Monday, September 27, 2010

Full open access to articles - with library savings of over 70%

Update October 5, 2010: the currency reported in the STM report was USD, not UK pounds sterling. Thanks to Mark Ware, author of the STM report, for this information - and interesting example of open peer review in action! The USD currency is reflected in the STM report v1.1 on the STM website.

What this means is that my original figure (based on an assumption of US currency) of 64% savings is more accurate. I will rework the spreadsheet and re-release in the near future. Additional open peer review is welcome.

At the PLoS average article processing fee of $1,649 U.S. per article, or BMC average article processing charge of $1,560 U.S., libraries worldwide could fund full open access to the world's estimated 1.5 million scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles produced every year at less than 30% of current annual global academic library journal expenditures.

The purpose of this broad-brush, macroeconomic analysis is to sweep aside the complexities of transitioning to open access, to view just how achievable open access is from an economic standpoint.

The method for calculating these savings involves:

STM Revenue
  • Take the total STM annual journal revenue as reported by Mark Ware for STM of 8 billion pounds sterling and convert to about 12.6 billion U.S.
  • Divide by .7 (approx. 70% of STM journal revenue is from academic libraries according to Ware)
  • This gives $8.8 billion USD annual revenue to STM from academic libraries alone

Full open access at PLoS or BMC rates
  • PLoS average rate: multiply # of articles / PLoS journal by article processing fee for that journal, add and calculate average
  • BMC standard rate is from BMC webpage
  • Multiply by approx. 1.5 million scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles per year as discovered by Björk et al
Calculate the ratio and voila! Libraries CAN have our cake and eat it too - full open access with cost savings.

One key point: the average cost per article matters. To keep things simple, this macroanalysis only considers one business model for open access, and only two publishers.

Data Sources

BioMedCentral standard article processing charge - from BMC website Sept. 27, 2010.

Björk, Bo-Christer; Roosr, Annikki; Lauri, Mari. (2008). Global annual volume of peer reviewed scholarly articles and the share available via different open access options. ELPUB2008. Open Scholarship: Authority, Community, and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 - Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing held in Toronto, Canada 25-27 June 2008 / Edited by: Leslie Chan and Susanna Mornati.

PLoS average publication fee (2010):

Research Information Network (RIN). (2008). Activities, costs and funding flows in the scholarly communications system in the UK Retrieved from

Universal Currency Converter. Retrieved from September 27, 2010

Ware, Mark. (2009) The stm report: An overview of scientific and scholarly
journals publishing 2009. International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM). Retrieved from February 2010

To download a spreadsheet with calculations, go to the Economics of Scholarly Communication Dataverse.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access and Economics 101 series, and is an update and correction of a post from 2009.