Open Peer Review: A Model & An Invitation

In preparation for some current work in open peer review, this is a re-publication of my August 15, 2005 post on The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics (IJPE), drawing from and building on Harnad’s 1996 work in this area. IJPE is live but some readers (including myself while at my office) are reporting that they are not able to connect. Other links have not been tested.

Open Peer Review: A Model & An Invitation

This is one model for an open peer review system. The idea is to automate a great deal of the coordination of peer review, make much of it transparent, and allow peer-reviewers to take credit for their work. This model could fit well with either an institutional repository / peer review overlay approach, or a traditional journal approach for either OA or non-OA journals, or any combination thereof. Readers are welcome to comment, peer-review, and/or experiment with software approaches based on this model [reference to a copyright approach no longer used deleted].

The idea of open peer review is not new. While this post will not include a full review of related literature, as one example, Stevan Harnad talks about one approach to open peer review as early as 1996, in Implementing Peer Review on the Net: Scientific Quality Control in Scholarly Electronic Journals.

The goals of this model are:

transparent peer review: unlike blind peer review, readers can see the peer review process in action. Rather than accepting an assessment of certification based on a closed system, readers can judge the peer review process per se, for themselves. This model could accomodate a combination of open and blind peer review – that is, a peer reviewer could publish a signed peer review, or provide comments confidentially, depending on the preferences of authors or the discretion of editors. As an example of the latter, when reviewing opinion pieces in an emotionally heated area, some blind review might be seen as preferable to open peer review.
increased science literacy: it is assumed that a transparent peer review process will facilitate science literacy teaching, as more people will be able to see the peer review process in action
better peer review: exposing the peer review process per se will allow for thoughtful reflection on peer review per se, and facilitate research. This will allow for the development of better and more efficient peer review.
peer-reviewer credit: peer review is an important task, which a great many academics undertake on a voluntary basis. A portfolio of signed peer reviews can be added to the author’s c.v. The best peer-reviewers, those who are thorough, considerate, and respond quickly, can be recognised for their work.
automate coordination of peer review: it should be possible to establish databases of peer reviewers, most likely distributed databases with central harvesting of key metadata (similar to institutional repositories & OAI), interoperable with other relevant software programs such as publishing software and calendaring systems, to automate much of the coordination of peer review.
peer review improvements through automation: the efficiencies of automation may make it possible to enhance peer review in ways that are not feasible with a system relying largely on one-on-one contact between editor and peer review. For example, there are many good reasons why it might be desirable to seek out an international peer review panel. An automated system would make it possible to easily identify experts in far-away countries, that the editor is unlikely to know personally. It is also possible to think about peer reviewers checking bits of an article, rather than the whole thing. That is, one paragraph of an article may refer to a completely separate area of expertise from the speciality of the author and main peer reviewers; there could be opportunities to ask a specialist to check just the one paragraph, rather than the whole article.
facilitate and recognise author controlled peer review: There are advantages and disadvantages to author-controlled peer review, where the author takes responsibility to seek out peer reviewers. While this is not presently recognised as peer review, it is widely practiced. In the author’s view, an article which has been peer reviewed and edited accordingly prior to submission for publication, is likely to be a better article. Authors who seek out comments from colleagues, and peer reviewers who are sought out by authors, are both demonstrating an openness to collaboration and willingness to listen to critique – both important elements in conducting scholarly research. Author controlled peer review could be used to supplement editor-coordinated peer review (a pre-peer-reviewed article might need only one outside peer reviewer, for example, while an unreviewed work might need two or three).

In some cases, author controlled peer review could be an alternative to editor-coordinated peer review. It would be desirable to develop a set of criteria outlining the optimum for peer review (peer reviewer meets certain criteria, is not a former student, teacher, co-researcher or co-author, at least one peer reviewer from a different cultural background – more important in social than hard sciences – and so forth). Authors should explain whether and how they have met these criteria; this could be accomplished by an automated list, where the relevant criteria are checked off. Some of this could be be automated, as well – for example, a database of the author’s works will reveal former co-authors, and automated comparison of the c.v.’s of author and peer reviewer will reveal common affiliations.

The model

Peer Reviewer Profiles
An academic who is willing to participate in peer review process creates a profile, which could be stored in the institutional repository. Elements of the profile could include:

  • author name
  • affiliation
  • title / position
  • areas of expertise (ideal might be using a standard list)
  • qualifying notes to each area of expertise – e.g., research specialist, practitioner expert
  • links to author’s own works
  • links to samples of work – open, signed peer reviews
  • comments from authors and/or editors
  • comments from recognised experts on the peer-reviewer’s expertise / ability to peer review in a particular area
  • author’s availability – time and number of peer-review requests the author is willing to accept at any given time.
    The time element could potentially be integrated with calendaring systems, e.g. no or fewer requests at particular times
  • author preferences for peer review – e.g. open access and/or fully green journals preferred, professional researchers only, researchers from developing countries welcome, students welcome (in limited numbers, perhaps?)
  • mutuality – in areas of controversy, authors might elect to publish critical reviews from peers with different perspectives, on the condition that their peer mutually publishes the author’s own peer review. This could provide readers with a good service, in alerting them to the existence of alternate viewpoints.

At the Institutional Repository

  • hosting or linking to author profiles and peer review
  • flexibility to accomodate clusters of versions. For example, lead readers first to the final peer-reviewed version, when available, but also make it easy for readers to find the original draft and peer reviewers’ comments.

Publishing software

  • links to author profiles
  • links to peer reviews
  • means of matching available peer reviewers with authors, editors, journals, or other certifying bodies

Comments or peer reviews can be posted as comments or sent to my contact e-mail found here. Any comments or reviews may be incorporated in future versions of this model. Please indicate if you are willing to allow your comments or review to be posted on this blog.


