2010 – 2019 APC update

by Heather Morrison


This is an update of the 2010 study of Solomon & Björk (2012) of a sample of 1,046 journals charging APCs listed in DOAJ at that time. 74% of these journals are still active and actively charging publication fees. The average APC reported by Solomon & Björk was 906 USD; the average in 2019 for the 739 journals for which we have APC data for both years is 1,363 USD. This represents a 50% price increase during this time frame, an increase that is 3 times the inflation rate. Not all journals increased in price; some decreased or remained the same price. Nearly a quarter of the journals (23%) are ceased or not found. Most of this attrition rate can be attributed to new OA APC-based commercial publishers with a start-up strategy involving roll-out of a broad range of journals, with unsuccessful journals being retired.

Download PDF:  2010 update

Research question: what is the status, charging tendency (to charge or not to charge) and pricing trends of these journals?


A subset of the OA Main 2019 Dataset (Morrison et al., 2019) containing Solomon & Björk’s 2010 data was used as the basis for this study. This sample was compared with the 2010 data and journals missing from OA Main (due to having been dropped from DOAJ prior to our study) were added to complete the sample. The current status of journals was developed using a pivot table. Pricing trends for 739 journals (tendency to increase or decrease in price) that are still charging APCs was calculated separately for journals with matching original currency (to avoid conflation with currency fluctuations) and non-matching currency in USD. An attempt was made to estimate APC for the 31 journals currently charging APPC but abandoned as the results did not match the APC trends and there is not enough detail in the 2012 study to be certain that the method of estimating APC was correct.



As illustrated in the following table and chart, the majority (779 or 74%) of the 2010 journals are still active and actively charging publication fees. 242 (23%) titles are ceased or not found. 25 (2%) have a status of other. Of these, 8 journals are now non-charging (no publication fee), for 11 journals it was not possible to determine whether or not there is a charge (no cost found), 2 journals are now hybrid, 3 are inactive, and one has been merged with another journal.

2010 journals by 2019 status
Actively charging 779 74%
Ceased or not found 242 23%
Other 25 2%
Grand Total 1,046

Active APC journals: trends analysis

The average APC reported by Solomon & Björk (2012) for 2010 was 906 USD. 779 of these journals are still active and charging publication fees; of these, 739 are still charging APCs and we were able to identify the amount. The average APC for these 739 journals in 2019 is 1,363 USD. This represents a 50% increase in the average APC for this group of journals. According to the Bank of Canada (n.d.) currency calculator, the cumulative inflation rate from 2010 – 2019 is 16.35% An average increase of 50% is more than 3 times the inflation rate.

Pricing direction trend

Not all journals increased in price. As the following table illustrates, 75% of journals increased in price, 18% decreased in price and 8% had no change in price. Where possible, original currency was used to avoid conflation with currency fluctuations.

Pricing trends by number of journals Matching currency Non-matching currency Total % of total
Journals decreasing in price 56 75 131 18%
No change in price 57 0 57 8%
Price increase 393 158 551 75%
Total l# of journals 506 233 739

Ceased / title not found analysis

Ceased journals

Based on knowledge of the history of pioneering APC OA based publishers, a publisher type analysis was conducted of the 210 ceased journals. 199 or 95% of these journals were developed by such publishers that pursued a strategy of starting out their business with a broad range of journals, then dropping journals that were not successful. 7 or 3% of these journals were started by publishers that have been acquired by other publishers that did not continue all of the others. No pattern was discerned for 4 (2%) of the journals.

2010 journals ceased as of 2019 – publisher type analysis
Publishers with broad range of journals start-up strategy
Bentham open 143
BioMed Central 12
Dove Medical Press 10
Frontiers Media S.A. 3
Hindawi Limited 31
Total broad range strategy 199 95%
Publishers that were acquired by other publishers
Co-Action Publishing 1
Libertas Academica 6
Total publishers acquired by other publishers 7 3%
Academic and Business Research Institute 2
SAGE Publishing 1
SpringerOpen 1
Total other 4 2%
Total ceased journals 210

Title not found

A similar analysis was conducted on the 32 “title not found” journals. There was some overlap in the results; Bentham Open, one of the publishers with a broad range of journals start-up strategy, accounts for half of the total, with BioMedCentral accounting for 3 of the titles.


Bank of Canada (n.d.) Currency calculator. https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/

Morrison, H. et al. (2019). OA Main 2019: Dataset, documentation and open peer review invitation. Sustaining the knowledge commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/20/oa-main-2019-dataset-documentation-and-open-peer-review-invitation/

Solomon, D. J. and Björk, B. (2012), A study of open access journals using article processing charges. J Am Soc Inf Sci Tec, 63: 1485-1495. doi:10.1002/asi.22673

Cite as:  Morrison, H. (2019). 2010 – 2019 APC update. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/26/2010-2019-apc-update/

APC price changes 2019 – 2018 by journal and by publisher

by Heather Morrison


Pricing trends for 2018 – 2019 were compared on a per-journal and per-publisher basis. In contrast to the relatively unchanging global average APC, per-journal and per-publisher shows a mixture of trends. Most journals did not change in price from 2018 to 2019; 13% increased in price, 25% decreased. Journals included in DOAJ showed a greater tendency to increase in price (37%). Average price changes per publisher ranged from 0 (no change) to a 34% average increase in price. In some cases, price increases and decreases cancel each other out resulting in an average of 0 (no change) masking considerable change at the per-journal level. Only 2 publishers have APPCs; these have similar average prices. Average APC price by publisher ranges from 246 to 2,851 USD. UK-based not-for-profit publisher Ubiquity Press stands out as having the second-lowest average APC of 536 USD with no price increases.


As reported by Singh & Morrison (2019), the global average APC has shown little change between 2010 and 2019, but variation in the mode and a constant increase in maximum APC and APPC, along with case studies by the SKC team, suggests that this does not give the whole picture of what is happening. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether change in APC or APPC is more obvious at the per-journal or per-publisher level.

Research question

Are there observable changes in APC or APPC at the per-journal or per-publisher level from 2018 – 2019?


The data for this study is from the 2019 iteration of the APC longitudinal study; for documentation of the main study, a link to the dataset, and an invitation to open peer review, see Morrison et al. (2019). As reported by Singh & Morrison (2019), the majority of journals do not charge publication fees. Journals from the main spreadsheet were selected for which an APC or APPC amount is available for both 2018 and 2019. This resulted in a sample of 2,471 journals. Currencies were matched and original currency used for calculations wherever the same currency was listed in both years (2,255 APC journals). The reason for matching currency is to avoid conflation of currency fluctuations and pricing changes. For the remaining journals, APC in USD equivalent was done, using June 30, 2019 XE Currency Converter rates. The 2018 price was deducted from the 2019 price and the difference was divided into the 2018 price to determine the percentage of change.

A second sub-selection was drawn from this sample, limiting to journals that were listed in DOAJ on January 31, 2019, resulting in a sample of 1,514 journals. Of these, 1,394 match in currency in 2018 and 2019. Calculation of the numeric and percentage difference in price from 2018 to 2019 was calculated as described above. This eliminates journals by publishers that are no longer listed in DOAJ, newer journals that are not yet listed in DOAJ and other journals that are listed due to not meeting one of the DOAJ criteria, such as minimum number of articles published per year.

Per-publisher analysis was conducted using the second (DOAJ journals only) sample. For each publisher with more than one journal in the sample, the average APC or APPC was calculated as well as the average, minimum and maximum percentage change.


Journals with APC or APPC data in both 2018 and 2019

As illustrated in the table and chart below, pricing trends on a per-journal basis varied. The majority of journals (62%) did not change in price; 13% decreased in price and 25% increased in price.

