bo-Christer Björk

This study estimates the development of hybrid open access (OA), i.e. articles published openly on the web within subscription-access journals. Included in the study are the five largest publishers of scholarly journals; Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Sage.

Since no central indexing or standardized metadata exists for identifying hybrid OA an explorative bottom-up methodological approach was developed. The individual search and filtering features of each publisher website and a-priori availability of data were leveraged to the extent possible.

The results indicate a strong sustained growth in the volume of articles published as hybrid OA during 2007 (666 articles) to 2013 (13 994 articles). The share of hybrid articles was at 3.8% of total published articles for the period of 2011–2013 for journals with at least one identified hybrid OA article.

Journals within the Scopus discipline categorization of Health and Life Sciences, in particular the field of Medicine, were found to be among the most frequent publishers of hybrid OA content.

The study surfaces the many methodological challenges involved in obtaining metrics regarding hybrid OA, a growing business for journal publishers as science policy pressures for reduced access barriers to research publications.

URL : Hybrid open access—A longitudinal study


Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences

Authors : David Solomon, Mikael Laakso, Bo-Christer Björk

This report identifies ways through which subscription-based scholarly journals have converted their publishing models to open access (OA).

The major goal was to identify specific scenarios that have been used or proposed for transitioning subscription journals to OA so that these scenarios can provide options for others seeking to “flip” their journals to OA.

The report is based on the published literature as well as “gray” literature such as blog posts and press releases. In addition, interviews were conducted with eight experts in scholarly publishing.

The report identifies a variety of goals for converting a journal to OA. While there are altruistic goals of making scholarship more accessible, the literature review and interviews suggest that there are also many practical reasons for transitioning to an OA model.

In some instances, an OA business model is simply more economically viable. Also, it is not unusual for a society or editorial board to transition to an OA business model as a means of gaining independence from the current publisher.

Increasing readership, the number and quality of submissions, and impact as measured in citations are important goals for most journals that are considering flipping. Goals and their importance often differ for various regions in the world and across different disciplines.

Each journal’s situation is unique and it is important for those seeking to flip a journal to carefully consider exactly what they hope to achieve, what barriers they are likely to face, and how the changes that are being implemented will further the goals intended for their journal.

We found that there are many issues that must be addressed in the process of changing a journal’s business model to OA.

The transition process is complex and in most cases requires at least a year. For example, it is necessary to address manuscripts in process and how to manage back issues. Obligations to subscribers must be negotiated, particularly when the journal’s subscription is bundled with other journals in multi-journal contracts, called “big deal” agreements.

A great deal of effort should go into marketing so that authors and readers are adequately informed of the change. Implementing the transition at the beginning of a volume also helps to avoid confusion.

Society-owned journals have specific challenges, such as losing the membership perk of free or discounted subscriptions for members. The wishes of the society’s membership and its willingness to accept sacrifices, such as increased dues or reduced services, must be considered if the society must give up income to flip.

Commercial publishers have a somewhat different set of goals from nonprofit or small societies. The goals and funding options for flipping journals to OA vary across disciplines and in different parts of the world. While there are many similarities across journals, each has its own unique challenges when converting from subscription to OA.

There are a variety of factors that facilitate conversion to OA. These forces are both top down and bottom up. Governments, funding agencies, and library cooperatives through large-scale initiatives such as mandates and special funding programs can facilitate conversion and directly and indirectly influence journals converting to OA.

Also, individuals and small groups, such as editors, the editorial board, or society members, have converted journals through their own efforts. There is no process that works for all journals and there are important variations in circumstances for each journal.

There are also barriers and risks to consider. Whether or not article processing charges (APCs) are used, ensuring adequate resources to publish the journal over the long term is critical.

Unintended consequences are also a concern. APCs, or even just the change to OA, may discourage submissions or decrease their quality. Loss of free or discounted subscriptions may decrease membership for societies.

Obtaining a good understanding of the potential risks and benefits of flipping through surveys, focus groups, and pilot programs, such as flipping only a section of a journal, are strategies for understanding and substantially reducing the risks associating with changing the business model.

The scenarios are organized into those based on APC funding and those based on obtaining resources or funding through other sources. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis was performed on a number of journal scenario examples to assess the risks and benefits of each scenario.