Peter Suber, August 18, 2005:

Note: Peter wants me to make clear that he does *not* believe that OA depends on peer-review reform, that OA has to wait for peer-review reform, or that OA is valuable primarily for its contribution to peer-review reform. OA is compatible with every kind of peer review and we should pursue it regardless of our position on peer review. (I completely agree, by the way!)

“Just for the record, I believe that peer-review definitely needs improvement and that many promising reforms have exciting synergies with OA. One of my pet ideas (which I wrote about more in the early days than recently) is retroactive peer review. Put the preprint in an OA repository as soon as it’s ready, then apply for review from a journal or free-floating editorial board. If approved, with or without revision, the approved version is also put in the repository with a citation and metadata showing its approved status. So far, this is just an overlay journal. What’s most exciting is the prospect of multiple editorial boards reviewing the same work, say, from different methodological or disciplinary perspectives, with the possibility of each giving (or withholding) its approval, creating something like a market in endorsements and tools that can search and sort by endorsement.”

E-LIS already has many of the components needed
by: Heather Morrison

E-LIS, the open archive for Library and Information Science, already has many of the components that would be needed for an open peer review system. One can already add comments to articles already in the archive – a reviewer could indicate if a comment is intended as a peer review, and link to a Peer Reviewer Profile. All that is needed is some editorial oversight, and communication with the author, and we’re almost there!

An illustration
An illustration of open peer review in action can be found in my Dramatic Growth of Open Access: Revised Update. This illustrates how an update to a peer-reviewed article can be improved, based on helpful constructive criticism on invitation from a friend.

Head and Neck Medicine
Head and Neck Medicine, a new Open Access Journal from BioMedCentral, is planning to follow an open peer review approach. Thanks to Open Access News, Aug. 30.

See also
Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) Editorial 1978 on Open Peer Commentary Thanks to Stevan Harnad.

Last updated September 26, 2005. Minor modifications July 5, 2019.

Sabbatical projects 2019 – 2020

Following is what I am working on during my academic leave (sabbatical) from July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020.

Overall project:   Transitioning economics of scholarly publishing for open access: Sustaining the Knowledge Commons

Summary: this project is a phase in my Sustaining the Knowledge Commons (SKC) research program currently funded through a SSHRC Insight Grant (2016 – 2021). The overall goal of this research program is to advance our knowledge on how to transition economic support for scholarly publishing from demand side (e.g. purchase of books and journal subscriptions) to supply side economics (e.g. sponsorship such as the SSHRC Aid to Scholarly Journals program, support for scholar-led publishing such as library publishing services, article processing charges) to facilitate economically sustainable open access to scholarly publishing.

This phase will focus on 3 major sub-projects: a major literature review, a holistic theoretical analysis from a global political economics perspective, and a major release of a large dataset and documentation. Anticipated outcomes are all non-traditional formats, for reasons explained later in this letter, in case this might be of interest to reviewers of this request.

Major literature review: a neutral academic literature review is needed because there is a great deal of substantial research published recently or in progress in this area. The majority of this research focuses on just one of the approaches, potential and currently in use. Most of the major research is this area is business research conducted by organizations with a primary or exclusive focus on their own needs, regions, and/or preferred approach. For example, the Research Councils U.K. several years ago made a business decision to support article processing charges (APC) for U.K. scholars; they publish substantial and very useful research that is focused on the needs of U.K. scholars and universities and the APC model. The Public Knowledge Project (PKP) and érudit, both originating in Canada, have developed and support popular software to support journal publishing. Both conduct research with a focus on collaborative approaches to economic support for journal publishing, such as developing new consortia of journals and/or libraries, or working with existing consortia. The International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) regularly conducts research focused on market opportunities for their members. Anticipated outcome: major literature review in the form of a report made available for open peer review (approximately 30 – 40 pages).

Holistic theoretical analysis from a global political economics perspective: there is currently substantial agreement on a global scale regarding one common goal of open access, that is scholarship that is free for anyone to read. However, there is limited understanding of the necessity to move forward towards this goal in the context of multiple and often conflicting socio-political contexts. For example, the U.K. is unilingual, its university system is highly centralised, and the U.K. enjoys a favorable balance of trade in the existing scholarly communication landscape as the corporate home of some of the largest commercial scholarly publishers (Relyx, parent company of Elsevier, and informa.plc, parent company of Taylor & Francis). These are motivating factors behind the current U.K. approach, designed to transition to open access while protecting the profits of traditional scholarly publishers. In Canada, universities are under provincial jurisdiction, the country is bilingual, and the U.K.’s positive balance of trade is a negative balance of trade for Canada, and so there is motivation to question the wisdom of sustaining the existing system in the process of moving to open access. In the developing world, there is an additional motivation to increase the participation and impact of scholars in global scholarly communication in the transition process. There is scholarship on the latter topic, but this has never been brought together in a holistic way along with conditions particular to the developed world. Anticipated outcome: major theoretical analytic paper made available for open peer review (approximately 30 – 40 pages).

2019 open access article processing charges (APC) dataset: since 2014, the SKC project has been annually collecting and collating data on fully open access journals relating to APC. Although the primary focus is on APCs (whether or not journals charge, and if so how much), the dataset includes rich metadata that can support a wide variety of correlational studies. The dataset (currently over 17,000 journals and over one hundred metadata points per journal) is released as open data periodically with full documentation. Anticipated outcome: release of an open dataset with approximately 18,000 journals and close to two hundred metadata points per journal with detailed documentation (about 10 – 15 pages) for open peer review.

