MDPI APC / FDP 2011 – 2016

Tanoh Laurent Kakou and Heather Morrison

Brief abstract (English)

This post presents highlights of preliminary results of our longitudinal study of the article processing charges (APCs) of MDPI, an open access publisher using the APC business model (exclusively), with new journals offering « free for now »  publication. Thanks to Solomon and Björk (2012) we have data for a sample of 25 of MDPI’s journals that did charge APCs in 2011 (non-charging journals were excluded from their study). The APCs for these 25 journals ranged from 300 CHF to 1,600 CHF, with an average of 624 CHF. Only 1 journal (Algorithms) did not change in price ; all others increased in price from 2011 – 2016. The average APC for this group of journals in 2016 was 1,148 CHF, an average increase of 524 CHF or an 84% increase in 5 years. This compares with a compound U.S. interest rate from 2010 – 2015 of 8.7% as calculated by Sara Wheatley The EU compound interest rate would have been lower during this time frame, with some years in negative growth. One might say that MDPI’s APCs for established journals have increased by an order of magnitude greater than the overall inflation rate in the past 5 years.

As of March 2016, MDPI listed 155 journals on its website. Of these, nearly half (72 journals) are <>, that is they use the APC model but are not yet charging. The average APC of 359 CHF (662 CHF when non-charging journals are excluded) contrasts with the 1,148 average APC of the 25 journals that were included in the 2011 sample (established journals). From 2014 to 2015 APCs either stayed the same or decreased ; from 2015 to 2016, we see only stable or increasing prices with an average price increase from 2015 to 2016 of 18% (60 CHF increase on a 2015 average APC of 334 CHF).

This case study illustrates one approach to the evolution of a new commercial publisher committed to the APC business model, with new journals offering free publishing until journals are established. APC payers need to take this into account for budgeting purposes; journals that today either are free or have very low APCs may have substantial APCs in a few year’s time.

Following are the original abstract (in French) by data analyst Tanoh Laurence Kakou and a table with the APCs of the 25 journals for which we have APC data for 2011 and 2016.

Résumé (Français)

Nous analysons des données de MDPI APC de 2011 à 2016. Notre recherche consiste à comprendre comment les frais de publication de MDPI ont évolué dans cette période. Nous avons analysé d’abord les données de chaque période. D’abord 2011, 2014, 2015, puis 2016. Puis nous avons comparé l’évolution des frais de 2011 à 2016, de 2014 à 2015 et de 2015 à 2016.

Les données de 2011 sont des prélèvements d’un échantillon effectué en 2011 par Solomon et Björk (2012) sur uniquement 25 revues avec des frais de publication. Ainsi, la moyenne des frais est 624 CHF, la médiane est de 500 CHF et le mode est de 300 CHF. Sensors a les frais de publication les plus élevés (1,600 CHF). Tandis que Molbank détient les moins élevés (200 CHF). En 2016, on a obtenu une moyenne de 345 CHF, une médiane de 300 CHF et un mode de 0 CHF. Sensors, Marine Drugs et Molecules ont les frais (1,800 CHF) les plus élevés. En ce qui a trait à l’évolution des frais entre 2011 et 2016, on obtient une moyenne de 115%, d’une médiane de 75% et d’un mode de 167%. S’agissant de l’évolution du nombre du montant des frais, nous obtenons une moyenne de 523 CHF, d’une médiane de 500 CHF et d’un mode de 200 CHF. Seule les frais de Algorithms n’ont pas changé. Ils sont restés à 300 CHF soit une évolution de 0%. Tandis que Polymers augmente de 367% qui représentent une valeur ajoutée de 1100 CHF.

Concernant les données de 2014 de Morrison et al, (2015) elles ont été effectuées sur toutes les 124 revues au site web de MDPI. On obtient dans cet échantillon, une moyenne de 372 CHF, d’une médiane de 300 CHF et d’un mode 0 CHF. 3 revues : Sensors, Marine Drugs et Molecules détiennent les frais les plus élevés. En 2015, Morrison et al. (2016) ont étudié 141 revues. 70 revues n’avaient pas de frais de publication. Sensors, Marine Drugs et Molecules gardent les mêmes frais (1800 CHF). Par rapport à l’évolution des frais de publication de 2014 à 2015, deux tendances s’observent.

Au niveau de l’évolution des frais des 124 revues de 2014 à 2015, les frais de 84 revues n’ont pas changé. 40 revues ont baissé leurs frais.

En mars 2016, nous avons trouvé 155 revues au site web de MDPI. Presque la moitié (72 revues) sont <>. La moyenne FDP est 359 CHF (662 CHF si on exclut les revues sans frais) la médiane 300 CHF (500 CHF si on exclut les revues sans frais et le mode 0 (300 CHF si on exclut les revues sans frais).

