7 key findings on article processing charges

As more researchers adopt gold open access, article processing charges (APCs) are becoming an increasingly important part of the cost of research. But what do we know about these charges, and how have they changed in the past years?

A new report, ‘Article processing charges and subscriptions: monitoring open access costs’ uses open data collected by Jisc, RCUK, and COAF to show the state of the APC market in the UK. We have also released a blog post on the main Jisc blog summarizing the report. Here are 7 of the key takeaways:

  1. APCs are an increasingly large part of institutions’ spend: APC expenditure has nearly tripled since 2013.

    Growth in APCs 2013-2015. 14 institutions
  2. The average APC charged by publishers is converging and shows a general upward trend.
  3. The market for APCs is similar to that of subscriptions. With the exception of a few fully open access publishers such as Public Library of Science (PLoS), most APCs are paid to the same publishers who receive the most in subscriptions.

    Publisher revenue from APCs, August 2014-July 2015
  4. Offsetting deals are necessary to prevent institutions from being overburdened with the total cost of research from APCs and subscriptions. Publishers with offsetting schemes in place have seen average overall growth in APC number and revenue between 2013-15. Furthermore, earnings for these publishers are likely under-reported due to difficulties recording offset APCs. However, publishers who do not offer offsetting, such as Elsevier, have seen high growth.
    Number of APCs paid, 2013-2015 (14 institutions)

    APC expenditure, 2013-2015 (14 institutions)
  5. The average APC for hybrid journals is consistently several hundred pounds higher than for fully open access journals. However, the average APC is increasing more rapidly overall for full OA.

    Average APC by journal type, 2014-2015 (14 institutions)
  6. Making APC data openly available is more important than ever. As APCs become a larger part of the cost of research, the importance of tracking and reporting them grows. APC data is most valuable when it is made openly available. Using aggregate data, institutions can measure the value of the APCs they pay, and set forecasts for their budgest. Funders and policy makers can use data to assess compliance and set policies that aid the transition to open access. For Jisc, APC data is crucial to building an evidence base for negotiating offsetting deals with publishers.
  7. There are still some administrative challenges to recording APCs. As part of our commitment to developing a transparent market for gold open access, Jisc is working to make it easier for institutions to track and report APCs. Together with RCUK and COAF, we are working to standardize how APCs are recorded. We are developing new software, Monitor Local and Monitor UK, for recording, reporting, and visualizing APC payments.

Read the full report

Read a summary of the report on the Jisc blog

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