Transformation: the future of society publishing

Authors : Tasha Mellins-Cohen, Gaynor Redvers-Mutton

The release in September 2018 of Plan S has led many small and society publishers to examine their business models, and in particular ways to transform their journals from hybrids into pure open access (OA) titles.

This paper explores one means by which a society publisher might transform, focused specifically on the institutional set-price publish and read (P&R) package being developed by the Microbiology Society based on assessments of: the geographic diversity of our author and subscriber bases; trends in article numbers, article costs and revenues; the administrative complexity of the options; and the reputational and financial risks to the Society associated with the package.

We outline the process we followed to calculate the financial and publishing implications of P&R at different price points, and share our view that these kinds of packages are a stop on the way to new models of OA that do not rely on article processing charges (APCs).

Our hope is that in sharing our experience, we will contribute to a collective best practice about how to transform society publishing.

URL : Transformation: the future of society publishing


Business as Usual with Article Processing Charges in the Transition towards OA Publishing: A Case Study Based on Elsevier

Author : Sergio Copiello

This paper addresses the topic of the article processing charges (APCs) that are paid when publishing articles using the open access (OA) option. Building on the Elsevier OA price list, company balance sheet figures, and ScienceDirect data, tentative answers to three questions are outlined using a Monte Carlo approach to deal with the uncertainty inherent in the inputs.

The first question refers to the level of APCs from the market perspective, under the hypothesis that all the articles published in Elsevier journals exploit the OA model so that the subscription to ScienceDirect becomes worthless.

The second question is how much Elsevier should charge for publishing all the articles under the OA model, assuming the profit margin reduces and adheres to the market benchmark.

The third issue is how many articles would have to be accepted, in an OA-only publishing landscape, so that the publisher benefits from the same revenue and profit margin as in the recent past.

The results point to high APCs, nearly twice the current level, being required to preserve the publisher’s profit margin. Otherwise, by relaxing that constraint, a downward shift of APCs can be expected so they would tend to get close to current values. Accordingly, the article acceptance rate could be likely to grow from 26–27% to about 35–55%.

URL : Business as Usual with Article Processing Charges in the Transition towards OA Publishing: A Case Study Based on Elsevier


The Pricing of Open Access Journals: Diverse Niches and Sources of Value in Academic Publishing

Authors : Kyle Siler, Koen Frenken

Open Access (OA) publishing has created new academic and economic niches in contemporary science. OA journals offer numerous publication outlets with varying editorial philosophies and business models.

This article analyzes the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) (N=12,127) to identify characteristics of OA academic journals related to the adoption of Article Processing Charge (APC)-based business models, as well as price points of journals that charge APCs. Journal Impact Factor (JIF), language, publisher mission, DOAJ Seal, economic and geographic regions of publishers, peer review duration and journal discipline are all significantly related to the adoption and pricing of journal APCs.

Even after accounting for other journal characteristics (prestige, discipline, publisher country), journals published by for-profit publishers charge the highest APCs. Journals with status endowments (JIF, DOAJ Seal), articles written in English, published in wealthier regions, and in medical or science-based disciplines are also relatively costlier.

The OA publishing market reveals insights into forces that create economic and academic value in contemporary science. Political and institutional inequalities manifest in the varying niches occupied by different OA journals and publishers.

URL : The Pricing of Open Access Journals: Diverse Niches and Sources of Value in Academic Publishing


Determinants of Article Processing Charges for Medical Open Access Journals

Author : Sumiko Asai

For-profit subscription journal publishers recently have extended their publishing range from subscription journals to numerous open access journals, thereby strengthening their presence in the open access journal market.

This study estimates the article processing charges for 509 medical open access journals using a sample selection model to examine the determinants of the charges.

The results show that publisher type tends to determine whether the journal charges an article processing charge as well as the level of the charge; and frequently cited journals generally set higher article processing charges. Moreover, large subscription journal publishers tend to set higher article processing charges for their open access journals after controlling for other factors.

Therefore, it is necessary to continue monitoring their activities from the viewpoint of competition policy.


Article Processing Charge Hyperinflation and Price Insensitivity: An Open Access Sequel to the Serials Crisis

Author: Shaun Yon-Seng Khoo

Open access publishing has frequently been proposed as a solution to the serials crisis, which involved unsustainable budgetary pressures on libraries due to hyperinflation of subscription costs. The majority of open access articles are published in a minority of journals that levy article processing charges (APCs) paid by authors or their institutions upon acceptance.

Increases in APCs is proceeding at a rate three times that which would be expected if APCs were indexed according to inflation. As increasingly ambitious funder mandates are proposed, such as Plan S, it is important to evaluate whether authors show signs of price sensitivity in journal selection by avoiding journals that introduce or increase their APCs.

Examining journals that introduced an APC 4-5 years after launch or when flipping from a subscription model to immediate open access model showed no evidence that APC introduction reduced article volumes.

Multilevel modelling of APC sensitivity across 319 journals published by the four largest APC-funded dedicated commercial open access publishers (BMC, Frontiers, MDPI, and Hindawi) revealed that from 2012 to 2018 higher APCs were actually associated with increased article volumes.

These findings indicate that APC hyperinflation is not suppressed through market competition and author choice. Instead, demand for scholarly journal publications may be more similar to demand for necessities, or even prestige goods, which will support APC hyperinflation to the detriment of researchers, institutions, and funders.

URL : Article Processing Charge Hyperinflation and Price Insensitivity: An Open Access Sequel to the Serials Crisis


The Price of Gold: Curiosity?

Authors : Daniel W. Hook, Mark Hahnel, Christian Herzog

Gold open access as characterised by the payment of an article processing charge (APC) has become one of the dominant models in open access publication. This paper examines an extreme hypothetical case in which the APC model is the only model and the systematic issues that could develop in such a scenario.


If Research Libraries and Funders Finance Open Access: Moving Beyond Subscriptions and APCs

Authors : John Willinsky, Matthew Rusk

Following the examples of SCOAP3, in which libraries fund open access, and eLife, in which funding agencies have begun to directly fund open access scholarly publishing, this study presents an analysis of how creatively combining these two models might provide a means to move toward universal open access (without APCs).

This study calculates the publishing costs for the funders that sponsor the research and for the libraries that cover unsponsored articles for two nonprofit biomedical publishers, eLife and PLOS, and the nonprofit journal aggregator BioOne.

These entities represent a mix of publishing revenue models, including funder sponsorship, article processing charges (APC), and subscription fees. Using PubMed filtering and manual-sampling strategies, as well as publicly available publisher revenue data, the study found that, in 2015, 86 percent of the articles in eLife and PLOS acknowledge funder support, as do 76 percent of the articles in the largely subscription journals of BioOne.

Such findings can inform libraries and funding agencies, as well as publishers, in their consideration of a direct-payment open access model, as the study (a) demonstrates the cost breakdown for funder and library support for open access among this sample of X articles; (b) posits how publishing data-management organizations such as Crossref and ORCID can facilitate such a model of funder and library per-article open access payments; and (c) proposes ways in which such a model offers a more efficient, equitable, and scalable approach to open access across the disciplines than the prevailing APC model, which originated with biomedical publishing.

URL : If Research Libraries and Funders Finance Open Access: Moving Beyond Subscriptions and APCs

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