Assessing the Effect of Article Processing Charges on the Geographic Diversity of Authors Using Elsevier’s ‘Mirror Journal’ System

Journals publishing open access (OA) articles often require that authors pay article processing charges (APC). Researchers in the Global South often cite APCs as a major financial obstacle to OA publishing, especially in widely-recognized or prestigious outlets. Consequently, it has been hypothesized that authors from the Global South will be underrepresented in journals charging APCs. We tested this hypothesis using >37,000 articles from Elsevier’s ‘Mirror journal’ system, in which a hybrid ‘Parent’ journal and its Gold-OA ‘Mirror’ share editorial boards and standards for acceptance. Most articles were non-OA; 45% of articles had lead authors based in either the United States of America (USA) or China. After correcting for the effect of this dominance and differences in sample size, we found that OA articles published in Parent and Mirror journals had lead authors with similar Geographic Diversity. However, Author Geographic Diversity of OA articles was significantly lower than that of non-OA articles. Most OA articles were written by authors in high-income countries, and there were no articles in Mirror journals by authors in low-income countries. Our results for Elsevier’s Mirror-Parent system are consistent with the hypothesis that APCs are a barrier to OA publication for scientists from the Global South.

Why the price of scholarly publishing is so much higher than the cost | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

“In an efficient market, competing providers of a good will each try to undercut each other until the prices they charge approach the cost. If, for example, Elsevier and Springer-Nature were competing in a healthy free market, they would each be charging prices around one third of what they are charging now, for fear of being outcompeted by their lower-priced competitor. (Half of those price-cuts would be absorbed just by decreasing the huge profit margins; the rest would have to come from streamlining business processes, in particular things like the costs of maintaining paywalls and the means of passing through them.)

So why doesn’t the Invisible Hand operate on scholarly publishers? Because they are not really in competition. Subscriptions are not substitutable goods because each published article is unique. If I need to read an article in an Elsevier journal then it’s no good my buying a lower-priced Springer-Nature subscription instead: it won’t give me access to the article I need.

(This is one of the reasons why the APC-based model — despite its very real drawbacks — is better than the subscription model: because the editorial-and-publication services offered by Elsevier and Springer-Nature are substitutable. If one offers the service for $3000 and the other for $2000, I can go to the better-value provider. And if some other publisher offers it for $1000 or $500, I can go there instead.)…

Björn Brembs has been writing for years about the fact that every market has a luxury segment: you can buy a perfectly functional wristwatch for $10, yet people spend thousands on high-end watches. He’s long been concerned that if scholarly publishing goes APC-only, then people will be queuing up to pay the €9,500 APC for Nature in what would become a straightforward pay-for-prestige deal. And he’s right: given the outstandingly stupid way we evaluate reseachers for jobs, promotion and tenure, lots of people will pay a 10x markup for the “I was published in Nature” badge even though Nature papers are an objectively bad way to communicate research.

But it feels like something stranger is happening here. It’s almost as though the whole darned market is a luxury segment….

How can funders fix this, and get APCs down to levels that approximate publishing cost? I see at least three possibilities.

First, they could stop paying APCs for their grantees. Instead, they could add a fixed sum onto all grants they make — $1,500, say — and leave it up to the researchers whether to spend more on a legacy publisher (supplementing the $1,500 from other sources of their own) or to spend less on a cheaper born-OA publisher and redistribute the excess elsewhere.

Second, funders could simply publish the papes themselves. To be fair several big funders are doing this now, so we have Wellcome Open Research, Gates Open Research, etc. But doesn’t it seem a bit silly to silo research according to what body awarded the grant that funded it? And what about authors who don’t have a grant from one of these bodies, or indeed any grant at all?

That’s why I think the third solution is best. I would like to see funders stop paying APCs and stop building their own publishing solutions, and instead collaborate to build and maintain a global publishing solution that all researchers could use irrespective of grant-recipient status. I have much to say on what such a solution should look like, but that is for another time.”

SciELO – Brazil – Open Access Publications with Article Processing Charge (APC) Payment: a Brazilian Scenario Analysis Open Access Publications with Article Processing Charge (APC) Payment: a Brazilian Scenario Analysis

Abstract:  The expansion of open access publications has been correlated with specific government policies in many countries. The evolution in these cases is understandable within the framework of funding regulations. However, this is not the case for Brazil, where no regulation is currently in place. The unusually high percentage of open access publications in the Brazilian scientific community is analyzed here toward understanding which factors influence this growth and how similar effects may also impact other countries, particularly developing nations. We found that from 2012 to 2019 the Brazilian scientific community drifted to international open access journals. This transition is discussed in the framework of mega journals.