2018 – 2019 APC or APPC price changes
# journals % journals
Price decrease 317 13%
No change in price 1,528 62%
Price increase 626 25%
Grand Total 2,471

Journals in DOAJ 2019 with APC or APPC data in both 2018 and 2019

The following table and chart illustrate a somewhat different trend when limiting to journals included in DOAJ. The percentage of journals with price decreases is the same at 13%, but the percentage of journals with price increases in higher at 37%. Half the journals (50%) did not change in price.

2018 – 2019 APC or APPC price changes, DOAJ journals only
# journals % journals
Price decrease 191 13%
No change 758 50%
Price increase 565 37%
Grand Total 1,514

Price change 2018 – 2019 by publisher

The following illustrates that pricing changes from 2018 – 2019 varied by publisher. 6 publishers had no price changes from 2018 – 2019. 16 publishers did have price changes from 2018 – 2019. For the publishers with price changes, there were differences in the pattern of change. Nature and Sage’s price increases and price decreases cancel each other out for an average of no change in price. A few publishers either kept prices the same or increased them, however most publishers have a mixture of price increases and decreases. In interpreting the pricing trends, it is important to consider the average price. A publisher with no price increases may have a higher average APC than a publisher with price increases. The average prices will be highlighting in the next table.


Publisher Average APC 2019 * Currency APC or APPC in USD ****  Average price change % 2018 – 2019 Min. price change 2018 – 2019 *** Max. price change 2018 – 2019
Publishers with no price changes 2018 – 2019
APC Average APC 2019 *
American Geophysical Union (AGU) 1,800 USD 1,800 0%
De Gruyter 1,045 EUR 1,188 0%
Karger Publishers 2,783 CHF 2,851 0%
Public Library of Science (PLoS) 2,428 USD 2,428 0%
Ubiquity Press** 536 USD 536 0%
APPC (per-age not per-article) Average APPC 2019 *
Copernicus Publications (APPC) per-page not per-article 64 EUR 73 0%
Publishers with price changes 2018 – 2019
APC Average APC 2019 *
BioMed Central 1,533 GBP 1,947 10% -42% 123%
Dove Medical Press 1,983 USD 1,983 1% 0% 18%
Elsevier ** 1,633 USD 1,633 13% -50% 567%
Frontiers Media S.A. 2,297 USD 2,297 10% 0% 100%
Hindawi Limited 1,161 USD 1,161 6% -24% 95%
MDPI AG 848 CHF 869 23% 0% 227%
Nature Publishing Group 2,031 GBP 2,579 0% -21% 28%
Oxford University Press ** 1,572 USD 1,572 22% -51% 61%
PAGEPress Publications 473 EUR 538 1% 0% 20%
SAGE Publishing ** 1,429 USD 1,429 0% -59% 67%
SpringerOpen 1,205 EUR 1,370 8% -37% 109%
Taylor & Francis Group ** 693 USD 693 6% -56% 500%
Wiley 2,331 USD 2,331 3% -27% 100%
Wolters Kluwer 2,433 USD 2,433 1% 0% 6%
Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications ** 246 USD 246 34% -57% 602%
APPC (per-page not per-article)
AOSIS (APPC) per-page not per-article 1,196 ZAR 85 5% 0% 19%
* Average prices of journals listed in DOAJ in Jan 2019 and for which APC data is available for both 2018 and 2019.
** Prices converted to USD June 30, 2019 as APCs listed in different currencies.
*** Negative numbers reflect price decreases
**** Based on June 30, 2019 currency conversion rate, XE currency

The following table shows the average APC in USD by publisher in ascending order (starting with the lowest price), along with average, minimum and maximum price changes from 2018 – 2019 by percentage.

Publisher 2019 Average APC or APPC in USD Average price change 2018 – 2019 % Min. price change 2018 – 2019 *** Max. price change 2018 – 2019
Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications ** 246 34% -57% 602%
Ubiquity Press** 536 0%
PAGEPress Publications 538 1% 0% 20%
Taylor & Francis Group ** 693 6% -56% 500%
MDPI AG 869 23% 0% 227%
Hindawi Limited 1,161 6% -24% 95%
De Gruyter 1,188 0%
SpringerOpen 1,370 8% -37% 109%
SAGE Publishing ** 1,429 0% -59% 67%
Oxford University Press ** 1,572 22% -51% 61%
Elsevier ** 1,633 13% -50% 567%
American Geophysical Union (AGU) 1,800 0%
BioMed Central 1,947 10% -42% 123%
Dove Medical Press 1,983 1% 0% 18%
Frontiers Media S.A. 2,297 10% 0% 100%
Wiley 2,331 3% -27% 100%
Public Library of Science (PLoS) 2,428 0%
Wolters Kluwer 2,433 1% 0% 6%
Nature Publishing Group 2,579 0% -21% 28%
Karger Publishers 2,851 0%
APPC (per-age not per-article)
Copernicus Publications (APPC) per-page not per-article 73 0%
AOSIS (APPC) per-page not per-article 85 5% 0% 19%

Discussion and conclusions

The data clearly demonstrate that the volume and direction of pricing changes varies by journal and by publisher. From 2018 to 2019, most journals did not change in price, some decreased in price, and others increased in price. Different APC based publishers display different tendencies and a wide range of average APCs, from 246 to 2,851 USD. The two APPC based publishers had similar pricing. The lowest average APC of 246 USD was for Wolters Kluwer Medknow. As noted by Avashti & Morrison (2019), most Medknow journals do not charge APCs; the average APC is likely impacted by the area served, as Medknow originated in India. It is not surprising that the 3 highest average APCs are associated with European based publishers (Wolters Kluwer, Nature, and Karger). However, the low average APC of UK based Ubiquity Publishing at 536 USD, combined with no price increases, is in marked contrast with Oxford University Press’ average APC of 1,572 USD and average price increase of 22%. This evidence of differences in APC / APPC and pricing trends by publisher supports, and is supported by, Shi & Morrison’s (2019) comparison of 4 pairs of publishers and sub-publishers.


Avasthi, N & Morrison, H (2019). Medknow 2019 – is this the best for India? Sustaining the Knowledge commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/23/medknow-2019-is-this-the-best-for-india/

Morrison, H. et al. (2019). OA Main 2019: Dataset, documentation and open peer review invitation. Sustaining the knowledge commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/20/oa-main-2019-dataset-documentation-and-open-peer-review-invitation/

Shi, A & Morrison, H. (2019). APCs comparisons among different publishers in 2019. Sustaining the knowledge Commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/26/apcs-comparisons-among-different-publishers-in-2019/

Singh, S. & Morrison, H. (2019). OA journals non-charging and charging central trends 2010 – 2019. Sustaining the knowledge commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/23/oa-journals-non-charging-and-charging-central-trends-2010-2019/

Cite as:  Morrison, H. (2019). APC price changes 2019 – 2018 by journal and by publisher. Sustaining the knowledge commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/26/apc-price-changes-2019-2018-by-journal-and-by-publisher/



OA Main 2019: Dataset, documentation and open peer review invitation

Update Jan. 20, 2020

Thank you to those who provided comments. No changes were suggested for the dataset per se; the documentation has been revised to reflect the comments and the final version is now available here.

OA APC Main 2019 dataset documentation final

This is an invitation to participate in an open peer review of the OA APC Main 2019 dataset, its documentation and the value of research blogposts made possible through this project. While feedback on the OA APC project is appreciated at any time, the formal open peer review period is Dec. 1, 2019 – Jan. 15, 2020. My perspective is that open peer review is in an early phase where experimentation with different approaches could be useful to develop future best practices.

For this reason, reviewers are welcome to submit comments in the format or venue of their choice. Comments on this blogpost are the most convenient approach for the author. Signed comments are preferred. At the end of the formal open peer review period (Jan. 15), I will write a summary of the open peer review process, including all comments and responses where warranted. Comments to date and replies are posted here.


Questions to consider in the open peer review process:

The following are meant as guidelines only. Please feel free to focus on one or more specific questions that you find of interest and/or feel qualified to comment on, including questions not asked.

