Category: OA News

Less gold & more green – Research Councils and Open Access at Imperial

In common with a number of other universities in receipt of Research Councils UK (RCUK/UKRI**) funding for open access (Cambridge, UCL, LSHTM), we cannot pay for every single RCUK-funded output to be immediate open access. The Vice Provost’s Advisory Group for Research have therefore decided to restrict the use of the RCUK grant to only pay where:

  • a. the publication output is in a fully open access title that appears in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or
  • b. the publication title does not provide a compliant “green” (self-archiving) open access route

RCUK funded authors can still expect financial support for open access for the following:

  • Fully open access journals e.g. PLoS, BMC etc.
  • ‘Hybrid’ open access journals – but only when a compliant publisher “green” (self-archiving) open access route is unavailable or exceeds the individual research council embargo.

Rather than paying for open access, if you are in receipt of funding from the UK research councils, you can comply by simply self-archiving (a REF2021 requirement already). Provided that the publisher’s required embargo does not exceed the maximum permitted. The vast majority of publications are compliant via the self-archiving open access route and authors can check individual embargo periods of journals via Sherpa Romeo.

Funder Maximum permitted embargo

MRC 6 months
BBSRC 12 months
EPSRC 12 months
NERC 12 months
STFC 12 months
ESRC 24 months

It is important to note that the choice of publication venue will not be compromised as we will pay when they exceed the permitted embargo. Funder compliance and REF2021 output eligibility will also be ensured.

The full policy of the College’s RCUK fund is available via the Open Access Library website as well as contact details with the OA Team.

**UKRI: UK Research and Innovation brings together the UK Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England into a single organisation.

Response to Guidance on the Implementation of Plan S from Imperial College London

The following is the response to cOAlition S request for feedback on Plan S and was written in consultation with academics, research committees and colleagues across the College.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY

Imperial College welcomes the move to align funder Open Access Policies. It also recognises that research and publication are global and collaborative ventures and that collaborators do not all have equal access to research funding, nor are most of them covered by funders with open access policies and aims.

At present it is estimated that cOAlition S signatory funded research results in the production of <8% global published outputs arising from research and that wholesale changes of business model are likely only once that funder base increases substantially. In the meantime, a mixed model will need to continue to exist.

Nonetheless, Imperial College supports a general move to open access to the research findings of its academics – nearly 88% of 2018 College research outputs are available open access via a combination of full OA journals, hybrid journals, and repository deposit.

As they stand, the Implementation Guidelines present issues which may reverse this trend, result in an increased financial burden for research intensive institutions – at worst perpetuating the subscription model – and limit funding available for exploring new publishing business models, particularly models which would support learned societies. They also risk alienating a community already engaging in open science practices, some of whom have been at the vanguard of open access for over 20 years, including open access publishing. The suggestions below offer some responses to those issues, responses which were prepared following discussion at meetings of the Vice Provost’s Advisory Group for Research, at Faculty Research Committees and with individual academics.

Feedback summary

This Feedback is both aimed at eliciting clarification and at suggesting further actions that can be considered by cOAlition S funders which would, we believe, lead to the opportunity for practical, achievable and affordable steps to be taken towards accelerating Plan S aims of making full and immediate open access a reality. In summary, these include:

  • Seeking an achievable implementation period, one which is scalable along with the growth in number of cOAlition S signatories and therefore the % global research outputs covered by those funders;
  • Seeking clarification on the intentions around transformative publishing agreements and suggesting an approach that will not adversely impede choices of cOAlition S funded authors at a time when >90% of their counterparts may not be covered by such policies;
  • Seeking clarification on the “unit” of the transformation agreements – Journal or Publisher? In making this response we stress that content is typically negotiated at publisher level, rarely at the level of the individual journal;
  • Highlighting the role of a model Institutional Open Access Policy [1] as a mechanism for achieving Plan S aims, as a lever to constrain costs, as a mechanism to ensure retention of choice of venue of publication while membership of cOAlition S grows and while institution/consortial negotiations with publishers are ongoing;
  • Seeking clarification of and changes to the repository deposit criteria to enable researchers to continue to harness the rich network of existing repositories available to them noting, in the UK at least, that we believe that no institutional repositories yet meet the Plan S repository criteria, that repositories are integrated with institutional current research information systems and that change in this systems infrastructure is highly unlikely to be considered until the conclusion of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework exercise.
  • Noting effort needed to support learned societies in their re‐thinking of business models.

1. IS THERE ANYTHING UNCLEAR OR ARE THERE ANY ISSUES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN ADDRESSED BY THE GUIDANCE DOCUMENT?

Transformative agreements: By publisher or by journal?

