The costs for going Gold in the Netherlands

For a meeting of the Open Access work group of Dutch university libraries and the licenses work group of those same universities I was asked to make an estimate of the Costs for a 100% Gold OA model for the Netherlands. In this blog post I want to explain the methodology how I arrived at the outcome of the current calculation and contribute to this subject.

In the first slide I compare the Dutch output registered in the two most suitable databases for this research question. Scopus and Web of Science. To my own amazement Scopus only covered more Dutch publications after 2004. For the calculation of the Article Processing Charges (APC) paid by the Dutch research community it is fair to concentrate on the articles and reviews only. Editorials, letters and conference proceedings were therefore left out the equation. Scopus had the lead in articles and reviews already in 2003. Also striking in this graph is that WoS is slower in updating the database than Scopus, since year 2013 is clear trailing behind. Based on the presented graph, it is likely that we will see some 40,000 articles and reviews published by Dutch (co-)authors.

Since the Web of Science interface was renewed, in the search results an Open Access facet was added. The open access facet identifies the journals covered by Web of Science and registered in the DOAJ. The list of Open Access journals covered by Web of Science, i.e. the Open Access journals with an impact factor, or those that will soon receive an impact factor is freely available from Thomson Reuters. Because of the improved OA identification -but not perfect- Web of Science was the database of choice for this exercise. In the second slide I show the increase share of Open Access articles in journal articles covered by Web of Science in the Netherlands. In 2013 3,776 of 35,267 articles and reviews were published in Gold Open Access journals. That is 10.7%

Looking into more detail at the share of open access articles from the Netherlands in graph 3. I distighuish two points of inflection. After 2004 the share of Open Access articles really took off. I guess that this has to do with the expanded coverage of Open Access journals by Web of Science. Since 2007 Web of Science really started to expand its journal coverage. The second point of inflexion seems to be 2010, when PLoS ONE really started to become popular after it had received its first Impact Factor listing.

So far I talked about the Dutch publication as if they were all produced by the universities. In actual fact 13% of the output in 2013 was not produced by universities and 87% by universities and their academic hospitals.

Comparing the number of Open Access articles found in Web of Science and the refereed articles registered in Narcis, we see a big gap in the older years that closes in the current years. The gap is largely caused by green Open Access articles, Hybrid Open Access article, and Open Access articles published in journals not covered by Web of Science. The relative importance of these three factors need to be established. The lines touching in 2014 is an indication that Gold Open Access is important in filling the repositories immediately and that registering the Green articles in repositories actually take some time. Also because of publisher’s embargoes.

Price information for Article Processing Charges (APC) can be found on the eigenfactor website. Looking into detail to the articles published in 2013. 3314 articles were published in journals APCs , and only 404 in journals without APCs. The average APC for the paid OA journal was on average € 1220,- Taking the free journal articles into account as well, the PAC dropped to € 1087,- on average. All these prices are VAT exclusive.

The total costs for gold Open Access publishing for the Netherlands as covered by journals indexed in Web of Science increased nearly linearly from € 1.5 million in 2009 to just over € 4 million in 2013.

Over this five year period we paid quite substantial APC to the following publishers. As to be expected most to Springer/BMC and PLoS. Followed by Oxford University Press. The mentioned European Geosciences Union is in fact published by Copernicus publishers in Germany. Frontiers was recently acquired by the Nature Publishing Group. The license work group really has a list to consider next to the ‘traditional’ big deals with the standard publishers. It is wisely to see if deals can be struck on APC with Open Access publishers as well. Heather Morrison showed just the other day that we have had some steep price increases by BMC/Springer.

There are some points to consider. Not all research published by Dutch researchers is produced by Dutch Researchers only. In the Science, Technology and Innovation indicators it is indicated that some 50% of publications involve international collaboration. So for 50% of the articles Dutch authors don’t always have to pay the full APC. It is paid by the corresponding author from another country. The bill is shared. Or any other variation. Some research in this area is badly needed.
The APC are another issue. The eigenfactor collection was a good starting point, but are perhaps a bit behind reality for some journals already. Some publishers provide lists of all their journals, but often the lack sufficient metadata -e.g. issn- to do actually something useful with the lists. But in most cases APC are well hidden away, somewhere deep down in the instructions to authors for a single journal only. Publishers should be more transparent in this area.
Where the number of ‘Dutch’ articles might be an over estimation, 21% VAT is not.
In WoS currently only 718 Open Access journals are indexed, out of 9744 listed in DOAJ. Those 718 journals are an increase of 99 OA journals from the 619 I found in december 2010. But it is still a long way from the nearly 10,000 Open Access journals we know of. Of course WoS wants, and should, only cover the top tier journals, but there is more values in those 10,000 DOAJ journals than the current WoS selection. In addition to that, WoS should find a way to indicated OA articles in Toll Access journals as well.

