Determining the Cost of Open Access: Estimating Annual Article Processing Charges for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine Articles at a Large Midwestern University

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Objectives: Article Processing Charges (APCs) for articles published in for-fee, gold open access journals are paid in a number of ways at this institution. These include a library-managed Open Access (OA) Fund, grant accounts, faculty professional development funds, departmental discretionary funds, and private faculty funds. The institution is currently considering several new approaches to providing authors with OA funding assistance, and the main objective for this research project was to determine an estimate for the total annual cost of APCs to the campus. Secondary goals included determining the financial impact of APCs on the institution’s research grants and corresponding authors.

Methods: We conducted an affiliation search in Web of Science for the institution to identify articles published by authors at the university. We chose to limit results to articles published in 2019, as we wanted a sample year that would reflect the typical publishing output for the authors since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted research and publishing patterns during 2020 and into 2021. We then selected only the articles that were designated as gold open access, as those articles were published openly in their final versions and were either supported by APCs or published by no fee OA journals. The results list (n=421) was then exported to a spreadsheet and our team analyzed each article using the following criteria to determine which articles would be included: Was the corresponding author for the article affiliated with the institution? If the article provides a funding acknowledgement, does it acknowledge a grant to the institution? What is the current APC for the journal as stated on the publisher’s website (in U.S. Dollars)?

Results: Of the 421 articles our team analyzed, 168 had a corresponding author affiliated with the institution [combined APC total: $430,959 US]; of these, 143 were published in journals indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) [combined APC total: $349,699.89]; 100 of the DOAJ-index articles acknowledged grant funding to the institution [combined APC total: $274,688 USD].

Conclusions: Based on the findings of our research, if our university wanted to cover all APCs by corresponding authors published in DOAJ-indexed, “Gold OA” journals, the anticipated cost would be approximately $350,000 USD annually (with projected increases of 6% per year). These results highlight major concerns about the sustainability of current funding models for open access research and publishing in science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

Presented at the Midwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association 2022 Annual Meeting in Bloomington, IN on 2022-10-24
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