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.”

The cost, value and price of scientific publication | Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

“There is a growing consensus that the cost of converting a scientific manuscript into a published paper — peer-reviewed, typeset, made machine-readable, references extracted, archived, indexed, sustainably hosted — is on the order of $500-$1000.

The value of a published paper to the world is incredibly hard to estimate, but let’s for now just say that it’s high. (We’ll see evidence of this in a moment.)

The price of a published paper is easier to calculate. According to the 2018 edition of the STM Report (which seems to be the most recent one available), “The annual revenues generated from English-language STM journal publishing are estimated at about $10 billion in 2017 […] collectively publishing over 3 million articles a year” (p5). So, bundling together subscription revenues, APCs, offsets deals and what have you, the average revenue accruing from a paper is $10,000,000,000/3,000,000 = $10,000/3 = $3,333.

(Given that these prices are paid, we can be confident that the value is at least as much, i.e. somewhere north of $3,333 — which is why I was happy earlier to characterise the value as “high”.)

Why is it possible for the price of a paper to be 3–7 times as high as its cost? One part of the answer is that the value is higher still. Were it not so, no-one would be paying. But that can’t be the whole reason.

Tune in next time to find out the exciting reason why the price of scholarly publishing is so much higher than the cost!”

Affordable textbook programs save students $4.9 million | Nebraska Today | University of Nebraska–Lincoln

“Since 2019, affordable content programs have saved students an estimated $4.9 million on textbook costs, and have replaced over 80,000 textbooks with affordable content.

Multiple affordable textbook programs have been implemented at the University of Nebraska. There are two inclusive access programs: Follett Access (Campus Bookstore) and Unizin Engage. The third program is an OER seed grant program through the STAR initiative….”

Wyden, Eshoo Press Big Five Publishers on Costly, Overly Restrictive E-Book Contracts with Libraries

“Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Representative Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., today pressed the big five book publishing houses – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan – for answers regarding their contracts on e-books with libraries….”

Higher Author Fees in Gastroenterology Journals Are Not Associated with Faster Processing Times or Higher Impact | SpringerLink

Abstract:  Background

Publications are an important component of academic careers.

Aims

We investigated the financial costs to authors for submitting and publishing manuscripts in gastroenterology (GI) journals in the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), and elsewhere.

Methods

This was a cross-sectional study carried out from 11/1/2020 to 12/31/2020. We used the SCImago Journal and Country Rankings site to compile a list of gastroenterology and hepatology journals to analyze. We gathered information on the journals’ Hirsch indices (h indices), SCImago Journal Rank (SJR), Impact Factor (IF), and base countries as of 2019, processing and publication fees, open access fees, time to first decision, and time from acceptance to publication. We used t-testing and linear regression modeling to evaluate the effect of geography and journal quality metrics on processing fees and times.

Results

We analyzed 97 GI journals, of which 51/97 (52.6%) were based in the US/UK while the other 46/97 (47.4%) were based elsewhere. The mean IF (5.67 vs 3.53, p?=?0.08), h index (90.5 vs 41.8, p?<?0.001), and SJR (1.82 vs 0.83, p?<?0.001) for the US/UK journals were higher than those for non-US/UK journals. We also found that 11/51 (21.6%) of US/UK journals and 15/46 (32.6%) of non-US/UK journals had mandatory processing and publication fees. These tended to be significantly larger in the US/UK group than in the non-US/UK group (USD 2380 vs USD 1470, p?=?0.04).

Conclusions

Publication-related fees may preclude authors from smaller or socioeconomically disadvantaged institutions and countries from publishing and disseminating their work.

Our Commitment to Price Transparency – The Official PLOS Blog

“PLOS is committed to transparency in all its forms—from our Open Science practices that we urge our authors to adopt, to providing our community clear insight into our journals and activities. Last year, Plan S provided a pilot opportunity for the latter through their Price & Service Transparency Framework which becomes a requirement for Plan S compliance in July 2022. We have committed to participate in and share our reporting from that framework each year and we are once again sharing our price transparency data in the spreadsheet and chart below. Read on for more details of how the framework has changed and what that means for PLOS. …”

