Articles more precious than gold?

A discussion has taken place on Twitter (and on a more private site) regarding the idea that some gold OA seems to be “more precious than gold,” based on the idea that a typical article costs more for the APC than the paper to print it on would cost if it was solid gold.

The discussion involved Elsevier and only Elsevier. While I thought it was a neat discussion, it was a bit–well. more than a bit–misleading, because it took the median of Elsevier journal APCs (including the absurdly high “hybrid” APCs) rather than the average cost per article.

Aaron Tay noted that this wasn’t just about Elsevier–and it certainly isn’t. In fact, going back to the 2017 figures for journals in DOAJ (and, of course, ignoring “hybrid” journals, which appear to represent no more than 5%-10% of serious gold OA articles), it looks like Elsevier has the 22nd highest average APC per article, for publishers with at least 1,000 2017 articles in gold OA journals.

Highest? Frontiers.

Here’s the full list–noting that publisher names are exactly as in DOAJ, not normalized at all. (So, for example, Springer and Nature appear as two separate publishers, and at least one Elsevier journal isn’t included because it uses a Spanish publisher name.)

“$/article” is a weighted average, based on reported APCs when I checked websites in early 2018 multiplied by the number of articles in each journal. This is not at all the same figure you’d get by just looking at APCs on a journal basis, as one journal may have ten times (or 100 times) as many articles as another.

APCs stated in other currencies were converted to US Dollars at the time checks were done; while APCs were rounded to the nearest dollar, the $/article figures (again, weighted averages) may include cents. The table is sorted by average APC per article, highest to lowest; non-APC gold OA journals are included in the calculations.

Publisher $/article
Frontiers Media S.A. $2,724.78
eLife Sciences Publications Ltd $2,500.00
Nature Publishing Group $2,365.40
Wiley $2,254.51
JMIR Publications $2,210.21
Dove Medical Press $2,158.11
BioMed Central $2,139.08
Oxford University Press $2,118.45
Wolters Kluwer $2,045.54
BMJ Publishing Group $1,927.32
IOP Publishing $1,920.00
IEEE $1,750.00
Public Library of Science (PLoS) $1,612.87
Hindawi Publishing Corporation $1,549.61
AIP Publishing LLC $1,439.54
MDPI AG $1,402.06
Cogent OA $1,350.00
SAGE Publishing $1,292.62
Taylor & Francis Group $1,160.53
PeerJ Inc. $1,089.30
Karger Publishers $1,043.12
Elsevier $861.77
Copernicus Publications $707.30
Springer $677.84
AOSIS $675.03
American Chemical Society $617.95
Pensoft Publishers $580.06
PAGEPress Publications $393.49
JCDR Research and Publications Private Limited $275.00
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais $236.63
Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications $225.06
Termedia Publishing House $201.05
Universidade de São Paulo $107.83
De Gruyter Open $77.56
EDP Sciences $59.02

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