It is essential that we seek clarification as to how Plan S interprets journals covered by transformative agreements [2] and that we analyse and communicate the consequences of that clarification. A discussion with one cOAlition S signatory raised alarm bells because they were talking about journals, not about publishers. In stating this position, they drew attention to Section 2 of the Guidance on the implementation of Plan S which includes the following two statements:

  • Authors publish in a Plan S compliant Open Access journal
  • Authors publish Open Access with a CC BY licence in a subscription journal that is covered by a transformative agreement that has a clear and time‐specified commitment to a full Open Access transition

To understand the implications of these guidelines, it is important to understand how content is licensed, how current and emerging transformative deals work and to recognise that universities, often as part of wider consortia, mostly subscribe to publishers (Big Deals) and not to individual journals. If Plan S really means journals then we anticipate considerable challenges, challenges which essentially set Plan S up to fail unless an exceptional set of circumstances come into alignment within the very short transition timeline indicated:

PUBLISHERS

  • Libraries subscribe to bundles of content – typically via a publisher
  • cOAlition S currently funds ~8% of global research outputs
  • Read and Publish (R&P) deals are negotiated at the publisher level, not at the journal level, but they do ensure that over time, 100% of the outputs by academics at institutions taking the R&P Deal can be published OA in journals covered by that publisher R&P deal
  • If all institutions covered by cOAlition S funders negotiate R&P deals with all publishers with whom their academics publish, then 100% of cOAlition S funded work published in journals published by those publishers is OA (i.e. whatever % of the ~8% global publishing that those publishers represent). However, not all journals will be OA under this scenario because some journals will attract few or no articles from cOAlition S funded research.

JOURNALS

  • For any given large publisher portfolio, the cohort of journals in which academics publish will change and evolve. Whilst an academic may still publish in a Publisher X journal, it may not always be the same Publisher X journal. Analysis of data from Imperial College shows that between 2012 and 2018 Imperial authors published 50,225 articles in 5,375 journals published by 762 publishers, of which 1,790 articles were single articles in 1,790 separate journals
  • This gradual evolution of publishing choice, combined with the <8% funding coverage (cOAlition S funded research currently funds significantly less than 10% global published research outputs), create a challenge for publishers if cOAlition S are evaluating success at the journal level (as was understood from the cOAlition S funder discussion): the likelihood of a publisher flipping each journal in which an academic covered by cOAlition S funding publishes is very remote – certainly whilst the % publishing covered by those funders remains this low. The Imperial analysis shows that there is a very long tail of journals with single digit article publishing in any one year. For some journals, the publication rate is rising, for others, it is declining. The tail remains very long and includes many society journals where the society has outsourced its publishing activities to one of these commercial publishers. Unless the journal is only publishing cOAlition S funded work or is publishing a growing % cOAlition S funded research, it will almost certainly not be in position to flip to OA.
  • If cOAlition S means *journal* rather than *publisher*, our reading is that unless all the following conditions are met, Plan S will fail:
    • cOAlition S successfully bring on board all other significant funders of research
    • All publishers of cOAlition S funded outputs are willing to offer an affordable R&P deal to all institutions covered by cOAlition S funders
    • All institutions covered by cOAlition S funders take the deal.

If, however, we are talking about publishers, then under the publisher scenario above, it is possible for academics at cOAlition S funded institutions to meet Plan S aims where the deal is affordable to institutions, and scales to 100% of that institution’s publishing over time.

ADDITIONAL ATTRIBUTES OF A TRANSFORMATIVE AGREEMENT THAT MIGHT BE CONSIDERED BY PLAN S

  • Machine readable licences to facilitate the flow of data and the automation of some text and data mining activities which can legitimately be performed on OA content.
  • Where a publisher is not yet in a position to offer a transformative deal, or to flip their journals to Open Access, it offered either
    • a Plan S compliant self‐archiving route, or
    • an undertaking not to refuse to publish work from an author solely on the grounds that the author belongs to an institution which has adopted a Plan S compliant Institutional Open Access Policy whereby rights are retained on behalf of academics and Author Accepted Manuscripts can be self‐archived.

Timescale

To which entity (journal or publisher) any cOAlition S funder policy applies, and from which date are key factors in ensuring that Plan S aims are achievable. Publisher negotiations can sometimes take two or more years to reach a conclusion and negotiations are generally staggered so as to be manageable by institutions and consortia.

Learned Societies do not yet necessarily have alternative publishing service providers to turn to, and the length of time from a decision to consider a move of provider to first publishing with a new provider can be considerably in excess of three years with some contracts lasting up to seven years. We recommend that the guidelines recognise these timelines and that these will be directly influenced by the pace at which the cOAlition S group grows.