Anticipated outcomes: why a non-traditional approach: there are several reasons for following a non-traditional approach to publication. 1) The most useful formats for outcomes do not fit traditional scholarly publication formats. A major literature review or theoretical analysis in this area will be far too long for a peer-reviewed journal article. For example: recently, in order to fit the page length for the peer-reviewed ELPUB proceedings, I was forced to eliminate entire sections of research even though these logically fit with this work. A major literature review or theoretical analysis in this area will be far too long for most peer-reviewed journals or for a journal chapter, but too short for a monograph. 2) Open peer review is becoming a standard in open scholarship, and this works well in my area. I consider my scholarly and research blogs to be my most important works. When I publish a blogpost about a particular scholarly publisher, I frequently receive review comments from that particular publisher and/or questions as well as comments from funders and other scholars. 3) Timeliness. For example, recently, I posted about high price increases by one particular publisher. Almost immediately, I received a request from [an APC payer], in the process of making annual budget decisions about support for the APC approach, regarding the practices of other publishers. The SKC team had already gathered the data and so I was able to quickly analyse and publish this research. One publisher that was not included spontaneously conducted research on their own data using my methodology, published it via a listserv, and agreed to re-publication on the SKC blog. This rapid sharing of research made it possible to identify early on an essential conflict between the market-based approach of some new publishers (i.e. charge as much as you think you can get) and the accountability-based approach of most payers (i.e. universities, libraries and research funders have fixed and cost-based budgets). This gives the publisher an opportunity to consider business models moving forward that are a better fit with the budgets of payers.

The dialectic of open

Presentation to the Canadian Communication Association, Vancouver, British Columbia, June 6, 2019.


In contemporary Western society the word open is used as if the concept were essentially good. This is a logical fallacy; the only concept that is in essence good is the concept good itself. In this paper I will argue that this is a dangerous fallacy that opens the door to misdirection and co-optation of genuine advocates of the public good accidentally through misconception and deliberately by actors whose motives are far from open, that a critical dialectic approach is useful to unravel and counter such fallacies, and present a simple pedagogical technique that I have found to be effective to teach critical thinking to university students in this area. The province of Ontario under the Ford government describes itself as open for business. In this context, open means open for exploitation, and closure is protection for the environment and vulnerable people. This is one example of openwashing, taking advantage of the use of the term by large numbers of “open” advocates whose work is based on very different motives.

Open access, according to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, is a potential unprecedented public good, a collective global sharing of the scholarly knowledge of humankind. A sizable portion of the open access movement is adamant that open access requires nothing less than all of the world’s scholars making their work not only free of charge, but free for downstream manipulation and re-use for commercial purposes. This frees up knowledge for creative new approaches to more rapidly advance our knowledge; it is also a new area for capitalist expansion and can be seen as selling out scholarship. Is this necessary, sufficient, or even desirable to achieve the vision of global sharing of open access? Open education can be seen as the next phase in the democratization of education, a new field for capitalist expansion, a tool for authoritarian control and/or a tool for further control of the next generation proletariat or precariat. Open government can facilitate an expansion of democracy, to further engage citizens in decision-making, a means of enhancing and improving government services, and/or another means of transitioning public services to the private sector that is typical of the (perhaps post) neoliberal era. Proactive open government can mean more transparent, accountable government; it can also mean open access to the documents and data that those in power choose to share. This paper will analyze the rhetoric of key documents from the open movements, evidence presented to support these beliefs, and explore whether these belief systems reflect myth based on misconception and/or misdirection by actors with ulterior motives using a theoretical lens drawn from the political economics, particularly Hegelian dialectics in the tradition of the Frankfurt School and contemporary Marxist analysis.

Link to full presentation:

What counts in research? Dysfunction in knowledge creation & moving beyond

One of the long-term challenges to transitioning scholarly communication to open access is reliance on bibliometrics. Many authors and organizations are working to address this challenge. The purpose of this post is to share some highlights of my work in progress, a book chapter (preprint) designed to explain the current state of bibliometrics in the context of a critique of global university rankings. Some reflections in brief that are new and relevant to advocates of open access and changes in evaluation of scholarly work follow.

  • Impact:it is not logical to equate impact with quality, and further, it is dangerous to do so. Most approaches to evaluation of scholarly work assume that impact is a good thing, an indicator of quality research. I argue that this reflects a major logical flaw, and a dangerous one at that. We should be asking whether it makes sense for an individual research study (as opposed to weight of evidence gained and confirmed over many studies) should have impact. If impact is good and more impact is better, then the since-refuted study that equated vaccination with autism must be an exceptionally high quality study, whether measured by traditional citations or the real-world impact of the return of diseases such as measles. I argue that this is not a fluke, but rather a reasonable expectation of reward systems that favour innovation, not caution.  Irreproducible research, in this sense, is not a fluke but rather a logical outcome of current evaluation of scholarly work.
  • New metrics (or altmetrics) serve many purposes and should be developed and used, but should be avoided in the context of evaluating the quality of scholarship to avoid bias and manipulation. It should obvious that metrics that go beyond traditional academic citations are likely to reflect and amplify existing social biases (e.g. gender, ethnicity), and non-academic metrics such as tweets are in addition subject to manipulation by interested parties including industry and special interest groups (e.g. big pharma, big oil, big tobacco).
  • New metrics are likely to change scholarship, but not necessarily in the ways anticipated by the open access movement. For example, replacement of the journal-level citation impact by article-level citations is already very well advanced, with Elsevier in a strong position to dominate this market. Scopus metrics data is already in use by university rankings and is being sold by Elsever to the university market.
  • It is possible to evaluate scholarly research without recourse to metrics. The University of Ottawa’s collective agreement with full-time faculty reflects a model that not only avoids the problems of metrics, but is an excellent model for change in scholarly communication as it is recognized that scholarly works may take many forms. For details, see the APUO Collective Agreement 2018 – 2021 section 23.3.1 – excerpt:

