ANALYSIS & OPINION

Wellcome Trust releases details of APC spend

The Wellcome Trust has released on figshare the details of article-processing charge (APC) payments that the funder made in 2012-13. The majority of the payments were in the late hundreds or low thousands. However, sums ranged from a low of £45.94 to a high of £13,200 for an open-access book.

The £45.94 was for a paper entitled ‘The association between breastfeeding and HIV on postpartum maternal weight changes over 24 months in rural South Africa’, published with the American Society for Nutrition. The high of £13,200 was for ‘Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States 1850-2000,’ a book published with Palgrave MacMillan.

The highest APC payment for an article was £6000 for a paper called ‘Laboratory Science in Tropical Medicine’, in a journal called Public Service Review. However, it is difficult to find details of this journal and the URL listed for this journal in the Wellcome Trust’s document now appears to be available for sale.

Most of the next 55 entries in the table, sorted by price, were published with Elsevier, with a highest APC of £5,760.00 for a paper in the Lancet. This is followed by a block of papers published with Nature Publishing Group, the highest APC of which is £3,780.00 for a paper in Nature Communications.

The most expensive APCs (at £3600) published with a purely open-access publisher were two papers published in Public Library of Science’s Neglected Tropical Disease.

However, the top end of the price list remains dominated by major traditionally-subscription-based, commercial publishers, particularly Elsevier and Nature Publishing Group. Wiley’s most expensive APC came in at £3,078.92, BMJ’s was £3600, while the most expensive Informa Healthcare APC paid by Wellcome during the time period was £2,907.42 and Springer’s was £2,759.24.

At the other end of the spectrum, the sub-£1000 group was dominated by Public Library of Science, especially the journal PLOS ONE, with Oxford University Press also making a strong appearance in the less-expensive APCs paid group. The presence of other open-access publishers in this lower group, especially Frontiers and the National Academy of Sciences (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), is also notable.

In the period 2012-13, the Wellcome Trust made 2127 APC payments. There are some inconsistencies in describing publishers, which may lead to some error in the numbers attributed to each. However, Research Information estimates that 406 of these payments were to Elsevier journals and 305 to Public Library of Science. Oxford University Press accounted for 116, while Springer picked up 93 of the APCs paid by the Wellcome Trust, with an additional 91 for BioMed Central. Nature Publishing Group accounted for 80 of the APCs. Towards the end of the accounting period NPG made a significant investment in Frontiers, which itself counted for 31 of the 2012-13 APC payments.

The data is freely available on figshare and Research Information recommends that readers do their own, more detailed analysis on the figures.

According to the Wellcome Trust, 'In an attempt to make the debate around the costs of open access publishing more evidence-based, the Wellcome Trust is releasing into the public domain details of its open access spend in the year 2012-2013, as reported by UK institutions and the Trust’s Major Overseas Programmes in receipt of an OA block grant.'

The funder notes that data only includes information when an APC was levied by the publisher and paid for by the Wellcome Trust.

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