Open access repositories

As written, the guidance appears to require publishers to undertake/facilitate the work of repository deposit and the repository criteria appear to have been drawn up with this in mind. However, we envisage a scenario, particularly in the early years of Plan S implementation, whereby an Institutional Open Access Policy incorporating rights retention and Plan S compliant licensing and embargo periods will be needed in addition to publisher negotiations for transformative publisher deals, particularly in the event that those deals prove to be unaffordable. That being the case, author self‐archiving will most likely be the means by which Author Accepted Manuscripts will be deposited and made available through repositories. To this end, it would be helpful if the current repository infrastructure were also considered as a valid and valuable mechanism to meet Plan S aims.

With the above in mind, we support the COAR response [3] to the Plan S repository requirement statement.

To set this in context: at Imperial we have already experienced strong publisher pushback on proposals to roll out adoption of a model Institutional Open Access Policy in the UK – the UKSCL Model Institutional Open Access Policy – and as such, rather than contributing to the perpetuation of the status quo for subscribed content, it is our belief that widespread adoption of an Institutional Open Access Policy which meets Plan S requirements will provide a further legal lever to encourage publishers to develop their own affordable and transformative routes towards achieving Plan S aims and to demonstrate the value that they otherwise add to the scholarly communications process beyond the availability of the AAM text in a repository.

2. ARE THERE OTHER MECHANISMS OR REQUIREMENTS FUNDERS SHOULD CONSIDER TO FOSTER FULL AND IMMEDIATE OPEN ACCESS OF RESEARCH OUTPUTS?

The role of an institutional open access policy which retains rights which achieve Plan S aims

We believe that institutional open access policies have a role to play in meeting Plan S aims:

  • As a lever to constrain costs. Widespread deals which result in a “read and publish” service for universities/consortia are a relatively new development and cost constraint, affordability, value for money and global applicability remain unproven. At their worst, they run the risk of perpetuating the subscription model and of tying funding up with traditional publishing rather than releasing it to support new initiatives. Universities may need an alternative means of ensuring the outputs of their researchers are available open access. An Institutional Open Access Policy which achieves the rights retention and availability envisioned by cOAlition S would fulfil this role, particularly if it enabled the release of funding to support alternative models of scholarly communication of research findings, e.g. a Diamond Open Access model which relies on core funding for the infrastructure and where no APC is paid by contributing academics.
  • cOAlition S support for an institutional rights‐retention policy [4] as a means of advancing cOAlition S funder aims would allay significant concerns amongst the research community that publishing choices may become overly restricted by circumstances beyond their control.

The role of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment – DORA – in scholarly communications culture change

Imperial is a signatory to DORA and is currently working through implementation.

There are a growing number of institutions signing DORA and moving to implement it. That number remains relatively small and academics at signatory institutions are conflicted in some of their dealings with collaborators and collaborating institutions. Continued funder assurances that the quality of the individual output and not the quality of the vehicle of publication will be assessed in grant funding applications is necessary in order to embed what is likely to remain a slow pace of change globally. We would welcome moves by the cOAlition S group to be more explicit in explaining how they will enact their commitment to reform of research evaluation, including how they will recruit international partners.

Global research and learned society publishing

  • As with commercial publishers, the business models for Learned Society publishing vary widely, from operating at a loss, to operating at very significant margins which at the extreme exceed those of the commercial publishers in % terms. Nonetheless, the following comments are relevant to this type of publishing.
  • Academics are members of learned societies many of which have outsourced their publishing activities to commercial publishers
  • Academic research is collaborative and global. The most appropriate venue for publication may not necessarily operate in a cOAlition S region, nor may the majority of the researchers/authors necessarily be in receipt of cOAlition S funding.
  • Typically, it can easily take three years for a learned society to move from one publisher service to another, and typically, a learned society is receiving and reviewing content now that will not be published for approx. 2 years (2021).
  • Viable alternative publishing service providers which support Plan S aims are not yet readily available in all disciplines and may need support at the discipline level from cOAlition S funders.
  • Many learned societies publish a significant proportion of research which is not covered by cOAlition S funding. To prevent cOAlition S funded researchers from publishing in these journals would create an artificial barrier to research communication
  • In a global context, institutions covered by cOAlition S research funding are at the wealthier end of the university market. Meanwhile, many learned societies actively encourage global collaboration irrespective of means. A world in which those less able to pay found themselves moving from paying to read to paying to publish would not be a world which has resolved inequalities of access to scholarship and sharing.
  • Academics are aware that current OA funding, even where it only supports publication in journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), or hybrid – either where a viable self‐archiving option is not available, or where a ‘read and publish’ deal via hybrid funding is available – is no longer sufficient to support publishing at that institution, let alone to support the emergence of new business models which would support society publishing.

Financial challenges for research-intensive institutions

Imperial is a research‐intensive institution. We have calculated that using the current average APC prices paid, paying to publish would cost over double our current subscriptions budget and would add circa £10m to current content costs. Even were it the case that across the UK the funding in the system was sufficient to support OA publishing of research, that funding is not currently allocated where it is needed to support a move to OA.

