Collection and sharing of APC data

Stuart Lawson here provides an update on Jisc’s plans to collect and share APC data from universities.

For the last two years Jisc Collections has been working with higher education institutions to collect and openly release article-level data on their APC expenditure. This is valuable information which, among other things, provides evidence that helps Jisc Collections in its negotiations with publishers. In January 2016 we will be asking institutions to provide data on their APC expenditure in 2015. There is one change to the APC reporting template that we would like to introduce for next year in order to make the data even more robust.

In the current version of the spreadsheet, there is a single column for APC cost, called ‘APC paid (£) including VAT if charged’. This is the figure which is then used to calculate metrics such as the average APC charged by a particular publisher. While the single column was initially chosen because it was felt that it would make the reporting process easier for institutions, the side effect is that on occasion the field will not include VAT – but we don’t have a clear way to know when that is the case. This could potentially have an effect on the analysis of APC costs. It is unlikely that it will cause a significant difference when the data is combined for all the consortium members who provide it, but we feel that it is still worth trying to introduce further clarity to the process.

This issue is one that is also addressed by the CASRAI Open Access Working Group, which is currently finalising an APC reporting data profile. This is part of a broader spectrum of work to help standardise data internationally across a variety of areas within scholarly communications. CASRAI splits the APC cost into two fields: ‘Amount Paid’ (the full APC cost excluding VAT) and ‘VAT’. This method introduces the clarity that will solve our problem. However, due to the various ways in which institutions record their APC expenditure internally, we have decided that the Jisc template should not make it obligatory for institutions to fill in these two separate fields. Therefore in Version 2 of the spreadsheet, which HEIs can use to release their 2015 APC data in January 2016, we aim to retain the existing field – and all other existing fields – but additionally include two new fields, ‘Amount Paid’ (the full APC cost excluding VAT) and ‘VAT Paid’.

A CASRAI data dictionary will be complete by July and then it will be possible to make sure that fields in the Jisc template conform to the CASRAI definitions. For this reason we will release Version 2 of the APC reporting template in July, and the only change that will affect how institutions use it is that there will be the ability to express VAT separately to the main APC cost.

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