Forthcoming research and an invitation to cooperate

Here is what we are up to, why, and plans for the near future, shared in the spirit of open research and by way of invitation to others working on overlapping research to share your own plans through comments on this post, so that we can combine efforts and all get to the goal of figuring out how to sustain open access as quickly as possible.

Resource requirements for small scholar-led open access journals

  • Interviews and focus groups with small scholar-led journals that either are, or want to become, open access, on the resources required. This is a qualitative-to-quantitative, idea-gathering and partial action research project. To date, 8 interviews conducted with journals from 4 countries, 1 focus group. Initial writing / blogspots will begin to appear this summer. More invitations to participate forthcoming soon. The primary reason for this project is a hypothesis that this sector is both the most cost-effective and the best option from the perspective of scholarship and the public interest. According to my analysis, the average revenue for OJS journals of $188 per article according to a survey by Edgars and Willinsky is about 4% of current global average spend per peer-reviewed journal article by academic libraries. This may not be enough to sustain these journals, but there is a lot of leeway between an average of $188 per article and the over $4,000 per article current spend. The purpose of this project is to figure out what these journals need to survive into the future; for example, what is the work, who does it (academics and/or support staff), journal hosting and sources of support.

Open access article processing charges

For me, the primary reason for this research stream is that in an online environment, cost-per-article is a rational measure of efficiency. The APC study is important in the macro-analysis of the potential for full transition to open access publishing, and worthy in its own right as a model used by a minority of journals and in an minority of disciplines. Studying APCs does not imply endorsement of the model. I have never paid an APC. Now that I am a researcher even the idea of diverting funding from research to pay APCs when so much money is still going into subscriptions is a concern. Institutional funding for APCs sounds like a great idea, but when universities are strapped for cash this kind of support could be reduced or dropped. The focus of this research is trends over time, particularly looking for the potential for the same dysfunctional market that has plagued scholarly publishing for decades will appear in APCs too.

For published work see the Publications and Presentations page.

In progress

  • Correlating subjects and APCs, based on May 2014 data (tendency to charge and how much) (Progress: see which subjects are charging the most? and this post with links to data and documentation.
  • Correlating content in DOAJ and APCs, based on May 2014 data (hypothesis: at least some types of journals, particularly commercial journals, are charging low or no fees initially with plans to initiate or raise fees once they become established). Example: Hindawi provides free publishing for a number of their journals on a rotating basis, even though it is clear that this is an APC model. Progress: a significant positive correlation has been found in the DOAJ data (i.e. journals with more content in DOAJ, if they use APCs, tend to have higher charges), however a check against the actual publications of the journals suggests that the DOAJ publication size only roughly corresponds with actual journal publication size. A check of DOAJ in May 2015 suggests that recent tech changes at DOAJ mean that this data is different today and perhaps even less reliable. A tech tips post for journal publishers contributing content to DOAJ has been released. The large size of the sample and the at least roughly comparable journal sizes is still worth reporting on. Currently I am pondering whether a follow-up study based on publisher website counts is necessary or worthwhile. If anyone has this data in a dataset that identifies journals (by title or ISSN) for cross-referencing purposes please let me know.
  • Varying impact of APC based on regional differences and currency fluctuations. Early work contrasts the Egpyt-based commercial OA APC success story Hindawi with the difficult financial situation for researchers at Egypt’s public universities.

Theoretical work

  • Exploring theoretical frameworks such as the commons and the gift economy for potential for ideas on how to sustain a global open access knowledge commons.


  • May 2015: update of 2014 APC survey and longitudinal comparisons with data from 2014, 2013 and Bjork and Solomon’s 2010 study
  • Impact factor / APC correlation. Hypothesis: some types of journals, particularly commercial journals, will tend to increase charges disproportionately when they obtain an impact factor or increase in rankings.

A bit farther into the future

  • Case studies: library journal hosting services costs
  • Publisher survey(s): follow-up from interviews and focus groups
  • Revist macro analysis for potential for global transition to OA based on academic library budgets

Related projects

  • Creative Commons and Open Access Critique: a call to abandon the idea of CC-BY as default for open access and open the conversation about how best to address issues such as copyright, licensing, attribution and re-use
  • Updating 2010 survey of  Canadian libraries journals and university presses’ support for open access (with team leader Brent Roe, Don Taylor, Kumiko Vézina and Andrew Waller (in progress)

Some details about the open research approach and the reason for this invitation

One of the primary reasons for the existence of this blog is to support the project’s open research approach. Scholarly traditions tend to favor competition which gives researchers an incentive to keep what they are doing, and their data, secret until they are ready for formal publication, ideally before the competition so we can prove we are the best researchers.

Research in an area like open access article processing charges provides a good illustration of the potential advantages of collaborating rather than competing. Last May we downloaded the DOAJ metadata file and gathered in-depth quantitative and qualitative information about article processing charges for a large sample of the minority of journals using this approach. Our main dataset is available through the dataverse. We have other information gathered (e.g. full publisher APC lists including journals not in DOAJ and various DOAJ screen scrapes including content by year, publisher and provider). The reasons for not sharing all data openly have more to do with the learning curve of working with this much data (e.g. if we added all the data to one dataverse would that make it too difficult for people to find?) and the complexities of documentation. At last count we had well over 300 files of various types (mostly large spreadsheets) that we share among team members.

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