23.3.1. General Whenever this agreement calls for an assessment of a Faculty Member’s scholarly activities, the following provisions shall apply.

a) The Member may submit for assessment articles, books or contributions to books, the text of presentations at conferences, reports, portions of work in progress, and, in the case of literary or artistic creation, original works and forms of expression

b) Works may be submitted in final published form, as galley proofs, as preprints of material to be published, or as final or preliminary drafts. Material accepted for publication shall be considered as equivalent to actually published material…

h) It is understood that since methods of dissemination may vary among disciplines and individuals, dissemination shall not be limited to publication in refereed journals or any particular form or method.

There may be other models; if so, I would be interested in hearing about them, please add a comment to this post or send an e-mail.

The full book chapter preprint is available here:


This chapter begins with a brief history of scholarly journals and the origins of bibliometrics and an overview of how metrics feed into university rankings. Journal impact factor (IF), a measure of average citations to articles in a particular journal, was the sole universal standard for assessing quality of journals and articles until quite recently. IF has been widely critiqued; even Clarivate Analytics, the publisher of the Journal Citation Reports / IF, cautions against use of IF for research assessment. In the past few years there have been several major calls for change in research assessment: the 2012 San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), the 2015 Leiden Manifesto (translated into 18 languages) and the 2017 Science Europe New vision for meaningful research assessment. Meanwhile, due to rapid change in the underlying technology, practice is changing far more rapidly than most of us realize. IF has already largely been replaced by item-level citation data from Elsevier’s Scopus in university rankings. Altmetrics illustrating a wide range of uses including but moving beyond citation data, such as downloads and social media use are prominently displayed on publishers’ websites. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of how these metrics work at present, to move beyond technical critique (reliability and validity of metrics) to introduce major flaws in the logic behind metrics-based assessment of research, and to call for even more radical thought and change towards a more qualitative approach to assessment. The collective agreement of the University of Ottawa is presented as one model for change.


Frontiers in 2019: 3% increase in average APC

by Hamid Pashaei and Heather Morrison

The data for 2019 shows that while most 2019 journals by Frontiers incurred no changes in article processing charge comparing to 2018, but the increase in APC of 23 journals (40% of Frontier journals) is significant, with APC increases of 18% – 31%.

Frontiers currently publishes 62 journals that shows 10% growth in the number of journals comparing to 56 journals in 2018. Of these, 23 journals (40%) have an increase of $774 in article processing charges but the other journals have no change in comparison to 2018 data. Therefore, the overall increase in Article processing journals for all Frontiers open access journals is 3 percent.

The raw data for Frontiers journals in 2019:

See also:

Frontiers: 40% journals have APC increases of 18 – 31% from 2017 to 2018

BioMed Central in 2019: Sharp increase in article processing charge

by Hamid Pashaei and Heather Morrison

Update May 1, 2019:

Based on an inquiry from Christopher Pym from Springer Nature (owner of BioMedCentral) on the Global Open Access List I (Heather) have re-calculated the observed BMC pricing changes from 2018 – 2019, in GBP rather than USD. BMC reports pricing in 3 currencies (a common practice for large publishers). We use GBP for historical purposes. In brief, this re-analysis confirms our original finding of a sharp increase in APCs. 66% of BMC journals for which we have APC data in GBP for both 2018 and 2019 have increased their APCs; 61% have increased their APCs at far beyond inflationary levels, causing the overall average (including journals that did not change APCs or lowered APCs) to increase by 15%, a rate far beyond inflationary levels. We thank Christopher Pym for his interest in our research.

We have APC data for both 2018 and 2019 for 260 BMC journals. The average APC for these journals was 1,416 GBP in 2018, 1,555 GBP in 2019, an average increase of 139 GBP or an average 9% increase. The pricing changes are more complex, however, as some BMC journals have maintained or lowered their prices. In USD (using XE currency converter May 1, 2019), the average APC for these journals rose from 1,852 USD to 2,034 USD, an increase of 181 USD (note rounding error of $1).

Of the 260 BMC journals for which we have 2018 and 2018 APCs:

  • 172 (66%) increased in price
  • 55 (21%) maintained the same price
  • 33 (13%) decreased in price

Of the journals that increased in price, the range of percentage increase was from under 1% to 55%. 158 journals (61% of all journals) had APC price increases clearly beyond inflationary levels, ranging from 7% – 55%.

Because of this challenge, I have re-downloaded the BMC APC list from and checked GBP pricing for several journals, finding no difference from our data gathering date of April 4.

On the basis of this selective re-analysis of 260 BMC journals for which we have price data I conclude that the average APC price increase for BMC journals is 15%, (factoring in journals that did not change APC or lowered APC), a rate far above inflation, and that the majority of BMC journals (61%) increased their APCs. This confirms our original findings of a sharp APC increase for BMC in 2019. Please note that this re-analysis using the same basic dataset but slightly different methods. The re-analysis is limited to journals for which we have data in both 2018 and 2019, and is limited to GBP. When new journals and journals no longer published by BMC are factored in, this changes the averages; there can also be differences in findings based on which currency is selected for analysis.

A list of BMC APCs in GBP in 2018 and 2019 follows, in order by percentage change (highest price increase first).

