Who is served by for-profit gold open access publishing? A case study of Hindawi and Egypt

by: Jihane Salhab and Heather Morrison


The highly successful Egypt-based open access publisher Hindawi is presented as a model of quality publishing and commercial success. However, this success is not accompanied by obvious benefits to Egypt’s own research and researchers. Even in the best-case scenario for academics in Egypt’s public university system, it would take three month’s salary for a full professor to pay the $1,500 USD OA APC of Hindawi’s high-end Disease Markers. Egypt’s largest public university, Cairo University, has no institutional repository. Fortunately for Egyptian researchers, there are open access journals that do not charge APCs, and not all open access repositories are institutional repositories. Open access may not be the most salient issue for Egyptian researchers at any rate. It is not clear that the pre-revolutionary state interference with research detailed in a 2005 Human Rights Watch report has been resolved, and the need to take on other work due to low salaries leaves many academics with little to no time to do research. In this instance, commercial success is not correlated with social benefit.


Hindawi is an open access commercial publishing success story and an Egyptian business success story. Hindawi Publishing Corporation was founded by Ahmed Hindawi who, in an interview with Richard Poynder conducted in September 2012, confirmed a revenue of millions of dollars from APCs alone – a $3.3 net profit on $12 million in revenue, a 28% profit rate (Poynder, 2012). Hindawi is highly respected in open access publishing circles, and was an early leader in establishing the Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association (OASPA), an organization that takes quality in publishing seriously.

However, it seems highly unlikely that Egyptian researchers could afford to publish in the larger Hindawi journals. It would take three months’ salary for a full professor in today’s public university system to pay the $1,500 USD APC of Hindawi’s Disease Markers; this would take six months’ salary for a lecturer. This is the best-case scenario, assuming a university that has been able to implement the raise for academics decreed by Morsi in July 2012 to 3500 EGY monthly for a full professor ($579 USD) (1).

In addition to the financial factor, years of the pre-revolution regime’s interference with research subjects and methods formed a stagnant nature of contemporary scholarship where “the state restricts who can research what and severely punishes those who overstep their bounds” (Human Rights Watch, 46). Though there is a slight improvement after the revolution, still “economic, political, and physical insecurity in the country make it very difficult for serious changes to be made” (El-Awady, 2013).

There are other options for Egyptian researchers: the vast majority of open access journals do not charge article processing fees (Morrison et. al., 2015), there are subject as well as institutional open access repositories, and Egyptian researchers can read open access works of others. Still it might be reasonable to ask whether the most appropriate route to “open” in the short-term for researchers in Egypt involves opening up time to do the research through adequate salaries and opening up freedom to conduct and share research by building support for intellectual and academic freedom.


1. In July 2012, more than a year after the revolution that ousted the Mubarak regime, elected president Morsi issued decree 84, amending the wages for academics that had not been changed since 1972. Published on July 14th in the Egyptian Official Journal (issue 28), Decree 84 (translated from Arabic by Jihane Salhab). lists the amendments of academics’ monthly wages as follows: 3500 EGY ($579 US) for professors, 3000 EGY ($497 US) for associate professors, 2500 EGY ($414 US) for lecturers, 1500 EGY ($248 US) for assistant lecturers and 1000EGY ($165 US) for teaching assistants respectively (using XE currency converter for that same date at a rate of $1=6.045 EGY). That raise was supposed to be only the first phase, but in February 2013 Egyptian minister of higher education Mas’ad confirmed in a statement that no other phases would follow (Bedewi, 2013).


Bedewi, M. (24 February 2013). Higher education: the country cannot endure the second phase of ‘academic wages.’ Al-Youm Al-Sabe’ [In Arabic]. Retrieved on 10 April 2015.

El-Awady, Nadia. (8 June 2013). Higher education still suffering after the revolution. University World News. Retrieved March 28, 2015 from http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20130606161959301

Human Rights Watch (2005). Reading between the “Red Lines”: the repression of academic freedom in Egyptian universities. Human Rights Watch, 17(6): 1-109. Retrieved February 17, 2015 from http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/egypt0605/egypt0605.pdf

Morrison H, Salhab J, Calvé-Genest A, Horava T (2015). Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014. Publications 3(1):1-16. Retrieved April 10, 2015 from http://www.mdpi.com/2304-6775/3/1/1

Poynder, R. (2012).The OA interviews: Ahmed Hindawi, founder of Hindawi Publishing Corporation. Retrieved March 10, 2015 from http://www.richardpoynder.co.uk/Hindawi_Interview.pdf

This post is the first in a series analyzing the actual or potential impact of APCs.

How to download and work with DOAJ journal metadata without messing up the characters in the journal titles and publisher names.