Current market rates for scholarly publishing… | F1000Research

Abstract:  For decades, the supra-inflation increase of subscription prices for scholarly journals has concerned scholarly institutions. After years of fruitless efforts to solve this “serials crisis”, open access has been proposed as the latest potential solution. However, also the prices for open access publishing are high and are rising well beyond inflation. What has been missing from the public discussion so far is a quantitative approach to determine the actual costs of efficiently publishing a scholarly article using state-of-the-art technologies, such that informed decisions can be made as to appropriate price levels. Here we provide a granular, step-by-step calculation of the costs associated with publishing primary research articles, from submission, through peer-review, to publication, indexing and archiving. We find that these costs range from less than US$200 per article in modern, large scale publishing platforms using post-publication peer-review, to about US$1,000 per article in prestigious journals with rejection rates exceeding 90%. The publication costs for a representative scholarly article today come to lie at around US$400. These results appear uncontroversial as they not only match previous data using different methodologies, but also conform to the costs that many publishers have openly or privately shared. We discuss the numerous additional non-publication items that make up the difference between these publication costs and final price at the more expensive, legacy publishers.

 

Current market rates for scholarly publishing services

Abstract:  For decades, the supra-inflation increase of subscription prices for scholarly journals has concerned scholarly institutions. After years of fruitless efforts to solve this “serials crisis”, open access has been proposed as the latest potential solution. However, also the prices for open access publishing are high and are rising well beyond inflation. What has been missing from the public discussion so far is a quantitative approach to determine the actual costs of efficiently publishing a scholarly article using state-of-the-art technologies, such that informed decisions can be made as to appropriate price levels. Here we provide a granular, step-by-step calculation of the costs associated with publishing primary research articles, from submission, through peer-review, to publication, indexing and archiving. We find that these costs range from less than US$200 per article in modern, large scale publishing platforms using post-publication peer-review, to about US$1,000 per article in prestigious journals with rejection rates exceeding 90%. The publication costs for a representative scholarly article today come to lie at around US$400. These results appear uncontroversial as they not only match previous data using different methodologies, but also conform to the costs that many publishers have openly or privately shared. We discuss the numerous additional non-publication items that make up the difference between these publication costs and final price at the more expensive, legacy publishers.

 

Article Processing Charges based publications: to which extent the price explains scientific impact?

The present study aims to analyze relationship between Citations Normalized Score (NCS) of scientific publications and Article Processing Charges (APCs) amounts of Gold Open access publications. To do so, we use APCs information provided by OpenAPC database and citations scores of publications in the Web of Science database (WoS). Database covers the period from 2006 to 2019 with 83,752 articles published in 4751 journals belonging to 267 distinct publishers. Results show that contrary to this belief, paying dearly does not necessarily increase the impact of publications. First, large publishers with high impact are not the most expensive. Second, publishers with the highest APCs are not necessarily the best in terms of impact. Correlation between APCs and impact is moderate. Otherwise, in the econometric analysis we have shown that publication quality is strongly determined by journal quality in which it is published. International collaboration also plays an important role in citations score.

eBook Licensing in Europe and the Vanishing Library? – YouTube

“Unaffordable prices, an inability to buy eBooks due to a refusal to sell, bundling of unwanted titles in packages, and restrictions on research copying all affect access to eBooks in all types of libraries.

Confidentiality clauses in contracts between publishers and universities are also making understanding how the eBook market functions more challenging, and obscuring whether public money is being well-spent. The #ebooksos campaign has successfully highlighted via the BBC and the Guardian the issues faced by the education and research sectors in accessing and using e-Books. The same issues are also being faced by public libraries across Europe. This session will explore in depth the acute difficulties faced not just by higher education, but also by public libraries, caused by publishers’ pricing and licensing practices, and discuss possible solutions, including the potential to solve many of the problems with legal solutions in copyright law that allow Controlled Digital Lending. It will also include information about the Knowledge Rights 21 Programme (KR21), an initiative led by Stichting IFLA Foundation, setting out its aim to achieve and implement reforms to copyright law, regulation and practice that enable knowledge institutions to provide significantly greater possibilities to access and use copyright works. Working with public, national, educational, health and research libraries, universities and the wider access to knowledge movement, KR21 aims to promote copyright reform at the European and national levels, and through its work leave a lasting legacy that influences similar developments elsewhere in the world….”

