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


Common Struggles: Policy-based vs. scholar-led approaches to open access in the humanities

Author : Samuel A. Moore

Open access publishing (OA) not only removes price and permission restrictions to academic research, but also represents an opportunity to reassess what publishing means to the humanities.

OA is increasingly on the agenda for humanities researchers in the UK, having been mandated in various forms by universities and governmental funders strongly influenced by advocates in the STEM disciplines.

Yet publishing practices in the humanities are unique to the field and any move to a new system of scholarly communication has the potential to conflict with the ways in which humanities research is published, many of which are shaped by the expectations of the neoliberal university that uniquely impact on the practices of humanities researchers.

Furthermore, OA does not reflect a unified ideology, business model or political outlook, and different methods of publication based on open practices will inherently represent a variety of values, struggles or conceptual enclosures.

This thesis assesses the contrasting values and practices of different approaches to OA in the humanities through a series of case-studies on governmental and scholar-led forms of OA, explored through a critical methodology comprising both constructivism and deconstruction.

The thesis argues that the UK governmental policy framework, comprised of policies introduced by the Research Councils (RCUK) and Higher Education Funding Councils (HEFCE), promotes a form of OA that intends to minimise disruption to the publishing industry.

The scholar-led ecosystem of presses, in contrast, reflects a diversity of values and struggles that represent a counter-hegemonic alternative to the dominant cultures of OA and publishing more generally.

The values of each approach are analysed on a spectrum between the logic of choice versus the logic of care (following the work of Annemarie Mol) to illustrate how the governmental policies promote a culture of OA predominantly focused on tangible outcomes, whereas the scholar-led presses prioritise an ethic of care for the cultures of how humanities research is produced and published.

In prioritising a commitment to care, scholar-led presses display a praxis that resembles the kinds of activities and relationships centred on common resource management (‘commoning’).

The thesis concludes with a series of recommendations for how such care-full values could be best realised in an emancipatory commons-based ecosystem of OA publishing for the humanities, which would be cultivated through a range of institutions and political interventions.


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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The Two-Way Street of Open Access Journal Publishing: Flip It and Reverse It

Authors : Lisa Matthias, Najko Jahn, Mikael Laakso

As Open access (OA) is often perceived as the end goal of scholarly publishing, much research has focused on flipping subscription journals to an OA model. Focusing on what can happen after the presumed finish line, this study identifies journals that have converted from OA to a subscription model, and places these “reverse flips” within the greater context of scholarly publishing.

In particular, we examine specific journal descriptors, such as access mode, publisher, subject area, society affiliation, article volume, and citation metrics, to deepen our understanding of reverse flips.

Our results show that at least 152 actively publishing journals have reverse-flipped since 2005, suggesting that this phenomenon does not constitute merely a few marginal outliers, but instead a common pattern within scholarly publishing.

Notably, we found that 62% of reverse flips (N = 95) had not been born-OA journals, but had been founded as subscription journals, and hence have experienced a three-stage transformation from closed to open to closed.

We argue that reverse flips present a unique perspective on OA, and that further research would greatly benefit from enhanced data and tools for identifying such cases.

URL : The Two-Way Street of Open Access Journal Publishing: Flip It and Reverse It 


Revisiting the Term Predatory Open Access Publishing

Author : Aamir Raoof Memon

Since the 1990s, scholarly publishing has been transformed from subscription print-based paradigm to an open access and digital publishing model, but this transformation has been accompanied by unethical and predatory publishing practices.

‘Pay-to-publish’ predatory journals abuse the open-access publishing model, and their main intention is to make money out of authors for their editor–owners. The defining characteristic of predatory journals is the lack of a proper peer review process, despite their claims to the contrary.

The spectrum of victims of predatory journals varies widely and includes inexperienced, early-career and naive researchers from both developing and high- to upper middle-income countries, together with experienced researchers.

To circumvent this, several black and whitelists have been created. Beall’s list of potential or probable predatory journals remained the go-to list until its sudden closure.

Later, similar lists such as the Stop Predatory Journals website (, and institutional lists such as those published by the University Grants Commission (UGC) India, and several other commercial bodies and associations appeared; however, they have been criticized for several reasons, including their poor methodology and lack of transparency.

The world of scholarly publishing is not purely black and white, and there are always some grey areas; therefore, we cannot rely on any such listings.

URL : Revisiting the Term Predatory Open Access Publishing