Au niveau de l’évolution 2015 et 2016, la moyenne augmentation est 18%, (60 CHF), une médiane de 0 et un mode de 0.


L’analyse des données de MDPI APC de 2011 à 2016 montre que les frais de publication de cette période ont augmenté en moyenne 84%, allant jusqu’ à 367% pour la revue Polymers. Cependant entre 2014 et 2015, on a constaté une stabilité des frais et même une baisse de 100% de 6 revues : Sports, Systems, Technologies, Toxics, Universe, Veterinary Sciences. Entre 2015 et 2016, on a remarqué en augmentation en moyenne de 18% (60 CHF).

JOURNAL NAME APC 2011 (CHF) APC 2016 (CHF) Change 2016 – 2011
Algorithms 300 300 0
Cancers 300 800 500
Diversity 300 800 500
Energies 800 1,400 600
Entropy 1,000 1,400 400
Future Internet 300 500 200
Games 300 500 200
Genes 300 800 500
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 1,000 1,600 600
International Journal of Molecular Sciences 1,400 1,600 200
Marine Drugs 1,400 1,800 400
Materials 800 1,400 600
Molbank 200 300 100
Molecules 1,400 1,800 400
Nutrients 500 1,500 1,000
Pharmaceuticals 500 800 300
Pharmaceutics 300 500 200
Polymers 300 1,400 1,100
Remote Sensing 500 1,600 1,100
Sensors 1,600 1,800 200
Sustainability 500 1,200 700
Symmetry 300 800 500
Toxins 500 1,400 900
Viruses 500 1,500 1,000
Water 300 1,200 900
Average 624 1,148 524


Solomon, D.J. & Björk, B.-C. (2012) A study of open access journals using article processing charges. J. Am. Soc. Inf. Sci. Technol. 2012, 63, pp. 1485–1495. Retrieved from February 2, 2016.

Copernicus 2015-2016 comparison

(was 12 Copernicus journals tripled or quadrupled page charges in 2016)

Update July 7, 2016: thanks to Copernicus’ Silke Hartmann (S.H.) for adding a substantive comment. Following is a brief data update about 2 journals formerly free of charge that now charge APCs, clarification about my category “cost not specified”, and highlights worth repeating of S.H.’s clarification about the meaning of “currently waived”.

Data update: in brief, two journals with conflicting information about APPCs as of June 15, 2016 now post APPC details on their webpages.

Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf) and Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems  now charge from €50 to €120 per printed page as of July 1, 2016.

Both journals posted conflicting information about APCs as of June 15, 2016. Their APC pages stated: “If the discussion paper is published after 1 January 2016 the APCs are levied for the publication of the final revised paper in the journal. The publication in the discussion forum is free of charge”. Under the price per journal page, the cost is indicated as “currently waived”. The June 15 version of the ESurf APC page is attached here in order to illustrate:  ESurf – Article processing charges 2016 06 15

This is a good illustration of why I have a category called “cost not specified” and how this is used. The journal APC page clearly indicates that “APCs are levied [emphasis added]” along with conflicting information that APCs are “currently waived”. It would be consistent with this explanation to provide free publication to authors, or to inform them that fees are now in place at some point between submission and publication. I do not mean to suggest that these journals have any intention of deceiving authors, merely to point out that this is conflicting information and authors and payers reading the website information do not have a clear indication as to whether or not there is a charge. Two other journals S.H. indicates have appropriate APC information continue to post this conflicting information, that APCs are levied but currently waived.

Highlights from S.H. of Copernicus’ comments: “Currently waived” journals either plan to institute APCs or that have not yet decided whether to use this model or not and wish to keep their options open. “Cost not found” in the case of Copernicus journals (a category I use when I cannot find any information indicating whether there is or is not a cost) means that publishing in the journal is free of charge [Earth System Science Data and Soil].

Data will be updated before it is included in the main spreadsheet (to be completed and released later this year).

Update July 6, 2016: I retract my statement on tripling of page charges thanks to new evidence indicating that the difference reflects a change in the stage at which papers are assessed (now final publication stage generally one-third the pages of discussion paper stage). The change is intended to be revenue-neutral but more data from APC payers would be needed to confirm this. 2015 data from the Open APC project includes values for 2 journals with papers at both stages, and prices paid are 17-24% higher for papers at the final publication stage. I re-affirm my assessment of the volatility of the APC market. I found 6 journals with APCs indicated “currently waived”, presumably journals that will charge APCs of unknown quantities in future. I found 4 journals that referred to APCs without specifying the cost and 2 journals with no indication of whether or not there is a cost. This is a very substantial percentage of Copernicus’ journals for which the answer to the questions “is there an APC or APPC, and if so, how much is it?” is not available on the Copernicus’ website. I regard Copernicus as a model OA publisher. It is likely that this situation reflects journals that would rather not charge APCs, feel they must charge APCs but are not sure how much to charge, etc., rather than deliberate obfuscation. New evidence and the original post follow.