1. Importance and relevance of the research questions: the project’s research question and sub-questions (from the documentation) are as follows:

Research question

What trends can be observed in APCs over time? Subquestions:

    • Will competition emerge, or will an inelastic market transition or reappear?
    • Will the percentage of journals that are charging and non-charging remain the same or change?
    • Will fully OA journals continue to actively publish, cease, change to partially OA (hybrid) or non-OA journals?
    • What are the OA publishing and charging / non-charging trends and practices of particular publishers? (Note: results of individual research project done sustainingknowledgecommons.org)

Are any of the research questions important, relevant, or otherwise? Do you have any advice for the research team or potential downstream researchers using the dataset about research that you think will be important and relevant in future? Do you have any suggestions for further research?

2. Adequacy of the documentation: is the documentation of the dataset sufficient so that a downstream researcher could continue this research if desired and/or use a subset of the dataset for further research?

3. Limitations: Are the limitations of the dataset sufficiently well described? Is anything missing?

4. Alternative approaches: Are the alternative approaches sufficiently well described?

5. Errors in the dataset: Please note any errors found in the dataset (be specific).

6. Other: please provide feedback on any aspects of the dataset or its documentation not covered in the above questions.

Second update January 8: thanks to Heather Staines from MIT’s Knowledge Futures Group for initiating a conversation on open peer review processes via e-mail and agreeing to publish on the blog. This conversation (which prompted the initial procedural update) can be found here.

Procedural update January 8: there are diverse approaches to data documentation and open peer review. Peer review of an earlier version of this dataset and documentation was published in MDPI’s innovative journal Data, designed for this purpose (Morrison et al. 2017). Tools have been, and are being, developed to provide technical support for new, more open approaches to peer review such as hypothes.is, which facilitates online annotations. I see tremendous potential for open peer review, online annotations, and collaborative online writing. However, I see the process of transformation as in an early stage where experiments (like this one) and open discussion are more important than technical solutions. In other words, my choice of this approach – blogpost and open-ended invitation –  is deliberate. Discussion about open peer review process and potential is welcome, although it is a side-conversation to reviewing this dataset designed to facilitate study of longitudinal trends in article processing charges.

Cite as:

Morrison, H. (2019). OA Main 2019: Dataset, documentation and open peer review invitation. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/11/20/oa-main-2019-dataset-documentation-and-open-peer-review-invitation/

Morrison, H., Brutus, W., Dumais-Desrosiers, M., Kakou, T. L., Laprade, K., Mehri, S., … Wheatley, S. (2017). Open Access Article Processing Charges (OA APC) Longitudinal Study 2016 Dataset. Data, 2(2), 13. https://doi.org/10.3390/data2020013


Rev. Jan. 20, 2020



Arima, an African journal in HAL archives


Kakou, T.L. (2019). Arima, une revue africaine dans Hal archives. Soutenir les savoirs communs. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/10/23/arima-une-revue-africaine-dans-hal-archives/

English synopsis by Heather Morrison

Correction Oct. 24: the original synopsis incorrectly stated that HAL is an open archive in Social Sciences. HAL is an open archive for research across the disciplines.

African journals seek to create a space for themselves by disseminating their journals through online platforms and archives. There are multiple possibilities for preservation and publishing on line. One of these is electronic archiving. In this research post Kakou presents the HAL archive and explores the representation of African document. Developed and administered by the Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe (CCSD), the platform HAL is an open archive for research across the disciplines. In this post, Kakou presents an overview of the services offered by HAL, including  Episciences.org and Sciencesconf.org. Episciences.org offers journal publishing within the archive and supports the innovative peer-review overlay approach to journal publishing. Arima, a journal that has been supported by the North-South coalition Colloque africain pour la Recherche en Informatique et mathématiques appliquées (CARI) for twenty years, is among the 15 Episciences journals. This is « our » platform too ; Morrison’s 2018 ELPUB OA APC survey can be found in Episciences.

Cite as: Kakou, T. L., & Morrison, H. (transl.). (2019). Arima, an African journal in HAL archives. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/10/24/arima-an-african-journal-in-hal-archives/

OpenEdition and French language African scholarly journals


Kakou, T.L. (2019).  OpenEdition et les revues savantes d’Afrique. Soutenir les savoirs commun. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/10/23/openedition-et-les-revues-savantes-dafrique/

English synopsis by Heather Morrison

OpenEdition (formerly Revues.org) publishes 21 African journals. Only one of these journals is published in an African country (Kenya). In this post Kakou illustrates a gap in dissemination of African scholarship, particularly francophone African scholarship. For example, of the 524 journals included in African Journals Online (AJOL), 465 (89%) are published in English speaking countries and only 39 (7%) in French speaking countries. Only 12 of the 24 African countries where French is an official or co-official languages are represented in AJOL. This research illustrates the African and particularly Francophone African knowledge gap that is the focus of Kakou’s doctoral research.

Kakou, T. L., & Morrison, H. (transl.). (2019, October 24). OpenEdition and French language African scholarly journals. Retrieved December 9, 2019, from Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir les savoirs communs website: https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/10/24/openedition-and-french-language-african-scholarly-journals/

Peer review of Pubfair framework

Peer review of Pubfair framework:

Ross-Hellauer, T.; Fecher, B.; Shearer, K.; Rodrigues, E. (2019). Pubfair: a framework for sustainable, distributed, open science publishing. White paper, version 1: Sept. 3, 2019. Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR).m Retrieved September 23, 2019 from https://www.coar-repositories.org/news-media/inviting-community-input-pubfair/

by: Dr. Heather Morrison, sustainingknowledgecommons.org


“Science” is only one type of knowledge. There are nine faculties at the University of Ottawa; only one is named “science”, and this is typical at a large university. I strongly recommend replacing “science”, “scientists” and “open science” with more inclusive terminology such as “open scholarship” or “open knowledge”, “scholar” or “researcher” in the title and throughout the document. The Pubfair framework is an excellent beginning for a needed profound transformation in how scholars work together and disseminate research. This is the kind of approach most likely to achieve significant savings based on current spend on scholarly publishing, and these savings will be needed to support innovation in scholarly production and dissemination. My recommendation is to proceed with an iterative approach and an initial focus on helping scholarly communities with unmet needs for new forms of review and publishing, such as scholars who create and share datasets or tools using artificial intelligence, digital humanists, and scholarly bloggers. The specific needs for community input whether through review or collaboration in the planning process will vary by discipline and type of product. The work of defining needs and identifying potential solutions should be led by the scholarly community in consultation with repository managers. This is a reversal of the proposed leadership / consultation approach in the framework document. Finally, while I recommend an immediate start to this approach, my advice is to see this as a long-term radical transformation that will likely take decades to complete.


Scholarship includes, but is not limited to, science. I suggest changing the title and wording throughout the document to more inclusive terminology such as “open scholarship” or “open knowledge”. To illustrate why this matters: the University of Ottawa (uO) is an indirect membership of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) through our membership in the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL).  uO has 9 faculties: Arts, Education, Engineering, Health Sciences, Law, Medicine, Sciences, Social Sciences, and the Telfer School of Management. If this framework for “open science publishing services” is to become a reality, is it intended to serve only one of our 9 faculties? This seems unlikely. This conflation of “science” with “knowledge” or “scholarship” is not unique to this group but reflects a broader trend in the open movements. The problem is much larger than mere semantics, it reflects a tendency in our society to devalue types of knowledge other than science. I argue that this is a danger to our collective knowledge of all types, including science. For example, would it be wise to practice science without ethics or logic? Ethics and logic are branches of philosophy. Readers of this review will probably agree that governments should base policy on scientific evidence. However, politics per se is not science, and achieving and maintaining a goal of basing policy on scientific evidence requires understanding of history, political science, society, and communications. I discussed this in a recent conference presentation called knowledge as a human right (Morrison, 2019a).