URL : Converting Scholarly Journals to Open Access: A Review of Approaches and Experiences

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Write up! A Study of Copyright Information on Library-Published Journals

Author : Melanie Schlosser


Libraries have a mission to educate users about copyright, and library publishing staff are often involved in that work. This article investigates a concrete point of intersection between the two areas – copyright statements on library-published journals.


Journals published by members of the Library Publishing Coalition were examined for open access status, type and placement of copyright information, copyright ownership, and open licensing.


Journals in the sample were overwhelmingly (93%) open access. 80% presented copyright information of some kind, but only 30% of those included it at both the journal and the article level.

Open licensing was present in 38% of the journals, and the most common ownership scenario was the author retaining copyright while granting a nonexclusive license to the journal or publisher. 9% of the sample journals included two or more conflicting rights statements.


76% of the journals did not consistently provide accurate, easily-accessible rights information, and numerous problems were found with the use of open licensing, including conflicting licenses, incomplete licenses, and licenses not appearing at the article level.


Recommendations include presenting full copyright and licensing information at both the journal and the article level, careful use of open licenses, and publicly-available author agreements.

URL : Write up! A Study of Copyright Information on Library-Published Journals


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


Open access publishing trend analysis: statistics beyond the perception

Authors : Elisabetta Poltronieri, Elena Bravo, Moreno Curti, Maurizio Ferri, Cristina Mancini


The purpose of this analysis was twofold: to track the number of open access journals acquiring impact factor, and to investigate the distribution of subject categories pertaining to these journals. As a case study, journals in which the researchers of the National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) in Italy have published were surveyed.


Data were collected by searching open access journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals ) then compared with those having an impact factor as tracked by the Journal Citation Reports for the years 2010-2012. Journal Citation Reports subject categories were matched with Medical Subject Headings to provide a larger content classification.


A survey was performed to determine the Directory journals matching the Journal Citation Reports list, and their inclusion in a given subject area.


In the years 2010-2012, an increase in the number of journals was observed for Journal Citation Reports (+ 4.93%) and for the Directory (+18.51%). The discipline showing the highest increment was medicine (315 occurrences, 26%).


From 2010 to 2012, the number of open access journals with impact factor has gradually risen, with a prevalence for journals relating to medicine and biological science disciplines, suggesting that authors prefer to publish more than before in open access journals.



Quality Assessment of Studies Published in Open Access and Subscription Journals: Results of a Systematic Evaluation

Authors : Sonja Milovanovic, Jovana Stojanovic, Ljupcho Efremov, Rosarita Amore, Stefania Boccia


Along with the proliferation of Open Access (OA) publishing, the interest for comparing the scientific quality of studies published in OA journals versus subscription journals has also increased.

With our study we aimed to compare the methodological quality and the quality of reporting of primary epidemiological studies and systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in OA and non-OA journals.


In order to identify the studies to appraise, we listed all OA and non-OA journals which published in 2013 at least one primary epidemiologic study (case-control or cohort study design), and at least one systematic review or meta-analysis in the field of oncology.

For the appraisal, we picked up the first studies published in 2013 with case-control or cohort study design from OA journals (Group A; n = 12), and in the same time period from non-OA journals (Group B; n = 26); the first systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in 2013 from OA journals (Group C; n = 15), and in the same time period from non-OA journals (Group D; n = 32).

We evaluated the methodological quality of studies by assessing the compliance of case-control and cohort studies to Newcastle and Ottawa Scale (NOS) scale, and the compliance of systematic reviews and meta-analyses to Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) scale.

The quality of reporting was assessed considering the adherence of case-control and cohort studies to STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) checklist, and the adherence of systematic reviews and meta-analyses to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) checklist.


Among case-control and cohort studies published in OA and non-OA journals, we did not observe significant differences in the median value of NOS score (Group A: 7 (IQR 7–8) versus Group B: 8 (7–9); p = 0.5) and in the adherence to STROBE checklist (Group A, 75% versus Group B, 80%; p = 0.1).

The results did not change after adjustment for impact factor. The compliance with AMSTAR and adherence to PRISMA checklist were comparable between systematic reviews and meta-analyses published in OA and non-OA journals (Group C, 46.0% versus Group D, 55.0%; p = 0.06), (Group C, 72.0% versus Group D, 76.0%; p = 0.1), respectively).


The epidemiological studies published in OA journals in the field of oncology approach the same methodological quality and quality of reporting as studies published in non-OA journal.

URL : Quality Assessment of Studies Published in Open Access and Subscription Journals: Results of a Systematic Evaluation