Why libraries can’t simply cease subscribing and use savings to fund OA

This observation is a response to several comments that cOAlition S funders have made regarding their assumptions on what library subscriptions currently fund.

With many publisher “big deals”, libraries have a mixture of “subscribed content” – usually a subset of the portfolio of journal titles covered by the deals – and additional content in the journal portfolio which is also accessible to academics at the institution. Publishers typically allow a small % shift of subscribed titles annually, usually based on value. Some institutions have kept a keen eye on their subscribed content to ensure that it matches use (e.g. reading‐list material and highly‐used journals). Others have not been so diligent and because publishers only allow this small % shift of subscribed titles annually it is not possible in any one year for those institutions to undertake retrospective sweep to ensure that all the content to which an institution continues to subscribe is the content that is most used by those at the institution. This is important because, generally speaking, whilst an institution may have a Post Cancellation Access – PCA – agreement that generally only covers subscribed content and not to everything else that the institution has been accessing/reading in the portfolio outside the subscribed content.

Because most institutions no longer subscribe to print copies, they are reliant on post-cancellation access to subscribed journals. PCA gives this access to those journals. If libraries have not kept a keen eye on subscribed content and adjusted over the years, the big risk is that in a scenario in which a library needs to cancel licensed access, unless they have PCA to the content that has been historically used by their institutions their users will lose access to those journals. Subscribed title records partly lie with institutions, partly with publishers and partly with subscription agents. Libraries may have changed agent a few times since taking out the original subscriptions (these date back to the mid‐1990s), and a number of agents have folded during this period, jeopardising access to accurate information. What we do know is that across the board, institutions do not collectively have PCA access to all the content that their researchers use – the tail is very long indeed.

In the UK, Jisc is seeking to resolve this with each new negotiation but not all publishers are willing to engage in such discussions.

None of the above is a caused by, nor can be solved by OA / Pay to publish. However, it is a very significant factor when considering cancelling subscriptions in favour of supporting OA and to switching to Inter Library Loan (ILL)/Document Delivery for content not covered by PCA. If institutional usage of content does not closely match subscribed content, then the institutional ILL bill outstrips what was previously paid for the cost of licensed access to content before diverting unspent library subscription funds to support “pay to publish” can be considered.

ARE THERE ANY ISSUES AROUND THE FEASIBILITY OF PLAN S, E.G., KNOWN BARRIERS, AREAS WHERE THERE MAY NEED TO BE AN EXCEPTION?

The main barrier to the success of Plan S is the relatively low % content covered by cOAlition S funders. For Plan S aims to become reality, significant effort needs to be devoted to expanding the list of signatories to cOAlition S, or to other groupings seeking similar aims to Plan S. To this end, we see the recent announcement that librarians and funders in China are seeking immediate access to funded research outputs as a significant move, but unless there are similar moves with US funders the tipping point will be hard to reach.

Prepared on behalf of Imperial College London by Chris Banks
chris.banks@imperial.ac.uk
@ChrisBanks

[1] The response from the UKSCL Community outlines this in detail: http://ukscl.ac.uk/ukscl-community-response-to-plan-s/
[2] Typically, these are deals negotiated at a publisher level. They are becoming known as “Read and publish” deals and over time they allow read access to all content from that publisher covered by the deal and allow an institution’s academics to publish open access in all journals covered by the deal.
[3] https://www.coar‐repositories.org/files/COAR‐response‐to‐implementation‐of‐Plan‐S-February‐6‐2019.pdf
[4] E.g. the UKSCL: http://ukscl.ac.uk/ukscl‐community‐response‐to‐plan‐s/

Your choice! Selecting a Creative Commons Licence for your thesis.

Until now, all doctoral theses awarded by Imperial College London and uploaded to Spiral were automatically licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives Licence (CC BY-NC-ND).

Some students felt that this licence was too restrictive and that they should be able to choose a more permissive Creative Commons licence for their thesis. In October this became possible.

So who are Creative Commons and what licences do they offer?

Creative Commons are a non-profit organization. They realised that even when the creator of work wanted their work to be available to be copied, shared and re-used, sometimes copyright laws prevented that from happening.  As a result, they created six easy to read licences that anyone could apply to their work. These are now widely used by publishers, photographers, and educational establishments to facilitate content sharing.

All the licences allow a licensed work to be copied and shared on the condition that the original creator of the work is attributed. Attribution is another term for acknowledgement and you should either acknowledge the work as requested by the creator or using your preferred referencing style. The acronym TASL (title, author, source, licence) can help you remember what to include.

A photograph of autumn leaves
Leaves by neiljs. https://flic.kr/p/6iaoA5. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence (CC BY 2.0)

NonCommercial licences (NC) prohibit a work being used commercially, for example in a commercially published book or journal article. While NoDerivative licences (ND) prohibit reuse and redistribution of adaptions of a work. ShareAlike licences (SA) require you to distribute any derivative works you create under the same licence as the original.