The Pubfair conceptual model of building a framework to transform scholarly publishing building on a distributed network of repositories is a timely initiative and worthy of support. This is the kind of approach most likely to facilitate transformative transition in terms of both technology and economics. Houghton et al. (2009) conducted the most comprehensive study of the potential for transformation for a single country (the UK), comparing potential costs of 3 models: gold open access publishing, green open access archiving, and a third more transformative approach involving a new publishing system building peer review on top of archives. The transformative approach was calculated as having the potential to substantially reduce costs and was seen as the most cost-effective approach. However, at the time the UK did not think the country was ready for this transformation and opted for a focus on gold and maintenance of a pre-existing green system.

Much has changed in the past 10 years. The number of open access repositories listed in the vetted OpenDOAR list has grown from 1,419 on June 20, 2009 to 4,150 on June 30, 2019. OpenDOAR lists repositories on 5 continents. The largest metasearch service for repositories and open access journals is the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE). From 2009 to 2019 (June 30 each year) BASE grew from 1,730 content providers and just over 25 million documents searched to 7,211 content providers and just under 150 million items searched. (Morrison, 2019b).

Scholarly works and their dissemination appear to be undergoing a period of rapid transformation in a way that has not been addressed by traditional approaches to evaluating scholarship, the traditional publishing business, or even the open access movement. In the digital humanities, scholars are creating collections of electronic works and developing innovative means of searching, processing, and displaying material. Scholars in a wide range of disciplines from art to engineering are using artificial intelligence to create new knowledge and practical tools. The disciplines themselves are undergoing change with new forms of scholarship often overlapping what used to be separate disciplines. A few researchers, like me, are publishing open research using blogs and likely other formats and sharing open data; more would likely follow suit if they could be confident that they would receive appropriate recognition for doing so when it comes time for tenure and promotion.

Given this context, for practical reasons I recommend an iterative approach, beginning with scholars who are interested in exploring alternatives and motivated to do so because current approaches do not meet their needs. There may be common themes across disciplines and types of research, but it will also be important to recognize differences based on the type of work and the nature of the communities that would need to configure or re-configure to accomplish this work.

Four examples:

  • Peer review of open datasets might focus on quality and completeness of data and documentation, and/or adherence to relevant standards, reference to related work, and/or importance of the dataset. Qualified peer reviewers need some expertise in quantitative data and the relevant domain; comments from those who might benefit from results would be helpful as well. The ideal outcome might involve collaboration in the process of developing datasets rather than peer review after publication, to avoid duplication or fully benefit from triangulation from different approaches to the same underlying problem.
  • Peer review of a digital humanities dataset and portal for users might focus on the quality of metadata, quality and comprehensiveness of content, usability and accessibility of the users’ portal, preservation planning, interoperability with relevant databases, or how licensing for re-use has been addressed. Here, different aspects of review involve different types of expertise, from content subject knowledge to user experience to electronic preservation. The benefits of collaboration in the planning process appear obvious.
  • Peer review of tools developed through AI to support the work of health professionals and/or to help patients monitor their own conditions may require triangulation using other methods to ensure accuracy of results, user experience analysis of the tools and/or periodic evaluation of the ongoing accuracy of AI assuming ongoing machine learning.
  • Peer review of scholarly and research blogs such as Retraction Watch, my scholarly blog The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, and my research blog org might focus on the accuracy, originality, and/or importance of the contributions. In this case, review by subject experts is essential, and technical advice, which may be provided by different reviewers, is useful. Individual authors or groups of authors may or may not see collaboration in the planning process as useful. As a researcher-blogger, I can see situations where different types of blogs and authors would benefit from different types of review.

These examples are just a few of many possible new types of scholarship made possible by the digital environment. The optimal form of review and publishing such new types of works is, at present, unknown. This is another reason to seek an iterative approach and look for leadership within the communities of scholars pursuing these approaches. To understand what kind of review is most helpful for the community, it is necessary to understand in depth the nature of the research and/or creative works that are being developed.

Finally, this transition is a major cultural shift in how academics might work in future. It will take time to figure out the questions that will arise in the process, and more time to develop solutions. In summary, while I see this as a long-term transition, an approach along the lines of Pubfair is the right direction and steps should be taken to move in this direction as soon as possible.

Thank you for providing the opportunity to comment and best wishes for Pubfair.

About me

I write as a researcher focused on the transition of scholarly communication from the demand (subscriptions / purchase) to the supply side to support a global open access knowledge commons. My research project, funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council from 2014 – 2021, is called Sustaining the Knowledge Commons. My comments will be posted in the uO institutional repository and cross-posted to my open research blog, sustainingknowledgecommons.org.


Houghton, J.; Rasmussen, B.; Sheehan, P.; Oppenheim, C.; Morris, A.; Creaser, C.; Greenwood, H.; Summers, M. & Gourlay, A. (2009). Economics implications of alternative scholarly publishing models: Exploring the costs and benefit. A report to the Joint Information Systems Committee. UK. Retrieved July 11, 2019 from:


Morrison, H. (2019a). Knowledge as a human right. Presentation Jan. 30, 2019, University of Ottawa, cc-UNESCO Science as a human right series. http://hdl.handle.net/10393/38890

Morrison, H. (2019b). The Dramatic Growth of Open Access. June 30, 2019 full dataset. https://hdl.handle.net/10864/10660

September 24, 2019.

Cross-posted: cite as:

Morrison, H. (2019). Peer review of Pubfair framework. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/09/24/peer-review-of-pubfair-framework/



Informed consent in the context of open licensing: some questions for discussion

The purpose of this post is to encourage sharing of knowledge and ideas on the topic of modifying informed consent when working with human subjects to accommodate open licensing. Questions can be found at the end of the post.

Researchers who work with human subjects, as is common in disciplines such as health sciences, education, and social sciences, are expected to obtain informed consent from subjects prior to starting research for ethical and legal reasons.

To obtain informed consent, researchers must explain what will happen with the subject’s information and material (if applicable) and the potential consequences for the subject (beneficial and potential harm).

Consent in the context of traditional publishing meant consent to publish in one specific venue, typically under All Rights Reserved copyright. Policies and procedures for informed consent developed in this context will need to be modified in order for authors to publish using open licenses that actively invite re-use (and sometimes modification) through human and machine-readable licenses, in some cases for commercial use.

To illustrate the difference: an educational researcher might wish to obtain and use a photo of schoolchildren in a publication. In the traditional context, this permission involved publication in one venue (one journal or one book), with re-publication requiring permission from the copyright owner (publisher and/or author). Until recently, such material, while not forbidden to the general public, would usually only be found in an academic library. This is still the case with journals and books that are not yet open access. Open access per se expands access to anyone with an internet connection, but free access on the Internet is automatically covered by copyright in all countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention. Open licensing goes beyond expanding access to inviting re-use. In the case of Creative Commons licensing, the invitation is extended via a human readable form that is designed to facilitate easy understanding of permitted uses, a machine readable form that can be used by searchers to facilitate limiting searches to content by desired use, and a legal license that most people are not likely to read.

For example, publication under a CC-BY license would include traditional uses, and other beneficial uses such as re-use by another researcher building on the work of the original. CC-BY would also invite uses that could be harmful to the subjects, such as targeted commercial social media advertising or use of a modified photo in a video game (schoolkid becomes loser kid, perhaps target practice).

This does not mean that such uses would necessarily be legal, rather that open licensing is an invitation that makes such uses more likely to occur. The harmful uses described above are likely a violation of moral rights under copyright, privacy and/or publicity rights. There are potential legal remedies, but these can only be pursued after the harm is done and discovered by a subject with the means and incentive to pursue legal remedies.

