The dramatic growth of BioMedCentral open access article processing charges

The average article processing charge for BioMedCentral journals requested from the University of Ottawa (uO) Library’s author’s fund increased 27% from 2010-11 to 2012-13. The 15% increase from 2011-12 to 2012-13 is 10 times the rate of inflation. 

The data indicates that this reflects increases in journal prices rather than changes in which journals uO authors publish in. For example:

Globalization and Health (a BMC journal)

  • 2010-11: uO paid an APC of $1,300 US. Assuming this reflects a BMC membership rate in effect at this time (15% discount, that’s still less than $1,500 US.
  • 2011-12: uO paid APCs at 2 different rates: $1,425 US and $1,715 US
  • 2012-13: uO paid APCSs at $1,670 and $1,715 US
  • The BMC rate listed on BMC’s own website as of Feb. 27, 2014 is $2,155 US from: http://www.globalizationandhealth.com/manuscript

An increase in APC from $1,715 US to $2,155 US in the last year is about a 25% increase in the APC for this particular journal. Currency fluctuations could account for about one-tenth of this increase (see below for calculations), and the modest inflation rate would account for about a 1.5% increase. This still leaves more than a 20% increase in price above and beyond currency variations and inflation.

Currency variations UK pound sterling to USD, based on Bank of Canada daily and 10-year currency converter.

  • UK pound sterling to USD conversion rate:
  • Jan. 2011: 1.5586
  • Jan. 2012: 1.5654 (.0043 increase over 2011)
  • Jan. 2013: 1.6254 (.0383 increase over 2012)
  • as of Feb. 27, 2014: 1.6691 (.02688 increase over 2013)
  • Total increase in value of UK pound sterling in comparison with US dollar 2014 / 2011: 7%

Public Library of Science (PLoS), by contrast, has kept prices for their journals at exactly the same rates during this time frame. PLoS’ achievement of a 23% surplus during this time frame indicates that this was done without financial sacrifice. While I continue to call on the not-for-profit PLoS to actually lower their prices to facilitate the transition to open access, the remarkable contrast between PLoS’ holding the line on prices and while BMC raises their prices at rates far above inflation is worth noting.

Thanks to Jeanette Hatherill and the University of Ottawa Library for posting the Open Access publication rates in the uO institutional repository. This dataset contains the amounts paid for through the library’s author’s fund for open access article processing charges from 2010 – 2013. Watch for further calculations and release of my calculations spreadsheet as part of the open access article processing charges series.

This post also illustrates the value of open data. By posting this data for open access in the University of Ottawa’s institutional repository, uO is making it possible for me to conduct research like this that could be useful to uO’s own decision-making processes in future. Let’s hope this post inspires others to follow uO’s lead and share their data, too. 

This post is part of the Open access article processing charges research series