Background: the file containing the sample for May 2014 has incorrect characters which are very difficult to fix because we did not contemplate how to download and open the csv files in the right way.

These are the most important steps to download and work with DOAJ journal metadata without messing up the characters in the journal titles and publisher names:

  • Go to DOAJ and download metadata
  • Save the CSV file on your computer WITHOUT opening it
  • If you’re using a spreadsheet package, first open the application (e.g. Excel or LibreOffice Calc) and then IMPORT the CSV file into the application.

The following is one example of how you can import and work with the file without messing up the characters using Excel 2013.

  • Open Excel and click on the “Data” menu option.
  • Click on the “From Text” icon.
  • Browse the location of the CSV file, and then click on the “Import” button.
  • The Text Import Wizard will prompt, showing Step 1 of 3.
  • Choose “Delimited” on data type.
  • Select the character set as “65001: Unicode (UTF-8)”
  • Click on the “Next” button to display Step 2 of 3.
  • Select the “Comma” character.
  • Click on the Next button to display Step 3 of 3.
  • Choose the appropriate data format for each column
  • Click on the “Finish” button to complete importing your data into MS Excel.
  • Save the file in MS Excel format WITH ANOTHER NAME, ensuring that you preserve a copy of the original CSV file for further verifications.

If you use open software like LibreOffice Calc, you can import and work with the file and save it again without messing up the characters using Excel 2013.

Import file into LibreOffice Calc.

  • Open the application (LibreOffice Calc).
  • Click on “File – Open”.
  • Browse the location of the CSV file and click on the “Open” button.
  • An import file dialog box will prompt
  • Select the character set “Unicode (UTF-8)”
  • On the Separator Options, select “Comma”
  • Choose the appropriate data format for each column
  • Click on the “Finish” button to complete importing your data into LibreOffice Calc.
  • Save the file in LibreOffice Calc format, WITH ANOTHER NAME, ensuring that you preserve a copy of the original CSV file

Now you can work and modify the file, adding more information if needed using any spreadsheet software. However, if you work with Excel and need to save the file again in CSV format, you need to follow another process or you end up messing up the characters in the journal titles and publisher names, or special characters added in another columns.

The easiest way to do this is to follow these steps:

  • Open the Excel file using LibreOffice Calc
  • Choose File – Save as – Text CSV
  • An export file dialog box will prompt
  • Select the character set “Unicode (UTF-8)” and click Ok

If you know other methods or alternatives, please share them with us.

Many small open access journals / publishers do not charge APCs

This chart illustrates the difference in skew between DOAJ charges that had charges or no charges in May 2014, as explained in the blogpost text.As we recently reported in MDPI’s Publications, our sample of DOAJ journals charging APCs showed a skew in size of publisher with journals in this category. Most journals were published either by publishers with 50+ journals using APCs, or 1- 9 journals using APCs, with not much in the middle. To prepare for our next study we are drawing a small sample of the much larger set of DOAJ journals with “no charges”. In preparing for this stratified / random sample we stumbled upon a different skew for this set of journals, that is, a very large skew towards the very small journals but no skew towards larger publishers. The chart above illustrates this difference in skew. To express this in plain language, what we are seeing here is a very large number of open access journals with no article processing charges (5,669 journals or 88% of no-charges journals) published by publishers with less than 10 journals in this category. The relatively small percentage of journals that do not fit in this category are spread somewhat evenly between the other size ranges.

Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014

The article reporting the results of our May 2014 survey of DOAJ journals using open access article processing charges is now available in MPDI’s Publications. The abstract and citation details are below. To download the data behind the study, go to the dataverse.

Abstract: As of May 2014, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed close to ten thousand fully open access, peer reviewed, scholarly journals. Most of these journals do not charge article processing charges (APCs). This article reports the results of a survey of the 2567 journals, or 26% of journals listed in DOAJ, that do have APCs based on a sample of 1432 of these journals. Results indicate a volatile sector that would make future APCs difficult to predict for budgeting purposes. DOAJ and publisher title lists often did not closely match. A number of journals were found on examination not to have APCs. A wide range of publication costs was found for every publisher type. The average (mean) APC of $964 contrasts with a mode of $0. At least 61% of publishers using APCs are commercial in nature, while many publishers are of unknown types. The vast majority of journals charging APCs (80%) were found to offer one or more variations on pricing, such as discounts for authors from mid to low income countries, differential pricing based on article type, institutional or society membership, and/or optional charges for extras such as English language editing services or fast track of articles. The complexity and volatility of this publishing landscape is discussed.

Citation: Morrison, H.; Salhab, J.; Calvé-Genest, A.; Horava, T. Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014. Publications 2015, 3, 1-16.