 

A Frankfurt Masterclass: PLOS, CCC, and How Open Is Open Access?

“The program looks at the nonprofit open-access publisher  Public Library of Science, better known in the acronym-laden world of scholarly publishing as PLOS.

As the program’s promotional descriptive material puts it, the center of PLOS’ approach is its “community action publishing” model, called CAP, which “relies on a flexible, sophisticated workflow that enables authors to publish open access easily, with or without funding under a formal PLOS publishing agreement.” …

“We really need to think about the missing voices,” says [Niamh O’Connor]. “Research is a global, collaborative enterprise. And we really need, as we transition to an open science future, to keep asking ourselves, open for whom? Because openness in itself, while valuable, doesn’t tackle all of the inequality in scholarly communications. It doesn’t increase inclusion, and the need for universal and equitable access to scientific knowledge and education is super-important.” …”

Open Access and Article Processing Charges in Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Journals: a CrossSectional Analysis

Abstract Introduction: Open access (OA) publishing often requires article processing charges (APCs). While OA provides opportunities for broader readership, authors able to afford APCs are more commonly associated with well-funded, high-income country institutions, skewing knowledge dissemination. Here, we evaluate publishing models, OA practices, and APCs in cardiology and cardiac surgery. Methods: The InCites Journal Citation Reports 2019 directory by Clarivate Analytics was searched for “Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems” journals. Sister journals of included journals were identified. All journals were categorized as predominantly cardiology or cardiac surgery. Publishing models, APCs, and APC waivers were defined for all journals. Results: One hundred sixty-one journals were identified (139 cardiology, 22 cardiac surgery). APCs ranged from $244 to $5,000 ($244-5,000 cardiology; $383-3,300 cardiac surgery), with mean $2,911±891 and median $3,000 (interquartile range [IQR]: $2,500-3,425) across 139 journals with non-zero available APCs ($2,970±890, median $3,000, IQR: $2,573-3,450, cardiology; $2,491±799, median $2,740, IQR: $2,300-3,000, cardiac surgery). Average APCs were $3,307±566 and median $3,250 (IQR: $3,000- 3,500) for hybrid journals ($3,344±583, median $3,260, IQR: $3,000-3,690, cardiology; $2,983±221, median $2,975, IQR: $2,780- 3,149, cardiac surgery) and $1,997±832 and median $2,100 (IQR: $1,404-2,538) for fully OA journals ($2,039±843, median $2,100, IQR: $1,419-2,604, cardiology; $1,788±805, median $2,000, IQR: $1,475-2,345, cardiac surgery). Waivers were available for 51 (86.4%) fully OA and 37 (37.4%) hybrid journals. Seventeen journals were fully OA without APCs, one journal did not yet release APCs, and four journals were subscription-only. Conclusion: OA publishing is common in cardiology and cardiac surgery with substantial APCs. Waivers remain limited, posing barriers for unfunded and lesser-funded researchers.”

Publication Charges Associated with Quality Open Access (OA) Publishing and Its Impact on Low Middle Income Countries (LMICs), Time to Reframe Research Policies

Abstract:  Dissemination of the scientific literature is as paramount as scientific studies. Scientific publishing has come a long way from localized distribution of few physical copies of journal to widespread and rapid distribution via internet in the 21st century. The evolution of open excess (OA) publishing which has rapidly evolved in last two decades has its heart at the right place with the ultimate goal being timely, and rapid distribution of published scientific work to a wider scientific community around the world and thus ultimately promoting scientific knowledge in global sense. However, quality OA publishing of cancer research involve an average publishing fee of around 1,500 USD which poses a challenge for Low middle income countries (LMICs), where per capita income is low. This has led to deterioration of science in LMICs in the form of publication in Cheap OA predatory journals for sake of securing academic promotions as well as authors ending up paying exorbitant publishing charges out of pocket to get their quality scientific work published. In countries like India and other LMICs, the funding agencies and institution have so far not addressed this problem. Here we assess the framework of open access publishing in LMICs like India and what are the steps which can be taken to facilitate open access publishing in LMICs. 

 

Open Access Publishing under Plan S: When Good Intentions Remain Eurocentric

“cOAlition S has not yet openly and thoroughly discussed how Plan S fits in the current unequal knowledge production system and what its implications will be for existing inequalities among researchers from different nations, economic classes, career stages, or other determinants that currently affect access to funding and publishing opportunities….

the potential of implementing its principles relies largely on the availability of research funding and regional funders’ willingness and ability to cover OA publishing costs….

