Tag Archives: article processing charges

Cambridge University spend on Open Access 2009-2016

Today is the deadline for those universities in receipt of an RCUK grant to submit their reports on the spend. We have just submitted the Cambridge University 2015-2016 report to the RCUK and have also made it available as a dataset in our repository.

Compliance

Cambridge had an estimated overall compliance rate of 76% with 46% of all RCUK funded papers  available through the gold route and 30% of all RCUK funded papers available through the green route.

The RCUK Open Access Policy indicates that at the end of the fifth transition year of the policy (March 2018) they expect 75% of Open Access papers from the research they fund will be delivered through immediate, unrestricted, on‐line access with maximum opportunities for re‐use (‘gold’). Because Cambridge takes the position that if there is a green option that is compliant we do not pay for gold, our gold compliance number is below this, although our overall compliance level is higher, at 76%.

Compliance caveats

The total number of publications arising from research council funding was estimated by searching Web of Science for papers published by the University of Cambridge in 2015, and then filtered by funding acknowledgements made to the research councils. The number of papers (articles, reviews and proceedings papers) returned in 2015 was 2080. This is almost certainly an underestimate of the total number of publications produced by the University of Cambridge with research council funding. The analysis was performed on 15/09/2016.

Expenditure

The APC spend we have reported is only counting papers submitted to the University of Cambridge Open Access Team between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016. The ‘OA grant spent’ numbers provided are the actual spend out of the finance system. The delay between submission of an article, the commitment of the funds and the subsequent publication and payment of the invoice means that we have paid for invoices during the reporting period that were submitted outside the reporting period. This meant reconciliation of the amounts was impossible. This funding discrepancy was given in ‘Non-staff costs’, and represents unallocated APC payments not described in the report (i.e. they were received before or after the reporting period but incurred on the current 2015-16 OA grant).

The breakdown of costs indicates we have spent 4.6% of the year’s allocation on staff costs and 5.1% on systems support. We noted in the report that the staff time paid for out of this allocation also supports the processing of Wellcome Trust APCs for which no support is provided by Wellcome Trust.

Headline numbers

  • In total Cambridge spent £1,288,090 of RCUK funds on APCs
  • 1786 articles identified as being RCUK funded were submitted to the Open Access Service, of which 890 required payment for RCUK*
  • 785 articles have been invoiced and paid
  • The average article cost was ~£2008

Caveats

The average article cost can be established by adding the RCUK fund expenditure to the COAF fund expenditure on co-funded articles (£288,162.28)  which gives a complete expenditure for these 785 articles of £1,576,252.42. The actual average cost is £2007.96.

* The Open Access Service also received many COAF only funded and unfunded papers during this period. The number of articles paid for does not include those made gold OA due to the Springer Compact as this would throw out the average APC value.

Observations

In our report on expenditure for 2014 the average article APC was £1891. This means there has been a 6% increase in Cambridge University’s average spend on an APC since then. It should be noted that of the journals for which we most frequently process APCs, Nature Communication is the second most popular. This journal has an APC of £3,780 including VAT.

Datasets on Cambridge APC spend 2009-2016

Cambridge released the information about its 2014 APC spend for RCUK and COAF in March last year and intended to do a similar report for the spend in 2015, however a recent FOI request has prompted us to simply upload all of our data on APC spend into our repository for complete transparency. The list of datasets now available is below.

1. Report presented to Research Councils UK for article processing charges managed by the University of Cambridge, 2014-2015

2. Report presented to the Charity Open Access Fund for article processing charges managed by the University of Cambridge, 2015-2016

3. Report presented to the Charity Open Access Fund for article processing charges managed by the University of Cambridge, 2014-2015

4. Report presented to Jisc for article processing charges managed by the University of Cambridge, 2014

5. Open access publication data for the management of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Research Councils UK, Charities Open Access Fund and Wellcome Trust open access policies at the University of Cambridge, 2014-2016

Note: In October 2014 we started using a new system for recording submissions. This has allowed us to obtain more detailed information and allow multiple users to interact with the system. Until December 2015 our financial information was recorded in the spreadsheet below. There is overlap between reports 5. and 6. for the period 24 October and 31 December 2015.  As of January 2016, all data is being collected in the one place.

6. Open access publication data for the management of Research Councils UK, Charities Open Access Fund and Wellcome Trust article processing charges at the Office of Scholarly Communication, 2013-2015

Note: In 2013 the Open Access Service began and took responsibility for the new RCUK fund, and was transferred responsibility for the new Charities Open Access Fund (COAF). At this time the team were recording when an article was fully Wellcome Trust funded, even though the Wellcome Trust funding is a component of COAF.

7. Open access publication data for the management of Wellcome Trust article processing charges from the School of Biological Sciences, 2009-2014

Note: Management of the funds to support open access publishing has changed over the past seven years. Before the RCUK open access policy came into force in 2013, the Wellcome Trust funds were managed by the School of Biological Sciences.

