72% and 41%: A Gold OA 2011-2014 preview

I’ve just finished the data gathering and regathering and rechecking for the Gold OA 2011-2014 project, and am procrastinating before starting the analysis and writing to offer a couple of Big Numbers, numbers that can be compared to those on page 32 of the June 2015 American Libraries. Those numbers, for a large subset of DOAJ-listed journals (but omitting a couple of thousand lacking English interfaces) and for calendar 2013, were that just over 6,490 journals published just over 366,000 articles, that 67% of the journals didn’t charge author-side fees (APCs) but that 64% of articles were in APC-charging journals, and that the average cost per article for articles published in APC-charging journals (assuming no waivers, and weighted by the articles published in each journal) was $1,045, or an average of $630 per article including articles in free journals.

That was then. This is now: with a much larger subset of DOAJ (9,824: more than half again as many) that I could fully analyze, and with a much larger group of articles (more than 505,000, up from the 400,000 for 2014 for the 6,490-journal subset). This really is essentially all of DOAJ: there were only 20 cases were I couldn’t analyze a journal because Google’s translation wasn’t good enough; the other missing journals are missing for a variety of reasons, including not being reachable.

And here are the key figures: among those 9,824 journals, in 2014, 71.7% (call it 72%) did not charge APCs but 59.1% of the articles (down from 64%) were in journals that did charge APCs. The average APC per article for articles published in APC-charging journals was up slightly, to $1,086; that yields an overall average that’s actually down slightly at $609. (Part of the slight increase may be a shift from 2013 to 2014; part may be due to including more than three thousand additional journals.)

BUT: After looking at the figures and journals, I believe most of my analysis and the book will focus on those journals that don’t raise major questions (one frequent question: Why is the APC for this journal hidden?) That is, the book will largely ignore the very few “C” journals (around 300) and focus on “A” and “B” (there aren’t many “B” either).

That group of journals includes 9,512 journals that published 482,361 articles in 2014, with a potential total APC revenue of around $305 million. 74% of the journals did not charge APCs in 2014, and those journals published 43% of the articles (that is, 57% were in fee-charging journals). The weighted average cost per article in APC-charging journals was $1,107; the average cost for all articles was $633.

Added 8/22/15: It’s always the case that some journals don’t actually publish articles in any given year. Reducing the A&B figures to journals that actually published articles in 2014, of which there were 8,760, the free journal percentage goes down almost imperceptibly, from 74% to 73%. The percentage of articles in no-fee journals is the same, of course: 43%. (It was 55% in 2011.)

If you think this research and reporting is worthwhile, please contribute (and get a free full copy):

I don’t know when the full study will be out (writing this post doesn’t help matters!); I do know that you have just a few more days (until September 1, 2015) to get a PDF ebook version of the full report with live links for table of contents and table of tables and figures, by contributing at least $50 to Cites & Insights (Paypal button on the home page). Such contributions will help encourage further research.

In any case: I’ll argue that, for 2014, the key figures are: 74% (or 73%) or 71% of journals free; 57% or 59% of articles in fee-charging journals; $1,107 or $1,086 average APC per article appearing in APC-charging journals, $633 of $609 overall..

Yes, of course there are caveats, all of which will be stated clearly in the full report.


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