Journal Title2019 APC  (GBP)2018 APC (GBP)2019-2018 change in GBP (amount)2019 – 2018 change in GBP (percentage)
Tropical Medicine and Health157070586555%
Molecular Cancer24901,4701,02041%
Acta Neuropathologica Communications157095062039%
Particle and Fibre Toxicology21701,37080037%
Molecular Autism 21701,37080037%
Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research22901,47082036%
Journal of Hematology & Oncology24901,65084034%
BMC Pulmonary Medicine19901,37062031%
Immunity & Ageing19901,37062031%
Journal of Translational Medicine19901,37062031%
World Journal of Emergency Surgery19901,37062031%
Cardiovascular Diabetology21701,54063029%
Journal of Nanobiotechnology18701,37050027%
Pediatric Rheumatology18701,37050027%
Cell Division19901,47052026%
Genome Medicine25701,90067026%
BMC Veterinary Research15701,16540526%
Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials17901,37042023%
Behavioral and Brain Functions17901,37042023%
Cardiovascular Ultrasound17901,37042023%
Cell Communication and Signaling17901,37042023%
Diagnostic Pathology17901,37042023%
Genes & Nutrition17901,37042023%
Molecular Cytogenetics17901,37042023%
Reproductive Health17901,37042023%
Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling17901,37042023%
Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control 17901,37042023%
International Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology 17901,37042023%
Thyroid Research 17901,37042023%
Clinical Epigenetics20401,56547523%
Journal of Physiological Anthropology12701,00027021%
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation17901,43036020%
Nutrition & Metabolism17901,43036020%
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine16901,37032019%
BMC Geriatrics16901,37032019%
BMC Medical Research Methodology16901,37032019%
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders16901,37032019%
BMC Neurology16901,37032019%
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health16901,37032019%
Clinical Sarcoma Research16901,37032019%
Conflict and Health16901,37032019%
Fluids and Barriers of the CNS16901,37032019%
Globalization and Health16901,37032019%
Head & Face Medicine16901,37032019%
International Breastfeeding Journal16901,37032019%
International Journal of Health Geographics16901,37032019%
Microbial Cell Factories16901,37032019%
Neural Development16901,37032019%
Patient Safety in Surgery16901,37032019%
Radiation Oncology16901,37032019%
Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology16901,37032019%
Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy16901,37032019%
Virology Journal16901,37032019%
Hereditary Cancer in Clinical Practice 16901,37032019%
Journal of Ovarian Research 16901,37032019%
Breast Cancer Research 22901,86043019%
Genome Biology23801,95043018%
Cancer Cell International17901,47032018%
Journal of Inflammation17901,47032018%
Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery16901,39030018%
Stem Cell Research & Therapy16901,39030018%
BMC Research Notes99082516517%
Biological Procedures Online18701,56530516%
Biotechnology for Biofuels18701,56530516%
Human Genomics18701,56530516%
International Journal for Equity in Health16901,42027016%
Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy16501,39026016%
Nutrition Journal17901,51028016%
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology16901,44524514%
Gut Pathogens17901,54025014%
Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases17901,54025014%
BMC Cancer15901,37022014%
BMC Health Services Research15901,37022014%
BMC Public Health15901,37022014%
BMC Medicine21701,88029013%
AIDS Research and Therapy16901,47022013%
Biomarker Research16901,47022013%
Archives of Public Health15701,37020013%
Basic and Clinical Andrology15701,37020013%
BMC Anesthesiology15701,37020013%
BMC Biotechnology15701,37020013%
BMC Cardiovascular Disorders15701,37020013%
BMC Evolutionary Biology15701,37020013%
BMC Gastroenterology15701,37020013%
BMC International Health and Human Rights15701,37020013%
BMC Medical Genetics15701,37020013%
BMC Medical Imaging15701,37020013%
BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making15701,37020013%
BMC Microbiology15701,37020013%
BMC Palliative Care15701,37020013%
BMC Pediatrics15701,37020013%
BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology15701,37020013%
BMC Psychiatry15701,37020013%
BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation15701,37020013%
BMC Surgery15701,37020013%
BMC Systems Biology15701,37020013%
Clinical Proteomics15701,37020013%
Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation15701,37020013%
Health and Quality of Life Outcomes15701,37020013%
Infectious Diseases of Poverty15701,37020013%
International Journal of Mental Health Systems15701,37020013%
Population Health Metrics15701,37020013%
Thrombosis Journal15701,37020013%
Epigenetics & Chromatin17901,56522513%
Harm Reduction Journal17901,56522513%
Journal of Neuroinflammation17901,56522513%
Biology of Sex Differences  17901,56522513%
Molecular Medicine17901,56522513%
Critical Care19901,75024012%
Experimental Hematology & Oncology16901,49519512%
Molecular Brain15701,39517511%
Implementation Science16901,51018011%
Respiratory Research17901,61517510%
Journal of Biological Engineering15701,4301409%
Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice15701,4301409%
Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer16901,5401509%
BMC Infectious Diseases14901,3701208%
Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine13701,2651058%
Asthma Research and Practice14801,3701107%
BioData Mining14801,3701107%
BMC Biochemistry14801,3701107%
BMC Bioinformatics14801,3701107%