Having made these considerations. My estimate is that in 2014 some 40,000 articles and reviews will be published by Dutch researchers. Applying the average APC of € 1087,- I arrive at an estimated € 43,500,000,- for the Netherlands if all Dutch research would be published in Gold Open Access journals. That figure should be compared to the current spending on journal subscriptions in the Netherlands by Dutch Universities, which is about € 34 million per year Euro at the moment. Going for gold will cost therefore € 10.5 million. That is a lot of money.

16 thoughts on “The costs for going Gold in the Netherlands”

  1. Keep in mind that there are often bulk APC discounts or memberships for institutions that would apply in the scenario where a university would consciously decide to switch to full-gold-OA. Not sure how much that would bring down the total, though.

  2. Methinks the average APC is actually higher. It would be relevant to aggregate the APC-data with the field in which those articles are published, and correlate this with the size of those disciplines. Can you calculate a field- or discipline-specific average APC? The data you present could be influenced by cheap APCs in small fields of science. From my university hospital perspective, I feel that the average APC in biomedicine could be quite a bit higher than EURO 1,220.

    1. The average APC are largely determined bij de relatively low APC of PLoS ONE. Correcting for field effects will be overridden by the PLoS effect.

  3. Very timely work, thanks! Your 43.5 million estimate of OA Gold cost is not that far of my earlier 33 milion estimate for 2012 ( However as you rightly say, there are some variables in the equation that we do not yet fully grasp.

    At the end of your post you state that Going for gold will cost 10,5 million extra. Of course this is only true under the condition that all publishers will wave all subscription costs when the Dutch academic community switches to full gold for all its papers. As yet, there is no indication that publishers are prepared to do so. This is only slightly offset by the willingness of some publishers (Hindawi, BMC, PeerJ and a few others) to offer lower prices for regular customers. So for the moment we must reckon with some 40 million extra if you ask me.

  4. I find the APCs to be a little on the high side, but let’s not worry about that right now – it depends on where people will publish. The estimated APCs would amount to ~40m € in total costs, while subscriptions are actually CHEAPER, only around 30m?

    World-wide, the subscription cost per article is about 5k$:

    So, unless the Netherlands are vastly overproducing papers compared to reading them, you manage to pay around 15% of the average subscription fees compared to
    the rest of the world? Or are the Netherlands subscribing to so many fewer journals
    compared to the articles they publish? That’s astounding! The world would stand to save about 80% by going OA (5k vs. 1k), while the Netherlands would actually have to pay 30% more 30m to 40m). Which other countries are so radically different from the rest of the world?

  5. Hmm, so according to Fig. 28, if that were the reason, then Norway, Sweden Denmark and Switzerland (at least) would also stand to lose on OA financially, as they publish more than they read, compared to the rest of the world (assuming every country roughly subscribes to the same number of journals – not necessarily a safe assumption)?

  6. On the other hand, 1k for OA is really a lot. SciELO has been publishing OA for 15 years now at a price of US$90:
    Thus, if the NL would set up a rational (rather than a commercial) scholarly publishing system, it would still stand to save about 30m of their current 34m budget.

    One can only hope that 30m € annually is enough of an incentive for NL to do things right, rather than rely on corporations who have their own bottom line in sight, rather than science.

  7. Yes, that seems obvoious. Author pays system disadvantages countries that write more that they read and will benefit countries that read more than they write, relatively speaking of course :-)

  8. I assume that the figure of 34 M spent on subscriptions can be verified. But I am also skeptical because many of the Big Deals are supposedly secret.
    So maybe , just maybe more is paid than we know of?
    When the NL produces 40,000 articles and these would have to be open access you calculate the APC of € 1087,- on average.
    But at the same time you say that 50 % of articles is produced together with authors from other countries , so the costs in these cases are probably shared.
    I would say then that is reasonable to include this consideration in your estimates. It would mean that the cost for the NL to go fully open access would become 20,000 x €1087 + 20000/2 x €1087 = € 32,6 Million or € 1,4 Million less than the €34 million spent on subscription articles.
    This figure is still off, because I think there is a problem with your initial calculation: You should not compare to the €34 million spent on subscription articles alone BUT INSTEAD to the €4 million paid for OA PLUS the € 34 million spent on subscription articles. This makes the gap greater : Full open access publishing would appear to be € 5,4 Million less expensive than the situation that exists now (€ 38 Million), we would save about 14 % !
    While the change to 100% journal based OA may not be as expensive as some fear it will be, another consideration is that open access will greatly facilitate innovation, development, cross-fertilization, and thus will have a huge return on investment . In other words the losses of non-realized potential benefits caused by Toll Access are huge. For this I refer to the excellent presentation of Mike Taylor at Berlin11.

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