What do we do with your article processing charge data?

Every year, Jisc asks UK HEIs to provide details of the individual article processing charges (APC) transactions they’ve made throughout the year using a standardised template. This ongoing project started in 2013 with 17 institutions participating. Since then, the project has expanded to include data on 36,000 APCs from 53 unique institutions, and it celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Why do we ask for all that data – and what do we do with it?

1)  We use it in negotiations

Subscription managers and OA advocates have long lamented the opaqueness of big deals. Bundling together journals into a single deal makes it hard to understand what the cost of an individual journal is. On top of this, these deals are sometimes bound by confidentiality clauses, which prohibit institutions from sharing how much they have paid. This lack of transparency can stifle competition, as buyers can’t compare pricing.

We have the opportunity to create a more transparent and competitive market for open access than we have for subscriptions. Having complete information on expenditure – including subscription, colour page charges, and APCs – allows Jisc Collections to understand how much additional money is being spent outside traditional routes. Jisc Collections uses this data to build models which increase immediate open access publishing whilst keeping the overall costs down. Using this data, we’ve negotiated offsetting deals, where subscriptions and APCs are considered part of the same deal, with 11 major publishers: Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Springer (now Springer Nature), Taylor & Francis, Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry, Wiley, Sage, American Chemical Society, De Gruyter, and BMJ. Once a deal has been implemented, APC data allows us to evaluate it on a fine-grained level to ensure it continues to serve the needs of our members of all shapes and sizes.

2)  It’s used in research all over the world

One of the reasons we collect APC data is to improve knowledge and create conversations around open access costs. To that end, we we collect on Figshare under a CC0 licence whenever we have permission to do so.

The data also feeds directly into OpenAPC. OpenAPC, created by INTACT of Germany, is an aggregated dataset of APC transactions that currently includes APCs from multiple countries worldwide. This means that researchers all over the world can freely use our data to improve knowledge about open access.

Making this data openly available means that researchers can, and do, publish their own analyses of APCs. Here at Jisc, we’ve published comprehensive reports based on this data: the most recent, ‘Article Processing Charges and Subscriptions’, was published in 2016 and updated in 2017. We’ve also included the data in other publications: Liam Earney’s article ‘Offsetting and its discontents: challenges and opportunities of open access offsetting agreements’ has been viewed and downloaded hundreds of times since its publication last year. This summer, we’ll be teaching a short course at the FORCE11 Scholarly Communications Institute in San Diego, showing participants how they can collect and share their own APC data and analyse that which is already available.

Outside of Jisc, APC data from our dataset and the one aggregated by OpenAPC has been cited in research all over the world. One notable UK example is the UUK report ‘Monitoring the Transition to Open Access’, which has been widely discussed since its publication late 2017. Further research is being done using the OpenAPC dataset.

All of the research mentioned above has been tweeted and shared internationally, growing the conversation on open access!

3)  It’s used to inform open access policies

You may already know that the Research Councils and the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) collect APC using the same format as Jisc. These funders analyse the data they collect in order to compare and revise their policies (see the Research Councils’ and COAF’s most recent analyses).  UK APC data has been cited in other UK policy documents, such as Dr. Adam Tickell’s report to the government on open access.

International funders also cite APC data when setting policies. For example, the FP7 post-grant pilot includes their data alongside ours in the OpenAPC dataset, and reviews their policy based on that data.

SCOAP3 uses our APC data in their negotiations with publishers and tendering process. Between 2017 and 2019, SCOAP3 made 15,400 articles in the field of High Energy Physics open access, at an average cost of under ‎€1,000 each, well under the global average cost.

Get involved

If you’re one of the institutions who have submitted APC data to us: thank you! Your work has made a measurable impact towards advancing open access. You’ve helped to negotiate better deals with publishers, to spark conversations worldwide about the costs of open access, and to inform the policies that shape the future of scholarly communication. By sharing your APC data, you’ve helped to make the OA neighbourhood a more open, navigable, and friendly place.

Whether you’ve submitted before or want to submit for the first time, we encourage you to submit your data before our revised deadline of 1 July 2018 so it can be included in this round of collection. To learn more about how you can submit your APC data, visit our website or email us for more information.

We’re developing a new feature for Monitor Local users to export their data in the correct format. Email us to sign up to test this feature.

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