BMC Clinical Pathology14801,3701107%
BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders14801,3701107%
BMC Ecology14801,3701107%
BMC Hematology14801,3701107%
BMC Nephrology14801,3701107%
BMC Nursing14801,3701107%
BMC Ophthalmology14801,3701107%
BMC Oral Health14801,3701107%
BMC Physiology14801,3701107%
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth14801,3701107%
BMC Structural Biology14801,3701107%
BMC Urology14801,3701107%
Cancers of the Head & Neck14801,3701107%
Clinical and Molecular Allergy14801,3701107%
Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology14801,3701107%
Contraception and Reproductive Medicine14801,3701107%
Disaster and Military Medicine14801,3701107%
Fertility Research and Practice14801,3701107%
Journal of Clinical Movement Disorders14801,3701107%
Lipids in Health and Disease14801,3701107%
Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology14801,3701107%
Movement Ecology14801,3701107%
Proteome Science14801,3701107%
Translational Medicine Communications14801,3701107%
Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines14801,3701107%
Women’s Midlife Health14801,3701107%
Addiction Science and Clinical Practice 14801,3701107%
Annals of General Psychiatry16901,5651257%
Cancer & Metabolism16901,5651257%
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine16901,5651257%
Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders16901,5651257%
Arthritis Research & Therapy18701,7501206%
Veterinary Research 11751,150252%
BMC Biophysics13901,370201%
BMC Genetics13901,370201%
Cerebellum & Ataxias13901,370201%
Fungal Biology and Biotechnology13901,370201%
Multiple Sclerosis and Demyelinating Disorders13901,370201%
Research Integrity and Peer Review13901,370201%
Sleep Science and Practice13901,370201%
Irish Veterinary Journal 13901,370201%
Cellular & Molecular Biology Letters13901,420-30-2%
World Journal of Surgical Oncology15701,650-80-5%
Research Involvement and Engagement14801,565-85-6%
Bioelectronic Medicine14801,565-85-6%
Big Data Analytics12901,370-80-6%
Marine Biodiversity Records12901,370-80-6%
Porcine Health Management12901,370-80-6%
Source Code for Biology and Medicine12901,370-80-6%
Journal of Biomedical Semantics 12901,370-80-6%
Journal of Biological Research-Thessaloniki13901,510-120-9%
Pilot and Feasibility Studies13901,565-175-13%
Systematic Reviews13901,565-175-13%
Environmental Evidence12901,470-180-14%
BMC Dermatology11801,370-190-16%
BMC Emergency Medicine11801,370-190-16%
Journal of Congenital Cardiology11801,370-190-16%
Diagnostic and Prognostic Research 14801,745-265-18%
EvoDevo  16901,995-305-18%
Agriculture & Food Security12901,565-275-21%
Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome  14201,810-390-27%
Sustainable Earth690900-210-30%
Animal Biotelemetry11801,565-385-33%
European Journal of Medical Research 14801,995-515-35%
BMC Medical Ethics9901,370-380-38%
BMC Nutrition9901,370-380-38%
BMC Obesity9901,370-380-38%
Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine9901,370-380-38%
BMC Psychology8601,370-510-59%
Canine Genetics and Epidemiology8601,370-510-59%
Journal of Eating Disorders8601,370-510-59%
BMC Zoology7901,370-580-73%
Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica15101,5100 
Advances in Simulation15651,5650 
Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology13701,3700 
Biological Research14301,4300 
Biology Direct13701,3700 
Biomaterials Research13701,3700 
BioPsychoSocial Medicine13701,3700 
BMC Biology17801,7800 
BMC Developmental Biology13701,3700 
BMC Endocrine Disorders13701,3700 
BMC Family Practice13701,3700 
BMC Genomics13701,3700 
BMC Immunology13701,3700 
BMC Medical Education13701,3700 
BMC Medical Genomics13701,3700 
BMC Molecular Biology13701,3700 
BMC Neuroscience13701,3700 
BMC Plant Biology13701,3700 
BMC Women’s Health13701,3700 
Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation13701,3700 
Cell & Bioscience13701,3700 
Chinese Medicine13701,3700 
Clinical and Translational Allergy14701,4700 
Emerging Themes in Epidemiology13701,3700 
Environmental Health14201,4200 
European Review of Aging and Physical Activity13701,3700 
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences13701,3700 
Frontiers in Zoology15101,5100 
Genetics Selection Evolution11751,1750 
Gynecologic Oncology Research and Practice13701,3700 
Health Research Policy and Systems15651,5650 
Human Resources for Health15651,5650 
Infectious Agents and Cancer13701,3700 
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity16501,6500 
Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance16001,6000 
Journal of Ecology and Environment13701,3700 
Journal of Foot and Ankle Research13701,3700 
Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition13701,3700 
Journal of Medical Case Reports8258250 
Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences14201,4200 
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition13701,3700 
Malaria Journal14301,4300 
Mobile DNA13701,3700 
Molecular Neurodegeneration16501,6500 
Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine13701,3700 
Parasites & Vectors13701,3700 
Perioperative Medicine15651,5650 
Plant Methods14301,4300 
Public Health Reviews13701,3700 
Revista Chilena de Historia Natural12401,2400 
Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine14851,4850 
Cancer Imaging 13701,3700 
Journal of Otolaryngology : Head and Neck Surgery13701,3700 
The Italian Journal of Pediatrics13701,3700 
Cancer Communications13701,3700 
BioMedical Engineering OnLine13751,3705 
Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research15701,5655 
Skeletal Muscle 15701,5655 
Algorithms for Molecular Biology13901,37020 