The table below show how the different elements are remixed to form the six licences.

A table comparing the permissions offered by different Creative Commons Licences
Creative Commons licenses by Foter. https://foter.com/blog/how-to-attribute-creative-commons-photos/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-SA 4.0))

 

Which licence do you recommend?

We understand that not all students will find it easy to make a choice. In this situation, we suggest you choose a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Licence.

This licence allows others to copy and redistribute all or parts of your thesis and also distribute modified versions of the work but only on the condition that they credit you as the author and do not use it, or any derivative works, for a commercial purpose.

It does not permit others to pass your work off as their own or ask a commercial publisher to publish it in a book chapter or journal article.

Having chosen my licence what next?

There are two actions you need to take. The first is to select a copyright statement to insert at the beginning of your thesis. This should be one of the statements displayed on the Selecting a Creative Commons licence webpage. Here you will see six different licences, one for each Creative Commons Licence.

The second is to select a matching Spiral licence when you upload the corrected version of your thesis to Spiral. As this won’t happen until after your viva examination we recommend that you look back at the copyright statement you inserted into your thesis before making your selection. The Creative Commons Licence mentioned in the copyright statement and the Spiral distribution licence must match.

Now I’m just confused!

Picking a licence for your work can be confusing. Try watching this short video. It will talk you through everything, show you a quick way to pick a licence and includes a screenshot of the spiral upload screen.

Good to go

You should now feel fully equipped to choose a Creative Commons Licence for your thesis but if not email library@imperial.ac.uk for further assistance.

 

Remember that if you cannot decide which licence to pick you can just select a Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Licence.

 

Slowing down the Gold Rush: a community resource to keep track of expensive APCs

This is the fourth of a series of blog posts by Imperial’s Open Access Team for OA Week. Our first post on Publisher Problems can be found here, our second post on Accepted Manuscript definitions can be found here, and our third post on Publisher Contacts can be found here.

This blog post is directed to our Open Access colleagues in Higher Education.

The rising price of Gold OA

A big part of what OA Teams in libraries/research offices do – in those institutions that are fortunate enough to have the funding – is make decisions on which publications can (or need to) be published via the Gold OA route. As we diligently work away to process the scores of article processing charge (APC) applications we receive each month, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of what we are actually authorising each time we approve an application: namely, the payment of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’/charities’/institutions’ money to (often exceptionally profitable) publishers.

A recent survey of authors around the world found that many had never published OA, but for 27% of them this was because they could not afford the APCs required to do so. The cost of Gold OA has been rising beyond the rate of inflation for many years now (as reported by Jisc in 2016 and in Universities UK in 2017), and although funders have increased the amounts given to institutions to pay for APCs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the demand from authors to publish their work OA.

At Imperial College we are lucky to be the recipients of generous block grants from the Research Councils (RCUK – now UKRI) and the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) to help our authors meet their OA requirements, as well as having access to an institutional fund to pay for APCs in fully OA journals. However, these funds are not bottomless, and can only stretch so far in the face of rising APCs and increasing demand from authors who are publishing more and more. Indeed, we have very recently realised that our RCUK grant is close to running out, and we will be need to be much more restrictive in how we use that fund to pay for APCs for the foreseeable future. This blog post from the Office of Scholarly Communication at Cambridge clearly demonstrates the issues faced in trying to use OA funds in a sustainable way.

Gold bars

The Gold route is of course not the only way authors can make their work OA (and does not always require an APC). When funds run low we can use this as an opportunity to advise how the Green route can meet funders’ and REF requirements, and to promote the benefits of our institutional repository. However, what we aim to offer is a fair and consistent service to our authors, and this is difficult when we cannot be sure how long our funds will last, and whether or not we will be able to approve APC applications from one month to the next.

With the announcement by a consortium of European funders of Plan S (with a key change that hybrid open-access journals are not compliant with their key principles) and rumours of imminent changes to research funders’ open access policies in the UK (e.g. in the upcoming Wellcome OA Policy Review), there is hope that the unsustainable model of increasingly expensive Gold OA will be curtailed. It is important to recognise that the cost of APCs is not the only thing we should be considering, but also the approach that publishers are taking towards a transition to OA (through their self-archiving embargo policies, for example), as is acknowledged in Cambridge’s new policy.

Other institutions (such as LSHTM and Bath) have also already introduced steps to prolong and distribute their OA funds in different ways, by introducing extra conditions such as caps on APC costs and restricting which types of hybrid journal they will pay for. Although at Imperial we have not yet introduced a cap for the APCs we will pay, this is something that is likely to be rolled out by funders in the near future, so we think it is important to record the APCs we have paid for already that were particularly costly.

