Elsevier in 2018: decrease in number of fully OA journals

Highlights: in 2017, we found that Elsevier was publishing a large number of fully open access journals with no article processing charges due to society or university sponsorships. In 2018, 88 of these titles have been transferred back to the society or university. There has been a drop in the number of fully OA journals published by Elsevier, from 416 to 328 journals. The majority of Elsevier’s fully OA journals are still non-charging. The average APC for Elsevier fully OA journals in 2018 is $1,470 USD, up 6% from 2017.

Raw data – 2 excel spreadsheets (caution – this is preliminary data that is designed for quantitative analysis and does not have detailed documentation). Click to download.


This is a subset of the 2018 version of the main spreadsheet for the open access article processing charges project. The columns for the 2018 – 2017 comparison on the main Data tab are D, 2018 APC publisher website original currency, and N for 2017. Pricing is from the Elsevier APC price list; “no publication charge” is our standardized term, on the Elsevier PDF this is “Fee waived for author”. If you are interested in the journals that have transferred back to a society or university, go to the next spreadsheet:


In 2017 we noted that there are many Elsevier journals that are “fee waived for author” due to sponsorships and decided to begin tracking these sponsorships and an interesting model of partnership, e.g. statements on the Elsevier webpage that made it clear that Elsevier was publishing on behalf of a society or university that retained copyright. Column I, the notes field for 2018, is where you will find details on journals transferred back to the publisher. This information is gathered from the Elsevier website – journal title list, not the APC price list.



 In April 2017, Elsevier was publishing 416 fully open access journals. As of April 2018, this number had decreased to 328 journals, a decrease of 88 journals or 20% of the total. Data is from the Elsevier APC price list (conversion necessary for data manipulation).E2018nonchargingjpg

Most fully OA journals published by Elsevier do not charge publication fees (61% of the total) due to sponsorship by societies or universities. This percentage is about the same as the previous year (57% non-charging). A survey conducted in 2017 found that almost all non-charging journals were published by Elsevier on behalf of a society or university, with copyright ownership retained by the society or university.

A survey of the Elsevier website for OA journals identified as non-charging in 2017 was conducted over the summer. These journals are still listed on the Elsevier website if not the APC price list and information is provided about the current status of the journals. This is a good practice. A total of 88 journals were found to have been transferred back to the society in 2017 or 2018, or scheduled to be returned to the society or university publisher.

For example, a notes about the The Revista Mexicana de Bioversidad indicated that the journal:

Transferred back to the society as of 2018
Copyright © 2018 Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.


The average APC for Elsevier’s charging, fully OA journals in 2018 was $1,470 USD, up from $1,384 USD in 2017, an increase of 6%.

Thanks to René Duplain for data gathering.

Cite as:

Morrison, H. (2018). Elsevier in 2018: Decrease in number of fully OA journals. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2018/12/13/elsevier-in-2018-decrease-in-number-of-fully-oa-journals/





4 thoughts on “Elsevier in 2018: decrease in number of fully OA journals

  1. Really interesting work.

    Would it be possible to publish more granular data, such as the journal names of each of the 416 fully OA Elsevier journals in 2017 and the 328 fully OA Elsevier journals in 2018?

    It would be very interesting to peruse this data further to see what happened as there are multiple possible explanations e.g.

    * fully OA journals may have left Elsevier
    * fully OA journals at Elsevier may have stopped publishing
    * fully OA journals remaining at Elsevier may have converted to subscription w/ hybrid option


    • Thanks for the request, Ross. We don’t generally release data sub-sets as open data (it’s a lot of work) but I’ll try to fit this in soon. In the meantime, as noted in the blogpost, 88 titles were transferred back to the society or university (data from the Elsevier website). Only one Elsevier title went from open to hybrid.

    • Hi Ross,

      This is only regarding your third point, “fully OA journals remaining at Elsevier may have converted to subscription w/ hybrid option”, but some colleagues and I are currently working on a project exploring these, as we call them, “reverse flips” (OA to closed-access, or hybrid). We are almost done with the paper, and will release our data soon too.

      If you want to have a peek, this is one subset of our dataset (the final/complete one is much more comprehensive): https://github.com/lmatthia/publisher-oa-portfolios

  2. Update December 14: I’ve added the raw data as 2 spreadsheets with a bit of explanation that should make it possible for those with strong data literacy skills and motivation to get at the full data underlying this post. Both spreadsheets are incomplete, preliminary files designed for data analysis / inclusion in larger spreadsheets, not read as is. I hope this is helpful.

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