Published 14 September 2016
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley & Dr Arthur Smith
Creative Commons License

Dutch boycott of Elsevier – a game changer?

A long running dispute between Dutch universities and Elsevier has taken an interesting turn. Yesterday Koen Becking, chairman of the Executive Board of Tilburg University who has been negotiating with scientific publishers about an open access policy on behalf of Dutch universities with his colleague Gerard Meijer, announced a plan to start boycotting Elsevier.

As a first step in boycotting the publisher, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has asked all scientists that are editor in chief of a journal published by Elsevier to give up their post. If this way of putting pressure on the publishers does not work, the next step would be to ask reviewers to stop working for Elsevier. After that, scientists could be asked to stop publishing in Elsevier journals.

The Netherlands has a clear position on Open Access. Sander Dekker, the State Secretary  of Education has taken a strong position on Open Access, stating at the opening of the 2014 academic year in Leiden that ‘Science is not a goal in itself. Just as art is only art once it is seen, knowledge only becomes knowledge once it is shared.’

Dekker has set two Open Access targets: 40% of scientific publications should be made available through Open Access by 2016, and 100% by 2024. The preferred route is through gold Open Access – where the work is ‘born Open Access’. This means there is no cost for readers – and no subscriptions.

However Gerard Meijer, who handles the negotiations with Elsevier, says that the parties have not been able to come close to an agreement.

Why is this boycott different?

It is true that boycotts have had different levels of success. In 2001, the Public Library of Science started as a non-profit organization of scientists ‘committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature freely accessible to both scientists and to the public’. In 2001 PLoS (as it was then) published an open letter asking signatories to pledge to boycott toll-access publishers unless they become open-access publishers. The links to that original pledge are no longer available. Over 30,000 people signed , but did not act on their pledge. In response, PLOS became an open access publisher themselves, launching PLOS Biology in October 2003.

In 2012 a Cambridge academic Tim Gowers started the Cost of Knowledge boycott of Elsevier which now has over 15,000 signatures of researchers agreeing not to write for, review for, or edit for Elsevier. In 2014 Gowers used a series of Freedom of Information requests to find out how much Elsevier is charging different universities for licence subscriptions. Usually this information is a tightly held secret, as individual universities pay considerably different amounts for access to the same material.

The 2015 Dutch boycott is significant. Typically negotiations with publishers occur at an institutional level and with representatives from the university libraries. This makes sense as libraries have long standing relationships with publishers and understand the minutiae of the licencing processes . However the Dutch negotiations have been led by the Vice Chancellors of the universities.  It is a country-wide negotiation at the highest level. And Vice Chancellors have the ability to request behaviour change of their research communities.

This boycott has the potential to be a significant game changer in the relationship between the research community and the world’s largest academic publisher. The remainder of this blog looks at some of the facts and figures relating to expenditure on Open Access in the UK. It underlines the importance of the Dutch position.

UK Open Access policies mean MORE publisher profit

There have also been difficulties in the UK in relation to negotiations over payment for Open Access. Elsevier has consistently resisted efforts by Jisc to negotiate an offsetting deal  – where a publisher provides some sort of concession for the fact that universities in the UK are paying unprecedented amounts in Article Processing Charges on top of their subscriptions because of the RCUK open access policy.

Elsevier is the world’s largest academic publisher. According to their Annual Report the 2014 STM revenue was £2,048 million, with an operating profit of £762 million. This is a profit margin of 37%. That means if we pay an Article Processing Charge of $3000 then $1,170 of that (taxpayers’) money goes directly to the shareholders of Elsevier.

The numbers involved in this space are staggering. The Wellcome Trust stated in their report on 3 March 2015 The Reckoning: An Analysis of Wellcome Trust Open Access Spend 2013 – 14: ‘The two traditional, subscription-based publishers (Elsevier and Wiley) represent some 40% of our total APC spend’.

And the RCUK has had similar results, as described in a Times Higher Education article on 16 April 2015 Publishers share £10m in APC payments: “Publishers Elsevier and Wiley have each received about £2 million in article processing charges from 55 institutions as a result of RCUK’s open access policy”.

Hybrid open access – more expensive and often not compliant

Another factor is the considerably higher cost of  Article Processing Charges for making an individual article Open Access within an otherwise subscription journal (called ‘hybrid’ publishing) compared to the Article Processing Charges for articles in fully Open Access journals.

In The Reckoning: An Analysis of Wellcome Trust Open Access Spend 2013 – 14, the conclusion was that the average Article Processing Charge levied by hybrid journals is 64% higher than the average Article Processing Charge of a fully Open Access title. The March 2015 Review of the implementation of the RCUK Policy on Open Access concluded the Article Processing Charges for hybrid Open Access were ‘significantly more expensive’ than fully OA journals, ‘despite the fact that hybrid journals still enjoyed a revenue stream through subscriptions’.