Recording expensive APCs

Connected to the work done by my OA Team colleague Danny Smith in his Publisher Problems spreadsheet another sheet was created to record particularly expensive APCs. This sheet has been populated with examples of APCs paid for by the Imperial OA Team in 2018, where the cost was £3,000 or over (before VAT), and is now available at the following link:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1fEBud3Xwbrje_43gKbQNmL7K3q6dIKl_eW87Hrf4Nsg/edit#gid=0

How APC costs are calculated and justified by publishers is a contentious issue, as argued by recent Imperial alumnus Jon Tennant in his blog post: “Why the term ‘Article Processing Charge’ (APC) is misleading”. The aforementioned potential caps on APCs from funders are yet to be announced, and in the meantime it is difficult to set an exact figure for what is an “expensive” APC. However, for the purposes of the resource being discussed, this figure reflects what we consider to be a significantly higher amount than the average cost of an APC (calculated as £2,269 in the Wellcome’s 2016/17 report).

Screenshot of the Spreadsheet for Most Expensive APCs

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all journals that would fit within the cost criteria, as it only includes APCs we have paid for at Imperial in 2018, and may miss those journals where we have received a discount that reduced the end cost below the threshold. Although we have paid for APCs for multiple articles in many of the journals included, we have included one example article for each to avoid duplication. We would like this to be a shared resource so we would encourage members of the community to add their own examples from different journals. So far the sheet includes examples of articles published in 39 different journals, from 10 publishers, with a total net cost of £137,609.17 (see table below). More detailed data on APC payments is available through the various reports that institutions produce (e.g. for Jisc).

Publisher/Journal APC Cost (excl. VAT)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (total) £3,508.70
Science Advances £3,508.70
American Chemical Society (total) £32,922.75
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces £3,049.24
ACS Chemical Biology £3,630.05
ACS Nano £3,049.24
ACS Photonics £3,005.92
ACS Synthetic Biology £3,630.05
Chemical Research in Toxicology £3,787.00
Chemical Reviews £3,029.60
Chemistry of Materials £3,634.41
Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling £3,077.64
Macromolecules £3,029.60
American Heart Association (total) £7,090.52
Circulation £3,616.23
Hypertension £3,474.29
Elsevier (total) £34,223.11
Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health £3,023.60
Current Opinion in Structural Biology £3,271.28
European Urology £3,907.51
Fuel £3,034.82
International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology £3,019.27
Journal of Cleaner Production £3,139.53
Journal of Power Sources £3,077.64
Lancet Infectious Diseases £3,907.50
Lancet Public Health £3,934.46
The Lancet Haematology £3,907.50
Elsevier (Cell Press) (total) £24,062.69
Cancer Cell £4,031.36
Cell Reports £3,970.34
Cell Systems £3,934.46
Current Biology £4,031.36
Molecular Cell £4,031.36
Structure £4,063.81
EMBO Press (total) £4,200.00
The EMBO Journal £4,200.00
Nature Publishing Group (total) £3,300.00
Nature Communications £3,300.00
Oxford University Press (total) £4,228.53
Journal of the Endocrine Society £4,228.53
Rockefeller University Press (total) £3,811.55
Journal of Cell Biology £3,811.55
Wiley (total) £20,261.32
Advanced Functional Materials £3,750.00
Advanced Materials £3,750.00
American Journal of Transplantation £3,010.00
Angewandte Chemie £3,537.32
Clinical and Experimental Allergy £3,000.00
Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism £3,214.00
Total £137,609.17

 

As identified in the Publisher’s Problems spreadsheet there are many factors that can make the process of paying for an APC unnecessarily complicated. One issue that the Expensive APCs sheet has further highlighted is the confusion and variations in price that can arise from APCs being advertised, invoiced and paid in different currencies. We have also included a column to identify those publishers who (often confusingly) separate out the cost for a “standard” APC and additional charges for CC BY licenses (including an eye-watering example of this where $3000 was paid just for CC BY). Other potential areas for discussion are the differences between APCs for open access and hybrid journals, and the value and impact of discounts/offsetting.

While we should recognise that much progress has been made by the OA movement in disrupting and reshaping traditional academic publishing models, there is still much work to be done, as is passionately argued in the documentary Paywall: The Business of Scholarship which has received many screenings in OA Week. It is hoped that this spreadsheet will be useful as a way of not only identifying those publishers that are currently charging seemingly excessive amounts, but also monitoring change over time and (hopefully!) a transition away from rising costs. There is also the potential to use the examples to help authors make educated choices about where they publish, and increase their awareness of the charges levied.

We plan to add a link to the sheet (and the other resources we have shared) on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page. Please go ahead and start editing/adding your own examples (checking the notes and instructions first), and we welcome any feedback for how these resources can be improved and best used.

