Requiem for impact factors and high publication charges

Authors : Chris R Triggle, Ross MacDonald, David J. Triggle, Donald Grierson

Journal impact factors, publication charges and assessment of quality and accuracy of scientific research are critical for researchers, managers, funders, policy makers, and society. Editors and publishers compete for impact factor rankings, to demonstrate how important their journals are, and researchers strive to publish in perceived top journals, despite high publication and access charges.

This raises questions of how top journals are identified, whether assessments of impacts are accurate and whether high publication charges borne by the research community are justified, bearing in mind that they also collectively provide free peer-review to the publishers.

Although traditional journals accelerated peer review and publication during the COVID-19 pandemic, preprint servers made a greater impact with over 30,000 open access articles becoming available and accelerating a trend already seen in other fields of research.

We review and comment on the advantages and disadvantages of a range of assessment methods and the way in which they are used by researchers, managers, employers and publishers.

We argue that new approaches to assessment are required to provide a realistic and comprehensive measure of the value of research and journals and we support open access publishing at a modest, affordable price to benefit research producers and consumers.

URL : Requiem for impact factors and high publication charges


Only two out of five articles by New Zealand researchers are free-to-access: a multiple API study of access, citations, cost of Article Processing Charges (APC), and the potential to increase the proportion of open access

Authors : Richard Kenneth Alistair White, Anton Angelo, Deborah Jane Fitchett, Moira Fraser, Luqman Hayes, Jess Howie, Emma Richardson, Bruce Duncan White

We studied journal articles published by researchers at all eight of New Zealand universities in 2017 to determine how many were freely accessible on the web. We wrote software code to harvest data from multiple sources, code that we now share to enable others to reproduce our work on their own sample set.

In May 2019, we ran our code to determine which of the 2017 articles were open at that time and by what method; where those articles would have incurred an Article Processing Charge (APC) we calculated the cost if those charges had been paid.

Where articles were not freely available we determined whether the policies of publishers in each case would have allowed deposit in a non-commercial repository (Green open access). We also examined citation rates for different types of access. We found that, of our 2017 sample set, about two out of every five articles were freely accessible without payment or subscription (41%).

Where research was explicitly said to be funded by New Zealand’s major research funding agencies, the proportion was slightly higher at 45%. Where open articles would have incurred an APC we estimated an average cost per article of USD1,682 (for publications where all articles require an APC, that is, Gold open access) and USD2,558 (where APC payment is optional, Hybrid open access) at a total estimated cost of USD1.45m.

Of the paid options, Gold is by far more common for New Zealand researchers (82% Gold, 18% Hybrid). In terms of citations, our analysis aligned with previous studies that suggest a correlation between publications being freely accessible and, on balance, slightly higher rates of citation.

This is not seen across all types of open access, however, with Diamond OA achieving the lowest rates. Where articles were not freely accessible we found that a very large majority of them (88% or 3089 publications) could have been legally deposited in an institutional repository.

Similarly, only in a very small number of cases had a version deposited in the repository of a New Zealand university made the difference between the publication being freely accessible or not (125 publications).

Given that most New Zealand researchers support research being open, there is clearly a large gap between belief and practice in New Zealand’s research ecosystem.


Bibliodiversity at the Centre: Decolonizing Open Access

Author : Monica Berger

The promise of open access for the global South has not been fully met. Publishing is dominated by Northern publishers, which disadvantages Southern authors through platform capitalism and open access models requiring article processing charges to publish.

This article argues that through the employment of bibliodiversity — a sustainable, anticolonial ethos and practice developed in Latin America — the South can reclaim and decolonize open access and nurture scholarly communities.

Self‐determination and locality are at the core of bibliodiversity which rejects the domination of international, English‐language journal publishing. As articulated by the Jussieu Call, wide‐ranging, scholarly‐community‐based, non‐profit and sustainable models for open access are integral to bibliodiversity, as is reform of research evaluation systems.

Predatory publishing exploits open access and perpetuates the marginalization of Southern scholars. Predatory journals are often also conflated with legitimate Southern journals. The article concludes with a discussion of Southern open access initiatives, highlighting large‐scale infrastructure in Latin America and library‐based publishing in Africa, which express the true spirit of open access as a commons for knowledge as a public good.


Publishing at any cost: a cross-sectional study of the amount that medical researchers spend on open access publishing each year

Authors : Mallory K. Ellingson, Xiaoting Shi, Joshua J. Skydel, Kate Nyhan,Richard Lehman, Joseph S. Ross, Joshua D. Wallach


To estimate the financial costs paid by individual medical researchers from meeting the article processing charges (APCs) levied by open access journals in 2019.


Cross-sectional analysis.