Thornton | Elsevier Title Level Pricing: Dissecting the Bowl of Spaghetti | Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication

Abstract:  INTRODUCTION This study will explore the issue of pricing opacity associated with prices paid by academic libraries that have recently unbundled from the Elsevier Big Deal journal package. Additionally, this study will provide metrics for assessing the fair market value (FMV) of unbundled journal packages. The pricing metrics will assist academic libraries in negotiations of subscription and open access agreements. METHODS Pricing information was gathered from five academic libraries. The data was analyzed to arrive at two key metrics (adjustment from list price and the average cost per journal) for establishing comparables, i.e., prices paid by similarly sized institutions, to assess the collective FMVs for unbundled Elsevier journal packages. RESULTS & DISCUSSION The study results show that significant variations existed in the way institutions were charged for content. Additionally, the comparables show wide variations among institutions when measured by the overall adjustment from list price and the average cost per journal. CONCLUSION The pricing metrics developed in this study, adjustment from list price (ALP) and average cost per journal (ACJ), will help libraries assess their final net prices for individual journal subscriptions. The results will be useful to administrators, collection development personnel, and negotiating teams in understanding the prices paid by other institutions for unbundled journal packages to determine FMVs.

 

Analyzing Effects of Bias in Research | YIP Institute

“Such is the issue of availability today, that the ability for someone to access research is based almost entirely on their affiliations to any well-funded research program. Michael Eisen, a professor of genetics, genomics, and development at the University of California, Berkeley, has been a staunch proponent of open access and has long warned about the postponement of innovation and discovery due to slow accessibility. As Michael Eisen elaborates in his UC Berkeley Interview from his “point of view, science is getting a raw deal out of this arrangement, because it is providing all the money, but not getting access for everybody on Earth”.  Not only is science getting the short end of the deal but so are taxpayers who are responsible for more than 40% of all academic research and development.

The largest issue that Professor Eisen points out is how institutions choose to hire or tenure solely based on publication in prestigious academic journals. Effectively, what Universities are doing is handing the process of professorial evaluation to publishers like Elsevier and paying for it in the thousands of dollars they spend on journal subscriptions. 

The cost of these subscriptions help form yet another divide between educational institutions in developed and developing countries. As Peter Suber wrote in his book Open Access, “In 2008, Harvard subscribed to 98,900 serials and Yale to 73,900. The best-funded research library in India, at the Indian Institute of Science, subscribed to 10,600. Several sub-Saharan African university libraries subscribed to zero.” The cost climbing cost of these journals has pushed even endowment rich universities like Harvard to take on cancellation efforts….”

Take action to stop the lock up of research and learning

“We, IOI, ask the community to join us as we coordinate an effort to:

Audit Clarivate and ProQuests’ data resale and surveillance practices and policies.
Organize a community consultation on data governance for institutional customers of Clarivate and ProQuest services.
Review Clarivate and ProQuest’s pricing, terms of use, lock-in policies, & contract details.
Call for institutions to commit to anti-surveillance practices, first by signing below, and then by working together to improve terms of use to support this aim….”

Elsevier Title Level Pricing: Dissecting the Bowl of Spaghetti

Abstract:  INTRODUCTION This study will explore the issue of pricing opacity associated with prices paid by academic libraries that have recently unbundled from the Elsevier Big Deal journal package. Additionally, this study will provide metrics for assessing the fair market value (FMV) of unbundled journal packages. The pricing metrics will assist academic libraries in negotiations of subscription and open access agreements. METHODS Pricing information was gathered from five academic libraries. The data was analyzed to arrive at two key metrics (adjustment from list price and the average cost per journal) for establishing comparables, i.e., prices paid by similarly sized institutions, to assess the collective FMVs for unbundled Elsevier journal packages. RESULTS & DISCUSSION The study results show that significant variations existed in the way institutions were charged for content. Additionally, the comparables show wide variations among institutions when measured by the overall adjustment from list price and the average cost per journal. CONCLUSION The pricing metrics developed in this study, adjustment from list price (ALP) and average cost per journal (ACJ), will help libraries assess their final net prices for individual journal subscriptions. The results will be useful to administrators, collection development personnel, and negotiating teams in understanding the prices paid by other institutions for unbundled journal packages to determine FMVs.