To whom it may concern: How to email a publisher (and get a useful reply)

This is the third of a series of blog posts by Imperial’s Open Access Team for OA Week. Our first post on Publisher Problems can be found here, and our second post on Accepted Manuscript definitions can be found here.

This blog post is directed to our Open Access colleagues in Higher Education.

Exaggeration for comic effect is used at the author’s discretion.

You have some papers where a fee has been paid for immediate Open Access months ago. The funders require that they be available with a CC BY license by now. They aren’t. Time to chase up the publishers. So you can just grab the email addresses from the publisher’s websites, send them a quick note, and move on with your day, right?

You head to the publisher’s website for the first item on your list. But should you contact the OA team? Production? Author services? Customer services? Copyright team? This journal is published by a large commercial publisher on behalf of a learned society and so far you have only looked at the commercial publisher’s page. On linking through to the society’s page, you are confronted with yet another list of contacts, these with (even more) arcane job titles arranged in a mysterious hierarchy. You could email them all, but on receiving a query that was sent to twenty people, how many would assume that someone else would deal with it? (I probably would, to be fair).

Down the Rabbit Hole by Valerie Hinojosa, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://bit.ly/2EefcXL

You move on to the next publisher in your list (let’s leave the tricky ones until last). There are about a hundred “contact us” links from a variety of different pages, and they all lead back to the same generic Customer Services web-form. You know from experience that that web-form leads to a Kafka-esque dance as your query is forwarded and cc’ed back and forth and up and down and always, ultimately, around and back to where it started, losing clarity and formatting at every step, but never accumulating any answers.

Fortunately there is now a list of publisher contacts available here. In some cases, this should alleviate situations like those just described.

  • If someone else has successfully found a way of approaching a particular publisher that works well, you can find out about it.
  • If you have successfully found a way of approaching a particular publisher that works well, you can share it.
  • If no-one has successfully found a way of approaching a particular publisher that works well, you can be comforted that it isn’t just you.

The spreadsheet linked here is one that we have just started using internally at Imperial, and so far we have found it useful for all three of the above reasons. We hope to have a link available on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page soon. We will continue to add to it as time goes on – updating is always a concern with community resources, but we planned to maintain this resource internally anyway, so we felt we might as well share it. We hope that some of you will update it too. Feel free to edit, but please see the Readme tab for updating rules; if you think the rules need to be changed/added to (and they might well as this is a new resource), please contact r.hibbert@imperial.ac.uk.

I have a suspicion that publishers are moving increasingly towards generic web-forms as the only way to contact them, and as recorded in the spreadsheet some of them actually seem to work very efficiently. If this becomes the norm, this resource may become redundant. If/when that happens, we will delete it with pleasure!

You say tomato, I say accepted manuscript

This is the second of a series of blog posts by Imperial’s Open Access Team for OA Week. Our first post on Publisher Problems can be found here.

What is an accepted manuscript? Depends who you ask…

The REF 2021 open access policy requires authors of journal articles and conference proceedings to deposit their work to an institutional repository within three months of acceptance. The version required for deposit by Research England, and permitted by most publishers, is the accepted manuscript version, but selecting the correct version is sometimes confusing for authors. There’s generally a lack of standardization in publishing, and a good example of this concerns accepted manuscripts. There is, in theory, an agreed definition, as follows:

The version of a journal article that has been accepted for publication in a journal. A second party (the “publisher”—see “Version of Record” below for definition) takes permanent responsibility for the article. Content and layout follow publisher’s submission requirements.

This is taken from NISO-RP-8-2008, or to give it its full title, Journal Article Versions (JAV): Recommendations of the NISO/ALPSP JAV Technical Working Group*. The definition is followed by these notes.

  1. Acceptance must follow some review process, even if limited to a single decision point about whether to publish or not. We recommend that there should be a link from the Accepted Manuscript to the journal’s website that describes its review process
  2. If the Accepted Manuscript (AM) is processed in such a way that the content and layout is unchanged (e.g., by scanning or converting directly into a PDF), this does not alter its status as an AM. This will also apply to “normalized” files where, for example, an author’s Word file is automatically processed into some standardized form by the publisher. The content has not changed so this essentially constitutes a shift of format only, and our terms are format neutral.
  3. This stage is also known as “Author’s Manuscript” by, for example, the NIH, but we believe that the key point is the acceptance of the manuscript by a second party. Elsevier refers to it as “Author’s Accepted Manuscript”. SHERPA/RoMEO refer to it as “Postprint”, but this term is counterintuitive since it implies that it refers to a version that comes after printing.