The Chang v. Virgin Mobile case is an illustration of what can happen with sensitive material and lack of understanding of the implications of licensing. In brief, a photographer took a photo of a minor girl (family friend) and posted it to Flickr under a CC-BY license. Virgin Mobile interpreted the license as an invitation to use the girl’s photo in an ad campaign. The girl’s family sued Creative Commons (dropped this one) and Virgin Mobile. The case was eventually dropped for jurisdictional reasons (girl in Texas, company in Australia). Lawrence Lessig wrote about the case, arguing that Virgin’s interpretation of copyright was correct, but that the girl still has privacy rights as minor. A bit more on this here:


The Committee on Publication Ethics has published guidance for journals with respect to one type of particularly sensitive material, medical case reports. Excerpt of their General Principles on this topic:

  • Publication consent forms should be required for any case report in which an individual or a group of individuals can be identified. This requirement also applies when a report involves deceased persons. Examples of identifying information are descriptions of individual case histories, photos, x-rays, or genetic pedigrees. A list of 23 potential identifiers has been published in BioMed Central’s Trials.
  • Journals should not themselves collect the signed consent forms, because the receipt and storage of confidential patient information could subject them to cumbersome security requirements and potential legal liability under applicable privacy or patient information laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 in the USA.



These principles are designed to protect journals and their publishers, and only speak to one particular type of sensitive material. For me, this raises some questions. If anyone on the list has answers or ideas, I would love to hear them, on or off-list or as blog comments. If you reply off-list or on the blog and would prefer to be anonymous, please let me know. If warranted, I will summarize responses.


  1. COPE’s guidance is for the education and protection of journals. Is anyone aware of efforts for the education and protection of authors and their institutions on the topic of informed consent for open licensing?
  2. Do other publishers or organizations serving publishers have policies, guidance, sample forms, etc. to deal with informed consent and open licensing?
  3. Have any research ethics boards (or similar bodies) revised their guidance to accommodate informed consent and publication under open licenses?
  4. Is anyone aware of cases or analysis of potential implications of licensing for re-use for other types of material involving human subjects besides case reports?
  5. Do you have any other ideas or insights on this or closely related topics that I haven’t asked about?

Cite as:

Morrison, H. (2019). Informed consent in the context of open licensing: Some questions for discussion. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/27/informed-consent-in-the-context-of-open-licensing-some-questions-for-discussion/



Publisher: N/A, or the complexity of understanding “the publisher” (method notes)

This is a note on method arising from work on the OA APC longitudinal trends study that may be of broader interest to those studying scholarly communication and open access as it is important to understand the role of “the publisher”. A story approach seems the best means to explain. One publisher name in DOAJ is N/A. This is not an error; the publisher of the Journal of Peer Production is N/A, that is, there is no “publisher”, just the journal. There are many journals for whom the “publisher” is the title of the journal, the name of the editor, or the university that hosts the journal, even if there is no university press so no formal publishing by the university.

Not-for-profit university and society publishing is very much evident in the open access landscape. As reported at ELPUB (Morrison, 2018), as of 2017 there were over 7,300 active fully open access journals published by universities or societies with no publication fees. This was the majority of the sample. The full sample includes journals with publication fees, journals for which publication fee status is unknown, and ceased journals. While 2019 full analysis will have to wait until data collection and quality analysis is complete, a visual check indicates that university and society publishing continues to be a large part of open access publishing.

Identifying a university “publisher” is more complicated than one might think. Universities may have a university press as well as another publisher such as a library outside of the press. University journals’ publishers may be indicated by names of regional campuses. A single University publisher may have two different names based on language. This is the case for my own University; both the University of Ottawa and Université d’Ottawa are listed as publishers in DOAJ.

Commercial publishers often have variations in names, sometimes simply name variations and at other times reflecting mergers and acquisitions or different brands of a single publisher. For example, SpringerNature’s open journals are listed under SpringerOpen, Nature, and BioMedCentral. DeGruyter publishes open journals under both DeGruyter and Sciendo. To understand the nature of such publishers, it is necessary to have some knowledge of the underlying business.

Many journals are published by societies, universities or governments, in partnership with commercial publishers. The nature of such partnerships (who does what) can vary, including attribution as publisher. The not-for-profit sponsor or the commercial publisher, or both, can  be identified as the publisher.

There is also journal publishing software and platforms whose functions are part of the publishing process, and to a greater or lesser degree. In Canada, érudit is closer to the classic definition of publisher while Open Journal Systems is an open source journal publishing software but also an organization also offers journal hosting and may be used as the publishing platform for another publisher.

Method notes (for 2019 dataset and analysis in progress)

To prepare for fall 2020 data collection from “publisher” websites, I created an excel pivot table of publishers from the OA Main spreadsheet.The purpose of this exercise is to determine publishers by size to make decisions on sampling.

This spreadsheet starts with and includes DOAJ metadata, but goes beyond. The purpose of the pivot table was to watch for duplication of publisher names. This can easily happen due to variation in publisher names, sometimes reflecting acquisitions (e.g. Medknow, Wolters Kluwer Medknow) and sometimes reflecting slight variations in the name such as presence or absence of accents, typos, inclusion or exclusion of an acronym. The original pivot table included over 8,500 publisher names. The method involves manual checking, a tedious process and sometimes uncertain as it is not always clear whether a variation actually reflects a different publisher. 407 duplications of publisher names were found and eliminated in this process. Errors in the remaining data are quite possible, with failure to identify duplicates (e.g. for reasons of language or lack of understanding of the nature of a university system in a foreign country) being most likely, and minor risk of incorrect duplication of separate publishers. It would be difficult to calculate an accurate count of the number of open access journal publishers from this data for the reasons explained above. The number is clearly in the thousands, but how many thousands would depend on how a publisher is defined and accurate identification of such “publishers”.

In this context, publisher: N/A is both a unique anecdote and an idea worthy of consideration. The idea that every journal has, or has to have, a “publisher” may be a myth.


Heather Morrison. Global OA APCs (APC) 2010–2017: Major Trends. ELPUB 2018, Jun 2018, Toronto, Canada. ⟨10.4000/proceedings.elpub.2018.16⟩. ⟨hal-01816699⟩

To cite this post:

Morrison, H. (2019). Publisher: N/A, or the complexity of understanding “the publisher” (method notes). Sustaining the Knowledge Commons August 22, 2019. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/22/publisher-n-a-or-the-complexity-of-understanding-the-publisher-method-notes/

DOAJ: handmaiden to despots? or, OA, we need to talk

As any movement grows and flourishes, decisions made will turn out to have unforeseen consequences. Achieving the goals of the movement requires critical reflection and occasional changes in policy and procedure.The purpose of this post is to point out that the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) appears to be inadvertently acting as a handmaiden to at least one despotic government, facilitating dissemination of works subject to censorship and rejecting open access journals that would be suitable venues for critics of the despotic government. There is no blame and no immediately obvious remedy, but solving a problem begins with acknowledging that a problem exists and inviting discussion of how to avoid and solve the problem. OA friends, please consider this such an invitation.

As I posted recently, SpringerOpen is currently publishing 13 journals that are sponsored by the Government of Egypt, a government that has been criticized for numerous major violations of the human rights and academic freedoms of scholars (by “major” I mean consequences up to and including murder). These journals are listed in DOAJ.

In contrast, a number of journals that welcome global authors that would be suitable venues for critics of the Egyptian government (a number of the Global Communication Journals network journals and the International Journal of Communication) are no longer listed in DOAJ, in spite of the facts that these journals are fully open access and meet the quality criteria for DOAJ, as discussed here.

It seems very unlikely that anyone in the OA movement deliberately decided on a strategy of facilitating the inclusion of works sponsored by a despotic government and suppressing venues suitable for critique of despotic governments. But in effect this is what is happening. I do not know if this scenario is unique. There are reasons to think that it is not. As reported in previous posts on this blog, large commercial companies partnering with various sponsors is not unusual. A large company with dedicated staff and a number of open access journals is in a better position to ensure that their journals are included in DOAJ than a small one-off not-for-profit journal.

There is no blame and no instant remedy, but to achieve the vision of the global sharing of the knowledge of humankind, solutions must be found. The first steps in solving a problem are acknowledging that a problem exists and inviting discussion and brainstorm on potential solutions. OA friends, please consider this an invitation.