A second major issue is economic inequalities across countries, which largely pre-determine the ability of researchers to publish in high-impact, rigorous journals, their access to funding opportunities and the capacity of their academic institutions to cover OA publishing costs…. ”

Analysis: The lack of diversity in climate-science research – Carbon Brief

“A recent analysis entitled “The Reuters Hot List” ranked the 1,000 “most influential” climate scientists – largely based on their publication record and social media engagement. Scientists from the global south are vastly under-represented in the list, with, for example, only five African scientists included. Meanwhile, only 122 of the 1,000 authors are female.

Biases in authorship make it likely that the existing bank of knowledge around climate change and its impacts is skewed towards the interests of male authors from the global north. This can create blind spots around the needs of some of the most vulnerable people to climate change, particularly women and communities in the global south.

Carbon Brief has analysed the gender and “country of affiliation” of the authors of 100 highly cited climate science papers from the past five years – mapped below – to reveal geographic and gender biases….

Conducting scientific research is expensive – and, arguably, the most obvious issue with running climate studies from countries in the global south is the lack of funding. While the US dedicates more than 2.5% of its annual GDP to “research and development”, no country in sub-saharan Africa – even the comparably rich South Africa – spends more than 1%. …

The inaccessibility of scientific literature is also a problem for publishing. “One of the biggest issues is that people can’t access literature that they can cite,” Schipper tells Carbon Brief. …

[Quoting Marton Demeter:] ‘If open access in journals with article processing charges (APCs) become the mainstream way of publication, then global-south scholars’ chances to publish in leading journals will be even lower than today, as they wont be able to pay the high APCs – which will be easily paid by researchers working at sourceful western universities or researchers that are funded by international grants.’ ”

 

An open chat with…Stuart Ferguson – Wright – – FEBS Open Bio – Wiley Online Library

“[Q] What is your opinion on Open Access versus the traditional subscription publishing model?

[A] I start with the observation that there was not one traditional publishing model. On the one hand, there are commercial publishers such as Elsevier but also Nature, Cell Press, etc., who published a whole range of journals from the very prestigious to the not so prominent and made their money by charging often high fees to libraries and in some cases individual subscribers. These attracted increasing disapproval because they were publishing work that had been funded by public bodies and/or charities who were interested in discoveries and not publications/publishers’ profits. On the other hand, there are journals published by learned societies such as the Biochemical Journal (UK) and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Here, the income, again mainly from libraries, was used to support the scholarly activities of the sponsoring societies, but even here there was variation; some journals such as the Journal of Biological Chemistry charged their authors’ page charges, whereas others, such as the Biochemical Journal, did not. In general, those that did not impose page charges charged higher prices to libraries. A third model was that of FEBS who have always worked with commercial publishers to generate revenue for FEBS from their journals. All these journals made additional money from the sale of reprints. Most of the content of these journals was available only to subscribers, of which the majority were affiliated to institutional or company subscribers. The idea that all publicly funded knowledge should be available to all was given impetus by the move to online publication when it became feasible for an individual, almost anywhere in the world and without institutional or company connection, to gain access to all publications provided there was no paywall. I have always questioned how many such individuals exist, but to make publications truly open access, the costs of publication have had to shift to investigators and their institutions. At my own institution, the large sums allocated for this purpose were exhausted before the financial year was complete, thus leading to delays in publication. It is now understood that spending large sums of money this way instead of on research is unsustainable. The dream, of course, is deposition of papers on the internet at close to zero cost, but then who would organize review and proper presentation? Some will argue that we don’t need review—rubbish will sink ignored—but then how would we know about papers hosted only on an institutional website? Overall, I am inclined to think the traditional model had much to recommend it and it is not clear to me how the scientific community can stop profit-driven commercial publishing, an original aim of open access, other than boycotting of certain journals….”

Guest post: Overcoming the challenges of open access books – part 1/2

“In part one of this two-part series, we’ll explore some of the challenges around policies and funding for OA books that were highlighted by authors and editors who were kind enough to participate in interviews about their experiences with OA publishing.

Each of the authors and editors I interviewed named wider dissemination and a more equitable research ecosystem as the main benefits of OA publishing. But they also highlighted a number of challenges which we will delve into below….”

The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery Advances to Preprint Ser… : Journal of Craniofacial Surgery

“It is indeed a pleasure now that I have the chance to communicate with you all, readers, authors, fans and customers, to tell you what is going to happen in the future in the brave new digital world as regards preprints and post-prints, changes that will be arriving soon and not in the distant future – preprint servers will soon be mobile and accessible to all. This will indeed require some sacrifice and attention, making you feel part of the family with a matrix base and principled pillars that cannot be shaken, stirred, or disturbed by any negativity. We are bringing this to you knowing that there will be some growing pains such as those that we have experienced previously in all the advances that we have made. We do not expect less this time as regards those who are used to burning bridges of collaboration and who are already armed with their matches ready to use at any time; our advice to them is to start their fires with their tails….