Author Confusion

 

Many authors are confused by the details of Green OA, not knowing what version(s) they can share, where they can share them, and how etc. This confusion arises in part because of the various permissions of each publisher, and even each journal within a publisher’s collection. Permissions are an issue for another day, but surely authors’ (and our) lives could be made easier if publishers were to agree on a definition, such as that above (assuming for the moment that the above is satisfactory)? This is indeed the definition used by Taylor & Francis, though other publishers offer their own interpretations of what an accepted manuscript is, increasing author confusion.

Pile of papers
Which version can I upload?

In processing deposits to Spiral, Imperial’s IR, we often have to reject items because the authors have uploaded the incorrect version. We of course contact the author when this happens and request the accepted manuscript. When explaining this we try to use publisher specific details and if possible, give an example. A spreadsheet has been setup for this purpose, here.

It gives definitions of accepted manuscript by publisher with a link to the information on the publisher’s site, and where available, an example, if the publisher provides clear or labelled accepted manuscripts. It’s in its infancy at the moment, but hopefully with community input this can grow to become a useful resource for everyone. Presumably we’re all sending similar communications to authors about accepted manuscripts, so this should hopefully save us some time, and increase author awareness.

Please contribute to the spreadsheet, and do let us know if you have any questions or comments.

*A Recommended Practice of the National Information Standards Organization in partnership with the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers. Prepared by the NISO/ALPSP Journal Article Versions (JAV) Technical Working Group.

A (publisher) problem shared is a problem halved… new community resource

The needs of the OA community have not and are not being met by established publishers, causing OA/SCM teams many headaches in their daily tasks. In a previous role I began to record the various problems I encountered, and I’ve been continuing this work with colleagues at Imperial. Our list currently contains 106 issues with 70 different publishers. Some publishers are only listed once in the document, whilst some repeat offenders feature as many as 7 times.

As we have a fairly large record of problems (and we’re librarians) we’ve decided to try and structure the information, currently recorded in an online spreadsheet, available here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cTGsGicve2pAfJTJzzfl8GwVjPOM9O3Prx5c5eFLjN8/edit#gid=0

We’ve added columns for contextual information, such as the type of publisher, their location, whether the problem relates to Gold or Green OA, and if Gold, whether hybrid or pure. This allows us to do some basic analysis on the data, for instance, we can filter to discover that most of the publishers who cause us problems in terms of licensing are small/society outfits based in the USA.

We’ve come up with 7 categories that we use to collate similar problems together, as below.

Costs
We record publishers whose basic APC costs we consider to be excessive and also those who have unfair or unusual charges, such as those who charge an additional fee for a CC-BY licence (a cynical attempt to exploit institutional UKRI/COAF OA grants?), compulsory page and colour charges, or APC charges based on article length.

Licensing
For issues around CC licences, particularly changing them, and other licensing problems such as confusing or restrictive publisher-own Gold licences.

Payment
Examples of payment problems include using different systems for APCs and other charges, sending invoices for articles that should be paid via prepay, or a publisher being repeatedly unable to trace payments.

Policy
Predominantly for confusing, conflicting or very restrictive copyright/self-archiving policies, such as rolling embargoes or deposit only in closed access repositories, or only on an intranet (me neither).

Predatory
Simply a way of recording potentially illegitimate publishing entities (PIPEs). PIPEs are often referred to as ‘predatory publishers’, and a list of possible PIPEs is maintained here: https://predatoryjournals.com/publishers/

To be listed as a predatory publisher/journal in our list the publisher/journal must have failed several of the checks on the https://thinkchecksubmit.org/check website.

Procedure
For difficulties in arranging Green/Gold and the processes that we/the publisher go through. Examples include publishers requiring payment to be received before publishing, unintuitive dashboards for prepay schemes, or delays between ordering Gold and receiving an invoice. A problem recorded just this morning regards one publisher’s decision to set an exchange rate from $ to € in January of each year, which is then set until the following January, irrespective of currency fluctuations. This potentially increases costs as well as adding extra administrative burden when processing an invoice charged in €, to be paid in £, for an APC originally advertised in $.

Production
To do with what the publishers actually produce, so for problems with their product, e.g. not stating whether something is CC-BY, broken DOIs, confusing article types, attaching adverts to articles, etc.

The purpose of the spreadsheet was to allow us to see which problems and which publishers were frequently reoccurring so that we could try and locate particular areas that need addressing. The information, it is hoped, will be of use to the rest of the OA community, as well as other interested parties, such as funders, to see how we can collectively petition publishers to change their practices and quicken the transition to a more open system of scholarly communication.

So, please take a look at the sheet for yourselves, here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cTGsGicve2pAfJTJzzfl8GwVjPOM9O3Prx5c5eFLjN8/edit#gid=0

Many of the entries were recorded some time ago and may not be up to date, and we would welcome collaboration on the sheet to make it as accurate, current, and in depth as possible – we hope to have a link available on the forthcoming UKCORR resources page soon.

Please do make your own additions/amendments and get in touch and let us know if you have any questions or comments.