Links to posts referred to:



Cite as:

Morrison, H. (2019). DOAJ: Handmaiden to despots? or, OA, we need to talk. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/14/doaj-handmaiden-to-despots-or-oa-we-need-to-talk/

SpringerOpen pricing trends 2018 – 2019

by Heather Morrison


270 SpringerOpen journals were studied. 33 (12%) have ceased publication, 15 have been transferred to another publisher, and 7 are now hybrid. Of the 215 active journals published by SpringerOpen, 54% charge APCs. The average APC was 1,212 EUR, an increase of 8% over the 2018 average, 6 times the EU inflation rate for June 2019 of 1.3%. 58% of the 96 journals for which we have 2018 and 2018 data did not change in price; 5% decreased in price; and 36% increased in price. Price increases for journals that increased in price ranged from 3% to 109% (double the inflation rate to double in price). Journals with the highest volume of publishing were the most likely to have increased in price. This will amplify the effective percentage of articles with price increases for APC payers. 40% of the journals are sponsored by a university, society, government, or other not-for-profit partner, and have no publication fee. The sustainability of these sponsorships is not clear. 12 journals appear to have recently switched from “no APC” to “now APC”, with APCs only slightly below the SpringerOpen average. The affordability of the SpringerOpen partnership approach is called into question. SpringerOpen’s average APC does not compare favorably either to average academic salaries in a low to middle income country (with Egypt as an example) or to OJS Premium journal hosting services (the break-even point is 2 articles per year, i.e. a journal that publishes 3 articles per year saves money with OJS Premium as compared to SpringerOpen). Even a sponsor based in Germany only pays half the APC, raising a question about whether SpringerOpen sponsorships are sustainable anywhere.


PDF Springer Open Pricing Trends 2018_2019

Table 1: 2019 SpringerOpen Journal Publication and APC status summary

2019 SpringerOpen Journal Publication and APC status summary
Status * # Journals Percent
APC 117 43%
No publication fee 85 31%
Ceased publication 33 12%
Transferred to another publisher 15 6%
No cost found 13 5%
Now hybrid 7 3%
Total ** 270 100%

* status data is found in “2019 APC publisher website original currency” column

** total excludes 1 predecessor title and 12 journals previously listed under Springer now listed under BMC

Pricing trends 2018 – 2019

Of the 270 journals total:

  • 13 titles are new in 2019 (included in 2019 overall analysis but not 2018 – 2019 trend analysis)
  • 33 are ceased, 7 now hybrid, 15 transferred to another publisher: these titles are not included in the price trends analysis

Total journals included in price trend analysis:

  • 2019 overall: 215
  • 2018 – 2019 comparison: 202

Of the 215 titles, as illustrated in the chart and table below, an APC amount is confirmed for just over half the journals (54%). 40% are confirmed as having no publication fee, while for 6% of the journals it was not possible to confirm whether or not a publication fee is charged.

Chart 1: % of SpringerOpen active times by APC status (has APC, no publication fee, no cost found)


Table 2: SpringerOpen active titles 2019 by APC status

Springer Open active titles 2019 by APC status
Status Number Percentage
APC 117 54%
No publication fee 85 40%
No cost found * 13 6%
Grand Total 215

* No cost found = we could not identify whether or not there is a publication charge.

Of the 85 titles with no publication fee in 2019, 73 were published in partnership with a university (31), society (17), government (17), or not-for-profit organization (8).  Many of these journals’ websites indicate that there is no publication fee due to sponsorship, for example “…agreement between Springer Nature and the Specialized Presidential Council for Education and Scientific Research (Government of Egypt), therefore author-payable article-processing charges do not apply”. 7 of these titles are new to the Springer Open website in 2019. This suggests that either Springer Nature is actively soliciting sponsoring partners, or that not-for-profit publishers are actively seeking commercial partnerships.

APC Model, currency and some notes re data collection

SpringerOpen uses a straightforward per-article article processing charge. A SpringerOpen APC list that includes pricing for Springer, BioMedCentral, and Nature journals was downloaded from the Springer website on July 16, 2019. Pricing is listed in 3 currencies for each journal: EUR, GBP, and USD. EUR was selected for analysis as this was the currency included in the 2018 OA Main spreadsheet, hence the best for comparison (because Springer is based in Germany, it was assumed that this was the “primary” currency).

For some journals the SpringerOpen APC list states “see website” for pricing. Pricing information for these journals was taken from the SpringerOpen website.

Information about waivers etc., and pricing information for hybrid journals, was not gathered as outside the scope for this project.

APC information from the Jan. 31, 2019 DOAJ metadata forms part of the main spreadsheet. Originally, I had hoped to be able to rely on this data, at least for journals added to DOAJ in 2018 and 2019, at least for journals that do not charge APCs. However, after a quick check I realized that there are a number of journals that indicated no publication charge in DOAJ that currently have a publication charge in the SpringerOpen APC list or website. For this reason, DOAJ data is not used as a basis for 2019 information.

Table 3: 2019 and 2018 SpringerOpen APC central tendency in EUR

2019 and 2018 APC central tendency in EUR
2019 2018 % increase
Average 1,212 1,128 8
Median 1,155 1,035 12

The table above provides the central tendencies for all SpringerOpen titles with an APC for either 2019 (117 journals) or 2018 (104 journals) in EUR. There has been an 8% increase in the average APC and a 12% increase in the median APC.

Price changes 2018 – 2019

There are 96 journals for which we have an APC amount in both 2018 and 2019.

Table 4: SpringerOpen price changes 2018 – 2019 (96 journals)

Direction of change *
Price decrease 5%
No change 58%
Price increase 36%
* Note: does not include change to / from no publication fee

As illustrated in the Table 4 above, a majority of these journals (58%) did not change prices in EUR from 2018 to 2019, while more than a third (36%) increased in price and a few (5%) decreased in price.

The 2018 prices of journals with price increases ranged from 630 EUR (well below average) to 1,750 EUR (well above average). The 2018 average price of these journals was 1,160 EUR, above the 2018 average of 1,128 EUR. The median was 1,100 EUR, above the 2018 median of 1,035 EUR. In other words, while some journals with below-average APCs increased in price, a majority of journals with price increases had above-average APCs in 2018.

For the 35 journals that increased in price, the increases in percentages ranged from 3% to 109% (slightly more than double in price).  According to the European Commission (2019), “Euro area annual inflation was 1.3 % in June 2019, up from 1.2 % in May 2019.” All prices increased were more than double the inflation rate. 23 journals had price increases of 14% or more, more than 10 times the current inflation rate.

All of the 5 journals with APC price decreases had above-average APCs in 2018 (from 1,050 to 2,035 EUR).

Volume of publishing and direction of APC price change

Volume of publishing per journal was calculated using Walt Crawford’s (2018) Global Open Access Journals. The number of articles published per year was summed to get a total # of articles published per journal from 2011 – 2018. A few journals for which no such data was available were excluded. Not surprisingly, volume of publication appears to correlate with APC pricing trend. As illustrated in the table below, journals that decreased in price had on average fewer articles than journals that did change in price, with the highest volume of publication noted for journals with price increases.

