when paying for open access doesn’t result in open access

Jisc Collections, where I work, undertook some data collection a few months ago in order to support its negotiations with journal publishers. Information Power Ltd collected the article processing charge (APC) expenditure of 24 UK universities, which is slowly being made available on figshare.

Given the well documented fact that certain publishers (notably Elsevier, but they are not alone) sometimes have trouble making research open access even after a fee has been paid to do so, I thought it would be worth checking our APC data to see whether this was an issue.

The University of Warwick is one of the institutions that have made their data publicly available. This included DOIs, so I’ve looked up each article to see what license was attached. 23 of the 33 items had a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license, 8 were free to read but had no license, one I wasn’t sure of, and one was not open access despite a £900 APC apparently being paid.

The spreadsheet with an additional column listing licensing information is available here: Warwick-APC-data

If articles do not have a CC-BY license then they are not compliant with RCUK’s open access mandate and not fully open access as defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative. All but one of the Warwick articles were free to read, but only a third were fully open access, which presumably is what authors/institutions think they are getting when they pay an APC.

Ensuring that paying an APC does actually result in the article being open access is clearly very important, so we need to put pressure on publishers to make sure it happens.