Elsevier has stated that in 2013 they published 330,000 subscription articles and 6,000 author paid articles. There is no breakdown of how many of those 6,000 were in fully open access journals and how many were hybrid. However in 2014 Elsevier had 1600 journals offering their hybrid option, and 100 journals that were fully open access (6%). Note that the RCUK open access policy came into force in April 2013. It would be interesting to compare these figures with  the 2014 ones, however I have been unable to find them.

While the higher cost for hybrid Article Processing Charges is in itself is an issue, there is a further problem. Articles in hybrid journals for which an Article Processing Charge has been paid are not always made available at all, or are available but not under the correct licence as required by the fund paying the fee. Here at Cambridge, the five most problematic publishers with whom we have paid more than 10 Article Processing Charges have a non compliance rate from 11-25%. With this group of publishers we are having to chase up between three and 31 articles per publisher. This takes considerable time and significantly adds to the cost of compliance with the RCUK and COAF policies.

According to the March 2015 Review of the implementation of the RCUK Policy on Open Access, ‘Elsevier stated that around 40% of the articles from RCUK funding that they had published gold were not under the CC-BY licence and are therefore not compliant with the policy’ (p19).

We support our Dutch colleagues

In summary, the work happening in The Netherlands to break the stranglehold Elsevier have on the research community is important. We need to stand by and support our Dutch colleagues.

NOTE: This blog was subsequently reblogged on the London School of Economics Impact Blog and later listed as one of the Top Ten Posts for 2015: Open Access. It was also listed as one of the blogs that had an average minute per page measurement of over 6 minutes and 30 seconds.

Published 3 July 2015, added to on 22 January 2016
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
Creative Commons License

Cambridge expenditure on APCs in 2014

Cambridge (along with many other institutions) were recently approached by Jisc to report on our article processing charges (APC) payments for 2014  as part of Jisc’s APC data collection project to address the Total Cost of Ownership of scholarly communication. Stuart Lawson, who is compiling these datasets has made the files available on Figshare.

A couple of caveats – This dataset only contains APCs which were paid centrally; there will be many other APCs paid by the University of Cambridge and its staff which are not included in this dataset.

Also we ended up listing the publications that were submitted to our system in 2014 because that was our starting point, rather than considering the payments from 2014 and working back. This might be an issue for the analysis – it will depend on which way people have interpreted ‘2014’. I should note that 74 (12.13%) of the invoices listed in this data were actually paid in January 2015.

Headline numbers

  • 610 funded articles were submitted in 2014 to our system for publication
  • 495 have been invoiced and paid as at March 2015
  • The amount spent on APCs (including VAT) for these invoices was £936,224.86
  • This gives an average cost per APC paid (including VAT if charged) of £1891.36
  • The range of APCs is from £94.61 for an article published by Magnolia Press, to £3,869.72 for an article published by Wiley

What does this mean?

It means we are spending a lot of (RCUK) money on APCs.  We also have supported payment of page and colour charges and have paid for researchers to join memberships that offer a discount for APCs out of the RCUK fund – neither of those categories of expenditure was captured in this data set.

The University is participating in the various Jisc Collections series of offsetting programs with publishers and we are discussing other ways of managing this expenditure. However, we really need to consider whether this is the way of the future.

Issues with reporting

Pulling the information together for this list revealed a few issues. First, while we agree with the collection of data to allow aggregation across the sector, for us to pull the required information together was challenging because we do not collect the information in this way.

However there are some indications this type of detail will be requested on a standard basis for reporting. Certainly Jisc suggesting this as a way forward. In their ‘APC data collection’ blog  they state:

HEIs will be able to benchmark their APC data. Using a standard template will help to produce comparable data between institutions which can be more easily aggregated. The data fields to be completed have been chosen from careful analysis of HEI needs. This means that the spreadsheet can be used for both internal reporting and also external reporting including to the Wellcome Trust for compliance monitoring of the Charity Open Access Fund, and potentially RCUK.

 So we therefore need to consider this information when designing new systems.

Issues with invoices

We have a considerable block of Purchase Orders that have not been invoiced. While there will always be a delay because of the length of time between acceptance and publication in some instances, some of these are very old.

The issue of items not being invoiced can partially be explained by the cancellation of Purchase Orders. In some cases the team has contacted the author and found that the email is bouncing because the author has moved to a different institution. In other cases the author decided not to go ahead with open access publication, so we have raised a Purchase Order against something that no longer exists.

Long standing Purchase Orders (over 14 months) are potentially a problem because it is money being held as committed funds. We are now adding the process of checking older  un-invoiced Purchase Orders to the ever-growing list of things to do in the workflow for ensuring compliance.

Published 26 March 2015
Written by Dr Danny Kingsley
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