New evidence

Thanks to Copernicus’ Xenia van Edig for a clarification posted to the Global Open Access List and inthe comments section below. According to Xenia, the tripling of per-page pricing does not impact the article pricing as this represents a change in timing of assessment of charges. Previously, charges were assessed at the discussion paper stage, now they are assessed at the final publication stage, where articles are typically one third of the length.This makes sense and my 2015 data does refer to costing at the discussion stage. It is clear to me that Copernicus aims to be fully open and transparent about article processing charges. I recommend that Copernicus and its partners review the website information for the journals listed below (second chart) indicated “cost not found” or “cost not specified”.

Dirk Pieper on the GOAL list points to an open APC server for server payers of APCs and indicates that their data does not confirm tripling of prices. A review of the OLAC server data for Copernicus for 2015 and 2016 does suggest that the primary difference in pricing is paper stage (final v. discussion). However, only 16 Copernicus articles are listed for 2016. I have not checked to see if all are from the journals with this change in pricing; of those with this change in pricing, any submitted before December 31, 2015 would have been assessed at the discussion paper stage. This data is far from conclusive. From the 2015 data, there are 2 journals for which mean APCs are available for both Discussion Papers and the final publication stage. The mean value for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics is €1.543 compared to Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions at € 1.32. There is a 17% difference, with the 2016 final paper model representing the higher value. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques’ mean value is € 1.34 compared to Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions at € 1.09, a 24% difference. This data suggests that the change in timing of assessment of charges may not be price neutral, although this is not enough data to come to any conclusions about direction or net impact of the change.

Original post and update

Update July 5, 2016: thanks to astute readers for asking questions about the calculations. It may not be easy to follow as we’re used to much smaller price increase – a 3% increase from year to the next, not 300%! I’ve added more detail below which should make this easier to understand. Further questions are welcome.

On June 1, 2016, German-based commercial open access publisher Copernicus endorsed OA2020, an “an international initiative to support the swift, smooth, and scholarly oriented transformation of journals from print subscription to open-access publishing”.  Half of Copernicus’ journals (12) for which we have numeric data for both 2015 and 2016 tripled or in some cases quadrupled their page charges from 2015 to 2016. Coincidence? The rest of this group of journals (10 journals) showed no change in price or modest increases. There were 18 journals for which I found no data with which to compare. Of these, 1 is clearly sponsored and free of charge; 6 are “currently waived”; 4 are “cost not specified”, i.e. the website indicates a charge will be applied but the amount is not given; 3 are “no cost found”, i.e. presumably free but no clear language to confirm; 3 are “title not found” and 1 title that was free last year began to implement charges in 2016. Following are comments: in brief, the price changes illustrate what I call the volatility of the market suggesting it may be too early for OA2020 as pricing is not stable, and I suggest that the topics of many of the journals which touch on things like drinking water quality, climate change and ocean science, would support an argument for public sponsorship of research dissemination in these areas that are important public priorities in the present and near future. Full data is available in charts below.


Copernicus is a highly regarded and innovative open access publisher with an innovative model where prices reflect the work involved (pricing varies with size of article, format of submission and whether the author uses the publishers’ template). Even after the tripling of prices most of the fees for these journals are fairly modest, e.g. a 10-page article in the preferred format using the publisher’s template adds up to less than a thousand Euros. However, this data illustrates what I describe as the continuing volatility of this market. Libraries and others that might be payers of article page processing charges tend to have fixed budgets that do not easily accommodate tripling of prices or sudden institution of pricing for “currently waived” journals. To illustrate: if a library budgeted based on 2015 prices and then prices on average triple in 2016, the fund will run out 1/3 of the way through the year.

The topics of some of the journals suggest to me the advisability of public sponsorship of at least some of these journals that are publishing in key public good priorities for the present and near future, for example Drinking Water Engineering and Science, Climate of the Past, and Ocean Science (all journals that tripled in price this year). It is great to see that these journals are open access, but if anyone has the ability and inclination to grow our knowledge on how to care for our water, climate, or oceans, let’s not let page charges stand in the way of disseminating the research.

The following chart illustrates APPC (article page processing charges) for all the journals for which we have numeric data for both 2015 and 2016. In reading the % change column, 100% means no price change, 300% means the price tripled and 400% means the price quadrupled.

