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

Cite as:

Morrison, H. (2016). Copernicus 2015-2016 comparison. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from

4 thoughts on “Copernicus 2015-2016 comparison

  1. It is good to see that pricing of OA publishers is closely monitored and observed. In our case, however, your accusations are incorrect. We have not doubled or even tripled the article processing charges as you have stated in your email and your blog post.

    To understand the changes in our pricing, it is essential to understand our publishing model: Copernicus Publications publishes two types of journals: Let’s focus on the 18 of the 38 journals we publish that apply Interactive Public Peer Review as those are the ones that had their prices changed.

    Interactive Public Peer Review is a two-stage publication process that involves the publication of the author’s manuscript as a discussion paper in an online and open-access discussion forum. The referee reports as well as additional comments are published there in addition to part of the peer-review process (

    From 2001 to2015 we typeset these discussion papers and the article processing charges (APCs) were based on this “first” publication, not on the final revised paper. In January 2016, we changed the publication and accounting process for all journals applying Interactive Public Peer Review. There were two main reasons for this. On the one hand, we do not typeset the discussion papers anymore. This should help to make clear that the discussion papers are rather preprints and not the versions of record. On the other hand, the practice of charging for the discussion papers was especially difficult for funders since they usually only fund final papers (accepted after the completion of the peer-review process). Thereby, the APCs have to be paid once the final revised paper is published.

    Regarding the article processing charges, the old discussion-paper style resulted in three times more pages than the classic manuscript style, and tables and figures were counted as extra pages (due to the discussion-paper format) when calculating the total cost of publishing a paper. Here is an example of this former model:

    A manuscript contains 10 pages with 57,000 characters, 2 figures, and 1 table. The discussion paper will have 30 pages text + 1 page table + 2 pages figures. For Category 2, this will result in 33 pages × €25 = €825 net + 19% German VAT.

    In the new model, the APCs were adjusted to account for the fact that they are based on the final article page rather than on the discussion paper page. The overall costs of publishing a paper have essentially remained the same because there are three times fewer pages in a paper in classic manuscript style than in one in discussion-paper style. Here is the example above in the new payment model:

    A manuscript contains 10 pages with 57,000 characters, and an additional page with 2 figures and 1 table. For Category 2, this will result in approx. 11 pages final revised paper × €75 = €825 net + 19% German VAT.

    These changes are clearly and transparently stated on our websites (thank you for linking to them) and were explained to authors, editors, and referees in press releases and community mailings.

    Thus saying that our prices have increased by 200% is blatantly incorrect. It compares apples to oranges.

    For further clarification, 24 of our journals have APCs. All these journals are owned by learned societies or scientific institutions. For seven journals APCs are waived by the owners of these journals. For some journals there are no intentions to introduce APCs; for others the owners are planning to implement fees in the future. If fees are introduced, this usually happens in two steps. Three journals are financed via conferences. For three journals Copernicus waives the fees. In addition, we have four journals on our website which either ceased publication or were transferred to another publisher.

    Openness and transparency is very important to us and we know that we do things differently than other publishers. If you have any questions on our pricing scheme or on any other aspect of our work, we are happy to answer them.

    Best regards,
    Xenia van Edig

    Business Development Copernicus Publications

  2. Hi Heather,

    Thank you for updating your blog post. As Xenia will be on holiday from tomorrow on, I will take over commenting on the remaining issues.

    Since Copernicus charges APCs on a page-by-page basis and not per article, it is not possible to compare article prices when the lengths of the articles are not taken into consideration. When comparing 2015 and 2016 papers, the changes in our publication process have to be taken into consideration, too. But even with these changes we do not see the 17–24% increase of the ACPs at all.

    Regarding the websites for which there is no information on APCs, the journals neither have APCs now nor do they intend to obtain APCs in the future. We will discuss stating this more explicitly on the respective journal websites. Thank you for this feedback.

    The ISPRS Archives and Annals are proceedings journals, and the costs of publication are covered via the respective conferences. Geophysical Research Abstracts is a compilation of all abstracts presented at the General Assemblies of the European Geosciences Union. There are no extra charges.

    The six journals that state that their APCs are currently waived indeed intend to introduce APCs at some point in the future or want to keep this option open at least. The four journals that you list as “cost not specified” do inform about their APCs (or the lack thereof) on their websites ESurf, ESSD, GI, SOIL.

    Please let me know if there are further points that need explanations or if you have any other questions.

    Best regards,
    Silke Hartmann

    Media & Communications
    Copernicus Publications

    • Thanks Silke – I have posted an update indicating recent implementation of APCs by ESurf and GI and explaining my category of “cost not specified”. I recommend that ESSD and SOIL reconsider the information on their APC pages. If journals are going to implement APCs in future, please make it clear whether authors submitting now are covered under “currently waived” or not.

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