Table 5: average SpringerOpen articles published 2011 – 2018 by APC trend

Average # articles published* 2011 – 2018 by APC trend
Price decrease No change Price increase
Average # articles 118 162 674
Median # articles 41 115 243
* from Walt Crawford’s Gold Open Access Journals (2018)

Table 6: 2018 -2019 price changes and # of articles by journal title

Journal title 2019 APC (EUR) 2018 APC (EUR) 2019 – 2018 # 2019 – 2018 % WC # articles total 2011 – 2018
Environmental Sciences Europe 2,040 975 1,065 109% 216
Environmental Systems Research 1,690 885 805 91% 150
Injury Epidemiology 1,465 930 535 58% 176
Agricultural and Food Economics 1,000 650 350 54% 136
Chemical and Biological Technologies in Agriculture 1,570 1,085 485 45% 135
EJNMMI Research 2,170 1,600 570 36% 609
Intensive Care Medicine Experimental 1,870 1,425 445 31% 1,351
Progress in Earth and Planetary Science 1,300 1,000 300 30% 244
Heritage Science 1,180 930 250 27% 276
Boundary Value Problems 1,180 930 250 27% 1,532
Advances in Difference Equations 1,180 930 250 27% 2,523
Journal of Inequalities and Applications 1,180 930 250 27% 2,786
International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility 1,000 800 200 25% 37
Annals of Intensive Care 2,170 1,750 420 24% 581
Nanoscale Research Letters 1,570 1,300 270 21% 4,038
EURASIP Journal on Information Security 760 630 130 21% 91
Applied Adhesion Science 1,180 1,000 180 18% 119
Journal of Big Data 1,180 1,000 180 18% 161
EPJ Quantum Technology 1,290 1,100 190 17% 54
EURASIP Journal on Audio, Speech, and Music Processing 1,290 1,100 190 17% 200
The Journal of Mathematical Neuroscience 1,290 1,105 185 17% 104
Pastoralism 1,290 1,105 185 17% 190
Rice 1,990 1,745 245 14% 335
Journal of Cloud Computing: Advances, Systems and Applications 860 800 60 8% 419
EURASIP Journal on Image and Video Processing 1,290 1,200 90 8% 475
EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing 1,290 1,200 90 8% 1,035
EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking 1,290 1,200 90 8% 1,962
Critical Ultrasound Journal 1,870 1,745 125 7% 241
Crime Science 990 930 60 6% 107
Fixed Point Theory and Applications 990 930 60 6% 1,181
European Transport Research Review 1,200 1,150 50 4% 270
International Journal of Bipolar Disorders 1,790 1,745 45 3% 162
Sports Medicine – Open 1,790 1,745 45 3% 171
AMB Express 1,790 1,745 45 3% 851
Botanical Studies 1,690 1,745 -55 -3% 355
European Journal of Hybrid Imaging 1,570 1,745 -175 -10% 42
Mechanics of Advanced Materials and Modern Processes 690 1,050 -360 -34% 40
CVIR Endovascular 1,060 1,745 -685 -39% 35

Table 6 above lists all Springer journals with APC changes from 2018 – 2019 in descending order by % change, with the total number of articles published from 2011 – 2018 from Crawford (2018)

“No APC” to “Now APC” journals (12 journals

As of July 26, 2019, there are 12 journals listed in DOAJ where DOAJ indicates “No” Article Processing Charges (APCs) that have APCs according to the Springer Open website. For example, DOAJ information on Brain Informatics is as follows


Article Processing Charges (APCs): No.

Submission Charges: No.

Waiver policy for charges? No.”

(Screen scrape from DOAJ website July 26, 2019)

An investigation was conducted to answer the following questions:

  • Are these errors in DOAJ or an actual change from non-charging to charging?
  • What are the characteristics of these journals (age, country of publication, journal license, current APC, society / institution partnerships, timing of switch from non-charging to charging)

Information to answer these questions was drawn from DOAJ and the APC project (data gathered from the publishers’s website) for 2014 – 2019.

Of the 12 journals, 9 are confirmed as having had no publication fee as of 2016, the first year we began systematic gathering of data from the SpringerOpen website. 1 journal listed as “no cost found” in 2016 is listed as “no publication fee” in 2015 and “0” in 2014 (reflecting a change in data collection practices). The remaining 2 journals were identified as “no publication fee” in 2018. Therefore, it was confirmed that all 12 journals were at some point between 2015 and today “No publication fee” journals, that is, journals that had wording on the website clearly indicating that there is no publication charge.

10 of the 12 journals (83%) have a society or institution listed in DOAJ as of Jan. 31, 2019. This suggests two possible reasons for the change from non-charging to charging: 1) the society or institution may have provided interim sponsorship to cover Springer APCs but did not obtain ongoing funding or 2) Springer may have offered an initial low or no-cost deal then raised prices (a common business strategy). The two reasons are not mutually exclusive, and it is possible that other factors are involved that I am not aware of.

Country of publication of no to now APC journals

As illustrated in the table below, 11/12 (92%) of the journals are published in the EU/UK, suggesting a regional trend. 8/12 (two thirds) of the journals are published in Germany, the home country of the ownership and management of parent company SpringerNature (see Who owns SpringerNature? Section below). Does this hint at a direction the company expects to take with all sponsored journals in future?

Table 7: Country of Publication of SpringerOpen “no” to “now” APC journals

Country Journals
Germany 8
Netherlands 1
Singapore 1
United Kingdom 2
Grand Total 12

First calendar year journal provided online Open Access content (no to now journals)

The DOAJ metadata element “First calendar year journal provided online Open Access content” for Jan. 31, 2019 was used a surrogate for age of the journals, with the following results.

Table 8: First calendar year of open access (from DOAJ)

Year Journals
2008 1
2012 1
2013 2
2014 4
2015 1
2016 1
2018 2

The table above indicates a fairly wide range of dates of first online content, with some clustering in 2014. These results are not sufficient to draw inferences about age of journal and tendency to shift from charging to non-charging.

Timing of switch from non-charging to charging

APCs were first found on the SpringerOpen website for these journals as follows:

2017:   1

2018:   3

2019:   8

This data suggests a recent increase in tendency to switch from non-charging to charging. This makes sense in the context of funder push for transition to OA via APCs (OA2020, PlanS).

The APC amounts for these journals are very similar to the overall pattern for SpringerOpen journals, as is illustrated in the following table:

Table 9: SpringerOpen APC no to yes APC v. all

SpringerOpen APC 2019 (EUR)
No to Yes APC only All
Average 1,089 1,212
Median 1,000 1,155
Mode 1,155 885
Range 800 – 1,745 510 – 2,480

Table 10: SpringerOpen Transferred publications

Journal title Transferred to
Bandung: Journal of the Global South Brill
China Finance and Economic Review A new publisher
IZA Journal of Development and Migration Sciendo (de Gruyter imprint)
IZA Journal of Labor Economics Sciendo (de Gruyter imprint)
IZA Journal of Labor Policy Sciendo (de Gruyter imprint)
Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity MDPI
Pacific Journal of Mathematics for Industry World Scientific Publishing
Scientific Phone Apps and Mobile Devices APD SKEG Pte Ltd
Strategies in Trauma and Limb Reconstruction Jaypee
Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy The Association of Visual Pedagogies

Of the 10 journals that were transferred to other publishers, 8 were transferred to other commercial publishers, 1 was transferred to the association partner, and 1 simply indicated “new publisher”. 3 of these journals were picked up by deGruyter imprint Sciendo.


One of the goals of the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons project is to assess the sustainability of approaches to open access. This analysis of Springer Open as of summer 2019 raises some concerns. APC price increases far beyond inflationary rates, particularly when correlated with journals with higher volume, raises questions about the sustainability of the APC approach. The following section focuses on questions about the sustainability of the SpringerOpen partner-sponsor approach that currently accounts for 40% of SpringerOpen journals.

Journal and partnership sustainability

SpringerOpen is a relatively new entrant into open access journal publishing. SpringerOpen appears to be growing through a combination of starting new commercial journals and partnerships with societies, universities, and other not-for-profits that appear to start out with sponsorship approach. In this context, a 12% attrition (“ceased publication”) rate is a concern, particularly when ceased journal titles are no longer listed on the SpringerOpen website or DOAJ, as explained in detail in Morrison (July 22, 2019).

