Last week the Wellcome Trust has published information highlighting how much money it has contributed towards article processing charges (APC) in the 2013-14 year. The details indicate that around £4.7 million was spent on making 2556 articles open access, with an average APC payment costing £1837. The data goes further to compare the number of articles published in fully open access journals or hybrid journals, i.e. journals which require a subscription but offer paid open access for single papers.
Robert Kiley’s analysis (See table below) emphasises that there is a continued preference for papers to be published in the traditional hybrid journals, rather than the fully open access journals. He implies that this trend may prove difficult to break due to the pressures on many academics to ensure that their work is published in high impact journals.
The Wellcome Trust’s blog also explores the problems of the significant difference between individual APC costs in fully open access journals and those which are subscription based. Wellcome’s data shows that the average APC payment in Elsevier journals was £2930, which is £1816 higher than the average cost in PLOS, a fully open access publisher. This may seem troubling as hybrid publishers are simultaneously generating income through subscriptions. The blog notes with interest that FWF, the Austrian Science Fund, has recently imposed a price cap on the APC of hybrid articles, as an attempt to control the ineffectiveness of the hybrid market. We can only wait to see if this is enough to influence both the author’s view towards open access publishing and the publisher’s own prices.
Additionally, Kilney discusses that it can be difficult to monitor whether publishers are complying properly with the Wellcome Guidelines, noting that 13% of APC papers were not available on PubMed Central, although some of these may be made available once the final, published version is produced. He estimates that this equates to around £480,000 of funded APC money! Therefore, Kilney states that in the future this compliance to deposit OA papers in PMC must be addressed as a priority.
I feel that the Wellcome Trust’s report is particularly useful in clearly exposing the discrepancies in APC costs across publishers, and the apparent differences in author attitude and behaviour towards fully open access and hybrid journals, which will hopefully influence a fairer system of funded open access publishing in the future. Similarly, it is useful in identifying the possible issues around compliance and depositing which will need focusing on in the future.
FWF, New Policy for Open Access and Publication Costs, < https://www.fwf.ac.at/en/news-and-media-relations/news/detail/nid/20141219-2097/> [accessed 04/03/2015]
Robert Kiley, The Reckoning: An Analysis of Wellcome Trust Open Access Spend 2013-14, <http://blog.wellcome.ac.uk/2015/03/03/the-reckoning-an-analysis-of-wellcome-trust-open-access-spend-2013-14/>[accessed 04/03/2015]