Our recent analysis of BioMed Central publishing company journals reveals a sharp increase both in number of open access journals and also article processing fees.

BMC currently publishes 330 open access journals that comparing to 2018 data shows an increase of 11% in number of journals. While 25 journals have no article processing fee for authors to publish their articles, there has been a 57% increase in average article processing charge comparing to the last year, as the average processing fee was $1402 in 2018 and now it is $2200.

Comparing to the last year, 264 journals have increased and 5 journals have decreased in APC (article processing charge). The average APC increase for journals is $917 and the average decrease is $124.

The raw data for BMC in 2019 is provided below:

Similar posts:

Ceased and transferred publications and archiving: best practices and room for improvement

Recent APC price changes for 4 publishers (BMC, Hindawi, PLOS, PeerJ)


Open access versus the commons, or steps towards developing commons to sustain open access

by Heather Morrison


The concept of open access is complementary to, and in opposition to the commons. The similarities and overlap appear to be taken for granted; for example, many people assume that open access and Creative Commons just go together. The purpose of this post is to explore the essential opposition of the two concepts. The so-called “tragedy of the commons” is actually the tragedy of unmanaged open access. Understanding this opposition is helpful to analyze the potential of commons analysis to develop and sustain actual commons (cool pool resources) to support open access works. Ostrom’s design principles for common pool resources are listed with comments and examples of open access supports that illustrate the principles and a proposed modified list design to meet the needs of open access infrastructure is presented.


The purpose of the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons research program (and blog) is to advance our knowledge of how to build and sustain a global knowledge commons. I define the knowledge commons as a collective sharing of the knowledge of humankind that is as open access as possible, in the sense of free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. My vision of the knowledge commons is one that is inclusive, that is, all who are qualified are welcome to contribute. The vision is simple. Understanding and articulating what is necessary to achieve the vision is not simple, and I argue that it will require developing new theoretical and empirical knowledge.

The purpose of this post is to focus on the relationship between two basic concepts, “open access” and “the commons”. There is an intuitive complementarity between the two concepts that might be best understood as an outcome of recent historical developments. The open sharing of Web 2.0 or social media, the open access movement, renewed interest in the concept of the commons, and the development and growth of Creative Commons, have all occurred in the past few decades. The nature and title of this research program Sustaining the Knowledge Commons reflects an ellipse of the two concepts. To advance our knowledge, sometimes it is necessary to question our basic assumptions. For this reason, acknowledging the complementarity of the two concepts, this post focuses on open access and the commons as oppositional in essence. I explain why this matters and how commons design principles might be used to develop and sustain open access organizations and infrastructure (as opposed to open access works).

As Ostrom (2015) points out in the second chapter of her ground-breaking Governing the Commons, the example of the “tragedy of the commons” as presented by Harding in an influential article – a pasture where any herdsman can graze – is not a commons, but rather a pasture that is open to all, an open access resource. A commons is not an open access resource, but rather a resource that is collaboratively managed by a group of people who benefit from the resource who develop, monitor and enforce rules for collective management of the resource. Ostrom presents empirical examples of successful and unsuccessful commons or common pool resources (CPRs) and articulates design principles for successful CPRs.

Ostrom’s research focuses on limited physical resources such as fisheries and water, and acknowledged that research on such CPRs is at a very early stage. The extent to which design principles based on physical CPRs can be employed to understand the potential for electronic commons, where there is no limit to the re-use of resource per se is not known. A few researchers have made an effort at this analysis. For example, Hess and Ostrom (2007) edited a book on understanding knowledge as a commons, one of the influences inspiring my own work and the title of this research program and blog.

Resources versus infrastructure

To understand why it matters that open access and the commons are oppositional concepts, consider the difference between open access works (articles, journals, books, data etc.) and the infrastructure that is needed to create and sustain open access resources. The only restriction to use of an open access resource is reader-side infrastructure (computer and internet) and ability to read and understand. However, the creation and ongoing support of open access works requires resources (hardware, software, internet connectivity, editors). This – the infrastructure to build and sustain open access works – is where Ostrom’s design principles for common pool resources is most likely to be fruitful. Examples of open access infrastructures that are, or could be, managed as common pool resources include: OA journals produced by independent scholars or groups of scholars (e.g. society or university-based); open source journal publishing (e.g. Open Journal Systems); university consortia sharing of infrastructure and /or support for open access (e.g. Scielo, Ontario’s Scholar’s Portal, Open Library of the Humanities).

Design principles for common pool resources

Table 3.1 of design principles is Ostrom’s (2015, p. 90) summary of her findings of characteristics of successful CPRs. Following are proposed minor modifications of the design principles for open access infrastructure, and examples of how these design principles might be useful for open access infrastructure (as opposed to open access works).

“Table 3.1. Design principles illustrated by long-enduring CPR institutions

  1. Clearly defined boundaries
    Individuals or households who have rights to withdraw resource units from the CPR must be clearly defined, as must the boundaries of the CPR itself.
  2. Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions Appropriation rules restricting time, place, technology, and/or quantity of resource units are related to local conditions and to provision rules requiring labor, material, and/or money.
  3. Collective-choice arrangements
    Most individuals affected by the operational rules can participate in modifying the operational rules.
  4. Monitoring
    Monitors, who actively audit CPR conditions and appropriator behavior, are accountable to the appropriators or are the appropriators.
  5. Graduated sanctions
    Appropriators who violate operational rules are likely to be assessed graduated sanctions (depending on the seriousness and context of the offense) by other appropriators, by officials accountable to these appropriators, or by both.
  6. Conflict-resolution mechanisms
    Appropriators and their officials have rapid access to low-cost local arenas to resolve conflicts among appropriators or between appropriators and officials.
  7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize
    The rights of appropriators to devise their own institutions are not challenged by external governmental authorities.

For CPRs that are parts of larger systems:

  1. Nested enterprises
    Appropriation, provision, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution, and governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises”.

Can Ostrom’s CPR design principles might be applied to OA resources? Examples, comments, and proposed modified design principles

Ostroms’ design principle “1: Clearly defined boundaries
Individuals or households who have rights to withdraw resource units from the CPR must be clearly defined, as must the boundaries of the CPR itself”.

