Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Confirming the Wellcome Trust's predictions about open access article processing fees

In 2004, The Wellcome Trust published the report, Costs and business models in scientific research publishing. After reviewing the literature on costs of scholarly publishing and discussions with senior staff at a range of publishers (including commercial publishers), the Wellcome Trust concluded: A conservative estimate of the charge per article necessary for author-pays journals lies in the range $500–$2500, depending on the level of selectivity used by the journal, plus a contribution to overheads and profits (p. 2).

Today's actual article processing fees (APF) of successful, established fully open access publishers supports this prediction of The Wellcome Trust. The profitable Hindawi charges fees closer to the low end of the range; for example, the APF for  Hindawi's Economics Research International is $400. BioMedCentral's average APF is $1,640, in the middle of the range. PLoS fees range from $1,300 for PLoS ONE to $2,900 for PLoS Biology. This is just over the top of the Wellcome Trust range - but then seven years has intervened between the publication of the report and now. 


BioMedCentral (2011). Frequently asked questions about BioMedCentral’s article-
processing charges. Retrieved November 22, 2011 from http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/authors/apcfaq

Hindawi (2011). Article processing charges. Retrieved November 22, 2011 from
Public Library of Science (2011). Publication fees. Retrieved November 22, 2011 from
Wellcome Trust. (2004). Costs and business models in scientific research publishing.
n.p.: The Wellcome Trust. Retrieved November 22, 2011 from http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/About-us/Publications/Reports/Biomedical-science/WTD003185.htm

This post is part of an early (not yet posted) draft of the economics chapter of my open thesis.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sage "choice": a critique

Sage Choice is an aptly named hybrid open access program. Authors have the option of paying a $3,000 USD fee (which does not include other charges such as page charges).

What do authors get from paying this fee? According to the Sage Choice website: 

Under this program, SAGE will post to PubMed Central (PMC) or its international equivalents, such as UKPMC or PMCI on behalf of authors where their funder requires it. All other SAGE policies regarding open access archiving remain unchanged.

and  Payment of the SAGE Choice fee will enable articles to be immediately available on SAGE Journals Online to non-subscribers, as well as to subscribers to that journal. It will also permit authors to submit the final manuscript to their funding agency's preferred archive if applicable.

What does this mean? Under SAGE Choice, authors cannot even post their own work to their institutional repository for open access right away, but must wait for the standard one-year Sage embargo period. There may be free access on the SAGE website, but there is no easy means of searching for these free articles. Browsing through a few SAGE journals, I haven't found any articles marked as being SAGE Choice. Providing free access either on the SAGE website or through specified repositories barely meets the criteria of gratis (free to read) open access. Which brings me to where I started: SAGE Choice is aptly named. This option is definitely the choice of SAGE, designed to fit its goal of maximum profit, not that of its scholar-authors. This is a model which I would characterize as cynically designed to prove that open access is undesirable, by deliberately developing an undesirable model; an attempt to squeeze a little extra money out of research grant funds without actually moving towards open access.

My recommendation is to avoid SAGE Choice. Authors, funding agencies and libraries should not pay the fees. While other hybrid programs may be a serious attempt at transforming journals, this one clearly is not.

Given the SAGE one-year embargo on authors' posting of post-prints along with SAGE Choice, I would rate SAGE Choice as below average in support for open access, and recommend to scholars to seek the journals of other publishers whenever possible. For options on where to publish, try the Directory of Open Access Journals, and see my post about Assessing new open access journals, or for subscription based publishers with better self-archiving options looks at the SHERPA RoMEO Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving site.

SAGE Choice (2011). Retrieved November 15, 2011 from http://www.sagepub.com/sagechoice.sp