Data sources

Scopus was used to generate two random samples of researchers, the first with a senior author article indexed in the ‘Medicine’ subject area (general researchers) and the second with an article published in the ten highest-impact factor general clinical medicine journals (high-impact researchers) in 2019.

For each researcher, Scopus was used to identify all first and senior author original research or review articles published in 2019. Data were obtained from Scopus, institutional profiles, Journal Citation Reports, publisher databases, the Directory of Open Access Journals, and individual journal websites.

Main outcome measures

Median APCs paid by general and high-impact researchers for all first and senior author research and review articles published in 2019.


There were 241 general and 246 high-impact researchers identified as eligible for our study. In 2019, the general and high-impact researchers published a total of 914 (median 2, IQR 1–5) and 1471 (4, 2–8) first or senior author research or review articles, respectively. 42% (384/914) of the articles from the general researchers and 29% (428/1471) of the articles from the high-impact medical researchers were published in fully open access journals.

The median total APCs paid by general researchers in 2019 was US$191 (US$0–US$2500) and the median total paid by high-impact researchers was US$2900 (US$0–US$5465); the maximum paid by a single researcher in total APCs was US$30115 and US$34676, respectively.


Medical researchers in 2019 were found to have paid between US$0 and US$34676 in total APCs. As journals with APCs become more common, it is important to continue to evaluate the potential cost to researchers, especially on individuals who may not have the funding or institutional resources to cover these costs.

URL : Publishing at any cost: a cross-sectional study of the amount that medical researchers spend on open access publishing each year


Waiving article processing charges for least developed countries: a keystone of a large-scale open access transformation

Authors : Niels Taubert, Andre Bruns, Christopher Lenke, Graham Stone

This article investigates whether it is economically feasible for a large publishing house to waive article processing charges for the group of 47 so-called least developed countries (LDC). As an example, Springer Nature is selected.

The analysis is based on the Web of Science, OpenAPC and the Jisc Collections’ Springer Compact journal list. As a result, it estimates an average yearly publication output of 520 publications (or 0.26% of the worldwide publication output in Springer Nature journals) for the LDC country group.

The loss of revenues for Springer Nature would be US$1.1 million if a waiver was applied for all of these countries. Given that the subject categories of these publications indicate the output is of high societal relevance for LDC, and given that money is indispensable for development in these countries (e.g. life expectancy, health, education), it is not only desirable but also possible in economic terms for a publisher like Springer Nature to waive APCs for these countries without much loss in revenues.

URL : Waiving article processing charges for least developed countries: a keystone of a large-scale open access transformation


Scrutinising what Open Access Journals Mean for Global Inequalities

Authors : Márton Demeter, Ronina Istratii

In the current article, we tested our hypothesis by which high-impact journals tend to have higher Article Processing Charges (APCs) by comparing journal IF metrics with the OA publishing fees they charge.

Our study engaged with both journals in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) and included Hybrid, Diamond and No OA journals.

The overall findings demonstrate a positive relationship between APCs and journals with high IF for two of the subject areas we examined but not for the third, which could be mediated by the characteristics and market environment of the publishers.

We also found significant differences between the analysed research fields in terms of APC policies, as well as differences in the relationship between APCs and the IF across periodicals. The study and analysis conducted reinforces our concerns that Hybrid OA models are likely to perpetuate inequalities in knowledge production.

URL : Scrutinising what Open Access Journals Mean for Global Inequalities


Transformative agreements: Do they pave the way to open access?

Authors : Ángel Borrego, Lluís Anglada, Ernest Abadal

Transformative agreements, also known as ‘offsetting’, ‘read and publish’, or ‘publish and read’ agreements, have shifted the focus of scholarly journal licensing from cost containment towards open access publication.

An analysis of 36 full‐text transformative agreements recorded in the ESAC registry shows that ‘transformative agreement’ is an umbrella term that encompasses different kinds of contracts. We differentiate between pre‐transformative, partially transformative, and fully transformative agreements.

Pre‐transformative agreements are traditional subscription licences that grant article processing charge (APC) discounts or vouchers for open access publication of a limited number of articles. Partially transformative agreements differentiate between a read fee and a publish fee to cover the processing charges of a certain number of articles.

Fully transformative agreements allow unlimited open access publication of the scholarly output of the subscribing institution. In all three categories, some agreements restrict open access publication to hybrid journals, whereas others allow publication in both hybrid and gold journals.

Transformative agreements are more transparent than traditional journal licences, allow authors to retain copyright, and make provisions to facilitate the management of open access workflows.

It is hard to assess whether these agreements are just a temporary phase in the transition towards open access or will perpetuate the current structure of the scholarly communication system and its associated high costs.

URL : Transformative agreements: Do they pave the way to open access?