The sustainability of sponsoring partnerships needs further examination. 12 journals that formerly had no publication fees, now have fees. A glance at the list of new sponsoring journals raises questions about sustainability. One of the sponsoring agents is the Government of Egypt. This raises concerns about academic freedom as the Government of Egypt has been described as actively directing academic research and major abuses of the human rights of students and faculty, as discussed in detail elsewhere (Morrison, Aug. 7, 2019). This section will focus on the question of the economic sustainability of this approach.

As we noted a few years ago (Salhab and Morrison, 2015), as of 2015 it would have taken 3 months’ salary for a full professor in Egypt’s public university system to pay an APC of $1,500 USD. The current average APC rate is 1,212 EUR for Springer, equivalent to 1,357 USD (as of August 8, 2019 according to XE currency converter).

As of July 2019, SpringerOpen publishes 13 journals supported by “Specialized Presidential Council for Education and Scientific Research (Government of Egypt), so author-payable article-processing charges do not apply.” The titles are listed below. This arrangement appears to be in growth mode as 5 of these titles are new to the SpringerOpen list in 2019. In addition, The Journal of Basic and Applied Zoology, is published by an Egyptian society.

Table 11: Egypt sponsored SpringerOpen journals, July 2019

Ain Shams Journal of Anesthesiology
Bulletin of the National Research Centre
Egyptian Journal of Biological Pest Control
Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics
Egyptian Journal of Neurosurgery
Egyptian Journal of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine
Egyptian Pediatric Association Gazette
Journal of the Egyptian Public Health Association
Middle East Current Psychiatry
The Cardiothoracic Surgeon
The Egyptian Heart Journal
The Egyptian Journal of Neurology, Psychiatry and Neurosurgery

I hope that the salaries of professors in Egypt’s public university system have improved substantially since 2015. However, if this is not the case, this raises questions about the sustainability of this kind of sponsorship. If the Government of Egypt were to pay SpringerOpen average APCs (1,212 EUR or 1,357 USD) for a small journal publishing 40 articles per year, this sponsorship would cost 54,280 USD per year. If the salary rate for a full professor is still about 6,000 USD per year (1,500 for 3 months x 4), then the cost for sponsoring just one journal with SpringerOpen would be equivalent to the salaries of 9 full professors.

Optimistically guessing that the salaries of professors have doubled in the last few years, sponsoring just one small journal of 40 articles per year would cost the equivalent of the salaries of 4.5 full professors. Egyptian authors would be eligible for a 50% SpringerOpen discount because Egypt is listed as a lower-middle income economy by the World Bank (2019) (SpringerOpen, 2019). Assuming that the discount is applied to the sponsoring partner (the Government of Egypt), this still leaves the situation where a 40-article-per-year journal costs the equivalent of 4.5 full professors’ salaries. Assuming these waivers are applied and are not simply absorbed by a SpringerOpen profit rate of 50%, if the sponsor did not pay the full cost, who does?

Are these sponsorships affordable in the long run even for wealthy countries? The following statement of partial coverage of the 1,155 EUR APC of one of SpringerOpen’s journals may be relevant here as it suggests that SpringerOpen’s business plan involves charging sponsors similar amounts to their average APCs, and raises a question about whether a relatively well-funded research organization based in the same country as SpringerNature can afford to maintain this sponsorship model on an ongoing basis: “50% of the Article Processing Charge for Geothermal Energy is covered by Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology” (from SpringerOpen website, July 2019).

There are other options for a country like Egypt that are more sustainable and a better fit with the original goal of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002) to “lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge”. As an initial step, I recommend developing a national open access repository or a system of institutional repositories, including an approach such as LOCKSS for preservation purposes, and developing a policy requiring Egyptian researchers to deposit their work for open access in these repositories. This is important to ensure that Egypt (and any other country) does not risk losing access to its own funded research. Relying for access on servers and suppliers in other countries is not wise in the long run because wars (military and trade) and natural disasters could result in temporary or permanent loss of access.

For publishing, there are significant advantages to a local approach, such as hosting local journals using the open source Open Journal Systems (OJS) and hiring local academics, technicians, and administrative assistants to do the work of publishing. OJS is just one example that I use, partly due to familiarity and partly due to open posting of their pricing. In the short term, this provides the immediate benefit of the lower and more predictable costs of local wages. In the long term, this approach cultivates the development of local expertise (technical and academic) and prepares Egyptian researchers for a larger role in international research. As an interim step, the Government of Egypt could contract with OJS for hosted systems at a cost of 850 USD – 2,700 USD per journal, depending on the level of service preferred. Assuming a 40-article per year journal and premium OJS service at 2,700 USD, this would save 51,580 USD per year as compared to publishing with SpringerOpen. Assuming SpringerOpen only expects half due to Egypt’s income status (27,140 USD), this still saves 24,440 USD per year.

Multiplying by 13 journals would result in an estimated cost savings of 317,720 USD – 670,540 USD per year. Assuming 2015 salary figures are still fairly accurate, this sum would be enough to pay the salaries of 55 – 110 full professors.

If half of this amount is redirected to hiring local staff (e.g., pay part of the time of a full-time professor to oversee academic quality, a librarian shared among several journals to look after journal hosting, a part-time administrative assistant), the Government of Egypt benefits from both cost savings and building of local expertise and leadership, and is developing the expertise to benefit even further down the road as this approach is good preparation for eventual further savings from downloading and hosting the software, eliminating the hosting fees. Aside from cost savings, this approach helps us to move towards equity – equal participation – and away from the charity model of APCs with waivers.

A simpler way to express the difference in affordability of the 2 approaches: 2 APCs at 1,357 USD (SpringerOpen average) = 2,714 USD. OJS premium journal hosting is 2,700 USD. The break-even point for a journal using OJS hosting as compared to partnering with SpringerOpen is 2 articles / year. Any journal that publishes 3 or more articles per year saves money with OJS’ premium service.

Perhaps this model would be helpful to institutions like Helmholtz in Germany, too? This basic approach (support local publishing) is a popular model in North and Latin America.

Who owns SpringerNature? According to the SpringerNature website:

“Springer Nature is organised as a German partnership limited by shares…which combines elements of a German stock corporation…and elements of a German limited partnership…  Shares in Springer Nature are held by entities controlled by the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and funds advised by BC Partners.

The management …is undertaken by a “general partner” (or “GP”)… For Springer Nature the GP is a German stock corporation held by entities controlled by the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and funds advised by BC Partners….” Screen scraped from July 26, 2019 (German omitted).

Raw data  in excel: (Springer portion of main spreadsheet). Caution: this is a working document without documentation and does not include analysis.



Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002). Read the initiative. Retrieved August 8, 2019 from https://www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/read

Crawford, W. (2018). Gold Open Access Journals 2013 – 2018. Retrieved July 29, 2019 from https://waltcrawford.name/goa4.pdf

European Commission (2019). Eurostat statistics explained. Retrieved July 29, 2019 from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Inflation_in_the_euro_area#Euro_area_annual_inflation_rate_and_its_main_components

Morrison, H. July 22, 2019. SpringerOpen ceased, now hybrid, and OA identification challenges. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/07/22/springer-open-ceased-now-hybrid-oa-identification-challenges/

Morrison, H. August 7, 2019. SpringerOpen, Egypt, and academic freedom. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons. https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/07/springeropen-egypt-and-academic-freedom/

Salhab, J. & Morrison, H. (2015). Who is served by for-profit gold open access publishing? A case study of Hindawi and Egypt. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2015/04/10/who-is-served-by-for-profit-gold-open-access-publishing-a-case-study-of-hindawi-and-egypt/

SpringerOpen (2019). APC waivers and discounts. Retrieved August 8, 2019 from https://www.springeropen.com/get-published/article-processing-charges/open-access-waiver-fund

World Bank (2019). World Bank country and lending groups. Retrieved August 8, 2019 from https://datahelpdesk.worldbank.org/knowledgebase/articles/906519

Cite as: Morrison, H. (2019). SpringerOpen pricing trends 2019. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons August 13, 2019 https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/2019/08/13/springeropen-pricing-trends-2018-2019/