The solution for quicker presentation and dissemination of knowledge comes with preprint servers, which we are working on for our journal but which are not yet not perfected. We have seen some ugly instances of misuse of the process during the pandemic; we cannot blame particular groups of people, it is purely a matter of human nature….

What is a preprint? The paper will be submitted as a preprint contribution, there will be a ledger fee for its submission and the paper will directly progress to the submission process and to the server, which is totally separate, and within 24 hours it will have a DOI and will be available globally for viewing, downloading and dissemination of knowledge, and it will have “preprint” stamped on each page. This means it is not peer-reviewed and not cross-checked; it is there on the basis of the integrity of the author and its authenticity; this is not a process that will guarantee publication at all. A second copy will go through the process noted above and this may take 6–9 months, based on and including the revisions required, and will depend on the multifactorial processes involved in regular publication. At the end of the road the preprint will meet at high noon with the standard print; if accepted the preprint will move to PAP or if rejected it will be stamped “rejected” and removed from the preprint server; that is the ugly black eye that may result. Of course the good ones are happily in print format and are now in the cloud and access around the global medical arena will be infinite….”

National Academy of Sciences Transformative Open Access Agreement – Office of Scholarly Communication

“As of August 1, 2021, the University of California (UC) has a two-year open access agreement with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The agreement allows corresponding authors at all UC campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to publish open access in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) for a reduced cost and with no separate article page charges. 

Researchers and students at all UC campuses will also be able to access all PNAS content, dating back to 1915, free of charge. This is the first transformative agreement between PNAS and a U.S. research institution. …”

DOAJ publisher size analysis: Long-tail and APC charging trends? | Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir les savoirs communs

Abstract:  The 2021 DOAJ (The Directory of Open Access Journals) publisher group comprises a large number of very small publishers (typically with only one journal), and very few large publishers. Our purpose is to demonstrate publishers’ long-tail tendency and reveal its connection with the tendency of APC (article processing charge) or NO APC publications. As a result, we ascertain a “long-tail” of publisher size in all three groups and a “the smaller, the NO-APCer” tendency.

 

Commercial Science Journals: A Luxury Market? – SBMT

“SBMT: Why are the “diamond/platinum” journals the least valued by editorial metrics and funding agencies?

Dr. TR Shankar Raman: I have no idea why this should be so. It feels like the academic community has just painted itself into a corner. There are lots of excellent diamond open access journals. The journals published by Indian Academy of Sciences  are a good example (although they have a weird co-publishing arrangement with Springer Nature, the journals and papers can be freely accessed via the Academy website and there are no charges for authors to publish either). Of course, the number of papers that a diamond open access journal may be able to publish may be lower and many are in niche areas of science rather than multi-disciplinary in scope and hence their reach may be lower than what big-budget commercial journals can achieve with their resources. But this only means that diamond open access journals should be supported more to achieve better reach, not shift to commercial publishers. All public and philanthropic funding for science has everything to gain by supporting and mandating publication in diamond open access journals….

SBMT: How to design a policy in defense of Southern science through the promotion of “diamond/platinum” journals?

Dr. TR Shankar Raman: As individuals, we can each take a stand, as I have tried to in my post—that I will not review for or publish in commercial journals, but will especially do so for diamond open access journals. Particularly, senior scientists and leaders in their fields must set an example by publishing, reviewing for, or accepting to be on the boards of diamond open access journals. But this will not go far unless we also collectively work to change overall policy. As a community, we must petition our academies, funders, and science administrators to change policies to give greater recognition to papers published in diamond open access journals. This can trigger a big change: especially if it begins to count towards jobs and promotions in academia. Impact factor should be trashed as outdated, harmful, and retrogressive. Recipients of public funds should be mandated to publish in diamond open access journals published by nonprofit scientific societies as this is the most cost-effective way to spend the available (limited) funds to achieve publication that is freely, openly, and widely accessible, while supporting and advancing science. Other initiatives such as Gold Open Access, self-archiving of submitted final versions, or pay-to-publish APC models are all half measures or discriminate and exclude large numbers of scientists around the world, who cannot pay the large fees involved. Policies should support membership fee support for scholars and new and tenured faculty to join learned academic societies that publish diamond open access journals so that the funds are kept within the community and to advance science rather than feed the profits of commercial companies….”