Proposed modified design principle:

1: Clearly defined boundaries
Individuals or organizations who have rights to participate in and benefit from CPR must be clearly defined, as must the boundaries of the CPR itself.


Scielo (Scientific Electronic Library Online): Criteria, policies and procedures for admission and permanence of scientific journals in the SciELO <country> Collection

  • Anyone with internet access can read the Scielo journals. Journals that wish to be included must meet the criteria.

PubMedCentral: How to include a journal in PMC

  • Anyone with internet access can read the journals included in PMC. To be included, journals must meet scope, technical and quality requirements.

Ostrom’s Design Principle 2: “Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions. Appropriation rules restricting time, place, technology, and/or quantity of resource units are related to local conditions and to provision rules requiring labor, material, and/or money”.

Proposed modified design principle:

2: “Congruence between participation and provision rules and local and/or disciplinary conditions. Appropriation rules restricting time, place, technology, and/or quantity of resource units are related to local and/or disciplinary conditions and to provision rules requiring labor, material, and/or money”.


Institutional repositories such as uO Recherche are very well aligned with design principle 2. Policies are set by the university and reflect regional practice and law (e.g. copyright law). Staff are paid local wage rates in local currency. Decisions about software, hardware and support can reflect local preferences (e.g. for open source software or proprietary solutions, stand-alone or collaborative repositories) and budgets. In the case of my own university, the University of Ottawa, the institutional repository reflects the official French / English bilingualism of the university.

The HAL is a collaborative repository reflecting the research community and language of France.

Ostrom’s Design Principle 3: “Collective-choice arrangements
Most individuals affected by the operational rules can participate in modifying the operational rule

This principle fits smaller CPRs; see design principle 8 on nested enterprises for global open access. For example, university-based researchers can participate in policy consultations for the local institutional repository; members of the editorial board of a journal can participate in setting policy (the principle is the same whether the journal is open access or not).

Ostrom’s Design Principles 4:, 5, and 6 are treated together as OASPA provides examples of all:

“4. Monitoring
Monitors, who actively audit CPR conditions and appropriator behavior, are accountable to the appropriators or are the appropriators”.

5. Graduated sanctions
Appropriators who violate operational rules are likely to be assessed graduated sanctions (depending on the seriousness and context of the offense) by other appropriators, by officials accountable to these appropriators, or by both.

6. Conflict-resolution mechanisms
Appropriators and their officials have rapid access to low-cost local arenas to resolve conflicts among appropriators or between appropriators and officials”.

Example: the Open Access Scholarly Publisher’s Association (OASPA) Membership Applications, Complaints and Investigations displays characteristics of a CPR where members (appropriators) actively practice monitoring, graduated sanctions, and conflict-resolution mechanisms. Even after being accepted as members, OASPA members may be identified by other members as not meeting the criteria for acceptance (monitoring); these complaints trigger a conflict-resolution mechanisms that involves a series of graduated sanctions, investigation, possible requirement for the member to alter policies and/or practice and potential termination of membership.

Ostrom Design Principle “7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize
The rights of appropriators to devise their own institutions are not challenged by external governmental authorities”.

Proposed modified Design Principle “7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize
The rights of participants to devise their own organizations are not challenged by external authorities or bodies”.

Comment: this principle could be applied in the context of open access to the rights of researchers to develop their own institutions or organizations (e.g. based on common disciplinary requirements) and/or rights of local institutions to develop their own approach (as opposed to global open access policy).


The Open Library of the Humanities was developed by scholars in the humanities to support open access in the humanities. Design Principle 7 recognizes the right of scholars to organize in this fashion.

Ostroms’ Design Principle 8. “Nested enterprises
Appropriation, provision, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution, and governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises”.

Comment: this is the principle that most needs development for sustainable open access on a global scale. Every country, region, and discipline needs to contribute to create and sustain open access. This requires many organizations of different types and sizes, each with its own set of principles and approach to monitoring, sanctions, and conflict resolution. This needs to be coordinated (but not controlled) at a higher level for permanent open access to succeed.

Proposed modified design principles for a global knowledge commons

  1. Clearly defined boundaries
    Individuals or organizations who have rights to participate in and benefit from CPR must be clearly defined, as must the boundaries of the CPR itself.
  2. Congruence between participation and provision rules and local and/or disciplinary Appropriation rules restricting time, place, technology, and/or quantity of resource units are related to local and/or disciplinary conditions and to provision rules requiring labor, material, and/or money.
  3. Collective-choice arrangements
    Most individuals affected by the operational rules can participate in modifying the operational rules.
  4. Monitoring
    Monitors, who actively audit CPR conditions and appropriator behavior, are accountable to the appropriators or are the appropriators.
  5. Graduated sanctions
    Appropriators who violate operational rules are likely to be assessed graduated sanctions (depending on the seriousness and context of the offense) by other appropriators, by officials accountable to these appropriators, or by both.
  6. Conflict-resolution mechanisms
    Appropriators and their officials have rapid access to low-cost local arenas to resolve conflicts among appropriators or between appropriators and officials.
  7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize
    The rights of participants to devise their own organizations are not challenged by external authorities or bodies”.
  8. Nested enterprises
    Appropriation, provision, monitoring, enforcement, conflict resolution, and governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises.


This post builds on conversations with prior SKC research collaborator Alexis Calvé-Genest.


Hess, C. & Ostrom, E., eds. (2007). Understanding knowledge as a commons: from theory to practice. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Ostrom, E. (2015). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Canto Classics). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781316423936