Update July 5: I’ve added a column to the chart below on the right hand side which explains in plain language the difference in price between 2015 and 2016. A 400% change is a quadrupling of price. If your rent was $1,000 last year and increased to $4,000 this year, that’s 4 times higher. This is easiest to see and understanding with the journals that tripled in price from 25 EUR per page to 75 EUR per page. 25 X 3 = 75.

For many of these journals, to their credit Copernicus has posted pricing for articles submitted in both 2015 and 2016. To illustrate let’s look at one of these journals, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. The APCs are currently posted here and a PDF copy can be found here ACP – Article processing charges 2016 06 15 (created because Copernicus is likely to update their APC page at some point in the future).

Here are the APC details, an extract copied from the ACP website as of July 5, 2016 (without formatting, extracted to facilitate comparison). The following illustrates that the price for every category is precisely 3 times higher after January 2016 than it was before December 2016. Category 1 jumps from €25 to €75. Category 2 jumps from €30 to €90. Category 3 jumps from €35 to €105. Category 4 jumps from €40 to €120. Not every journal follows this pattern precisely, but it is a repeated pattern. I encourage readers to look at the APCs on the Copernicus journal sites to see for yourselves.

Discussion papers published before 31 December 2015
Price per discussion page
Category 1 €25 net LaTeX submissions using the Copernicus Publications LaTeX Package
Category 2 €30 net Word submissions using the Copernicus Publications Word Template
Category 3 €35 net LaTeX submissions causing higher expenditure of work due to any LaTeX style and/or difficulties with tables/figures
Category 4 €40 net Word submissions causing higher expenditure of work due to any Word
style and/or difficulties with tables/figures

Discussion papers published after 1 January 2016
Price per journal page
Category 1 €75 net LaTeX submissions using the Copernicus Publications LaTeX Package
Category 2 €90 net Word submissions using the Copernicus Publications Word Template
Category 3 €105 net LaTeX submissions causing higher expenditure of work…
Category 4 €120 net Word submissions causing higher expenditure of work…

Copernicus APPC (*category 1 where multiple prices exist) 2016 / 2015
Title 2016 APPC as of June 15, 2016 (EUR) * 2015 05 15 (APPC) (EUR) * Price increase in EUR 2016 – 2015 Price ratio 2016/2015 in % Plain language price ratio from 2015 to 2016
Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics 75 17 58 441% more than quadrupled
Solid Earth 75 17 58 441% more than quadrupled
Drinking Water Engineering and Science 69 20 49 345% more than tripled
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 75 25 50 300% tripled
Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 75 25 50 300% tripled
Biogeosciences 75 25 50 300% tripled
Climate of the Past 75 25 50 300% tripled
Geoscientific Model Development 75 25 50 300% tripled
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 75 25 50 300% tripled
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 75 25 50 300% tripled
Ocean Science (OS) 75 25 50 300% tripled
The Cryosphere 75 25 50 300% tripled
Advances in Radio Science : Kleinheubacher Berichte 26 25 1 104% slight increase
Advances in Science and Research 26 25 1 104% slight increase
ASTRA Proceedings 31 30 1 103% slight increase
Advances in Geosciences 31 31 0 100% no change
Annales Geophysicae 45 45 0 100% no change
Fossil Record 50 50 0 100% no change
Mechanical Sciences 45 45 0 100% no change
Primate Biology 55 55 0 100% no change
Proceedings of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences 35 35 0 100% no change
Stephan Mueller Special Publication Series 25 25 0 100% no change
Geothermal Energy Science 60 57.5 2.5 104% no change
Average percentage change 219%

The following chart provides data for journals for which we do not have numeric data for both 2015 and 2016. Note that Copernicus has a number of journals which have associated journals that are called Discussions; these are actually early release of the journals with the same name and are not included here.

Title 2016 APPC as of June 15, 2016 (EUR) *
Earth System Dynamics 50
Geographical Research Abstracts abstracts of conference papers – no cost found
Earth Surface Dynamics cost not specified
Earth System Science Data cost not specified
Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems cost not specified
SOIL cost not specified
Advances in Statistical Climatology, Meteorology and Oceanography currently waived
Archives Animal Breeding currently waived
Geographica Helvetica currently waived
Journal of Sensors and Sensor Systems currently waived
Web Ecology currently waived
Wind Energy Science currently waived
Scientific Drilling free of charge
History of Geo- and Space Sciences no cost found
ISPRS Archives and Annuals no cost found
Animal Breeding title not found
Social Geography (SG) title not found
Astrophysics and Space Sciences Transactions (ASTRA) title not found – see ASTRA