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Sources of funding in OA journals according to the David J Solomon and Bo-Christer Björk report

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In 2011 David J Solomon and Bo-Christer Björk published a very interesting paper: “Publication Fees in Open Access Publishing: Sources of Funding and Factors Influencing Choice of Journal.” It revealed fascinating data about Open Access publishing, APCs and other factors, which influenced the choice of a publication model by authors. The results of this survey are well worth discussing. 

The two researchers surveyed 1038 authors who published articles in 74 OA journals (with APCs) in seven discipline categories (“Health Sciences, Biology and Life Sciences”, “Education, Social Sciences, Law and Political Science”, “History and Archaeology, Arts and Architecture, Languages and Literatures”, “Technology, Engineering, Mathematic and Statistics, Computer Science”, “Business and Economics”, “Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Physics and Astronomy”, “Agriculture and Forestry”). While, only 429 respondents from 69 journals completed the survey (41%), the results of the research are significant and illustrate many important phenomena related to OA publishing.

Firstly, it is worth noting how high the APCs are in specific discipline categories. For example, the lowest fees, below 500 $, are associated with journals in the “Agriculture and Forestry” and “Business and Economics” categories. The higher APCs applied to journals in “Health Sciences, Biology and Life Sciences” and “Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Physics and Astronomy”. The data shows which disciplines are encumbered with the highest costs for authors, but it also partly indicates which disciplines currently exhibit the fastest growing scientific trends. Furthermore, an OA journal that is listed in the Journal Citation Report, applies substantially higher APCs; 57% of journals listed in JCR had fees at approximately between $1001 and $2000.  Only 5% of them charged a fee below $500.

The most interesting results are on the sources of funds. This matter is very important for any researcher who is planning to publish in the OA model. In the Open Access model fees are required, that is a fact. However authors do not always have to bear the costs of APCs from private funds. The data in this report shows that it very often depends on the scientific discipline in question. For example, the largest number of authors who had to cover APCs themselves was related to journals from disciplines such as “Agriculture and Forestry” (35% of authors paid fees directly) and “Business and Economics” (46%). In this case, we can see a correlation between the level of APCs and the sources of funding. These two categories have the lowest APCs and the largest share of paying authors. On the other hand, the authors who published articles in journals from categories such as “Health Sciences, Biology and Life Sciences” (8%) and “Technology, Engineering, Mathematic and Statistics, Computer Science” (15%), rarely had to reach into their own pockets.

It is also worth mentioning that authors in countries with a per capita GNP under $25.000, paid from their personal funds more often (39%) than their colleagues from countries with a higher per capita GNP (11%). This shows that access to funds for publishing in OA is made easier in wealthier countries.

The report also shows the main factors that influence authors in the choice of a specific journal.

The survey conducted by David J Solomon and Bo-Christer Björk provides much useful information on the sources of funding APCs, how the APCs vary across disciplines, what are the main factors affecting the choice of a journal by authors. I would like to draw attention to the Social Sciences and Humanities. In journals from these categories, APCs are generally lower but the institutional sources of funding are more scare. Interestingly, the fact that a journal was published in the Open Access model was not a particularly important factor in the decision-making process.

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