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'APCS In The Wild’
Etudes & rapports
L'objectif du livre blanc est de mieux comprendre les sources du financement des frais de publication des articles (APC ) et la manière dont elles sont utilisées. L'étude s'appuie sur les données d'une enquête menée auprès de plus de 1 000 auteurs de Springer Nature, ainsi que sur 16 entretiens avec des représentants d'institutions.

‘APCS In The Wild’: Exploring Funding Streams for an Accelerated Transition to Open Access

Mars 2020

Executive Summary

To accelerate a transition to open access (OA), better understanding is needed of what is currently a fragmented and varied funding landscape. This whitepaper explores data from Springer Nature authors on the source of article processing charge (APC) funding, along with feedback from institutional interviews to facilitate a greater understanding of where funding for APCs originates and how these sources are being used. It further examines what is required for institutions and funders to monitor and track this spend.

Accelerating the transition to OA will involve bringing together multiple different funding streams, as well as tackling complex questions regarding redistribution of existing funds.

Developments in OA business models and infrastructure are improving the ability to monitor article OA status and spending, a step that is crucial to enabling institutions and research funders to make informed decisions about funding for Gold OA, in particular with regard to agreements with publishers (including transformative and fully OA agreements). However, there are still many APCs ‘in the wild’, in other words payments that are harder to monitor and that institutions and funders may be unaware of. This report explores the scale of ‘wild’ funding streams that remain for the most part unmonitored but which could be harnessed to accelerate a transition to OA.

Key findings:

  • APC funding is complex. Authors use a wide range of funding sources, often in combination
    • A survey of 1,014 Springer Nature authors (part one of this whitepaper) indicates that there is no dominant source of APC funding for authors publishing in either fully OA or hybrid journals. Authors are drawing on research funders, institutions, publisher agreements, and other sources (e.g. personal funds) to finance APC payments
    • Nearly half of respondents (47% of fully OA authors, 44% of hybrid OA authors) combine two or more of these main sources of funding in order to cover their APC
  • Monitoring is a challenge as many APCs are still ‘in the wild’, particularly for fully OA journals
    • There is wide variation in the ability of institutions to track APCs, according to interviews with sixteen institutions (part two of this whitepaper)
        • Although many (14/16) had workflows in place to track publications from the institution, far fewer were tracking APC payments. This is particularly true for author payments made ‘in the wild’, i.e. outside of funds centrally managed by the library or institution
        • While one interviewee estimated they track approximately 95% of all APCs, another stated that the vast majority of APC payments from authors from their university fell outside of their range
        • For a number of interviewees, the monitoring of APC payments is noted as being a “bureaucratic headache”, with resourcing within the library the biggest obstacle
    • 27% of Springer Nature authors surveyed used only ‘wild’ funding sources for their APC, and a further 50% combined an APC funding source ‘in the wild’ with funds from more easily monitored sources
      • The figure is even higher for fully OA Springer Nature authors:
        • 29% used only APC funding sources ‘in the wild’
        • 54% used a combination of ‘wild’ and more easily monitored APC funding sources
        • 17% used no APC funding sources ‘in the wild’
      • For Springer Nature hybrid authors:
        • 18% used only APC funding sources ‘in the wild’
        • 31% used a combination of wild and more easily monitored APC funding sources
        • 51% used no APC funding sources ‘in the wild’
      • The levels of APCs ‘in the wild’ are expected to be even higher among hybrid authors as a whole, since Springer Nature’s sample includes over a third of hybrid respondents whose APCs were supported by transformative agreements via Springer Compact
    • The level of APC ‘wildness’ also varies regionally, as different OA policies and funding mechanisms have created different landscapes
      • Among fully OA authors surveyed, the UK had the lowest levels of APCs ‘in the wild’, with 50% using funds ‘in the wild’, either alone (12.5%) or in combination with other funds (37.5%). This reflects the greater availability of dedicated APC funding streams from institutions and research funders
      • By contrast, 92% of fully OA authors in North America were using APC funding sources ‘in the wild’, either alone (35%) or in combination with other funds (57%)
      • For China the proportions are also high with 96% of fully OA authors using APC funding sources ‘in the wild’, either alone (29%) or in combination with other funds (67%)
    • 50% of fully OA and hybrid OA authors surveyed were not confident that their institution would be able to centrally monitor their APC
      An additional 8% of fully OA authors and 3% of hybrid OA authors thought it would be impossible for their institution to centrally monitor their APC
  • To support the OA transition institutions need a more comprehensive view of APC funding sources
    • Some institutions have identified workflows that enable monitoring
      • Methods have included institutional policies for authors to contact the library on acceptance of their article, or financial workflows, such as identification of payments via accounting codes
    • Analysis of the total costs of APC payments has in some cases enabled institutions to propose new centralised OA funding programmes
      • One interviewee estimated it would be able to cover 75% of all payments made in future
    • Publisher OA agreements offer a means to centralise APCs, reducing the OA funding and monitoring administrative burden
      • Among institutions interviewed, transformative agreements were acknowledged to reduce the administrative burden for institutions by centralising payments
    • Authors’ use of funds from outside of the library budget (other institutional funds or from research funders) demonstrates the opportunity for publisher OA agreements to consolidate multiple sources, as has been the case for some existing Springer Nature agreements
      • 40% of hybrid OA authors drew on funds from their research funder to cover their APC, while for fully OA authors the figure is even higher at 59%
      • Authors may also be using ad hoc institutional budgets that are not seen by the library or OA team, e.g. 29% of fully OA authors and 18% of hybrid OA authors drew on funds from their institution that were not dedicated to OA, and not part of publisher agreements

Further research is needed to identify APC monitoring blockers and enablers. Building on this report, Springer Nature will conduct an institutional survey with the aim of gaining a more global and representative picture of institutional activity around APC monitoring, and the blockers and enablers that affect success. By putting in place mechanisms for better and more comprehensive monitoring of APC payments, funders and institutions can drive forwards a faster transition to OA, harnessing these funding streams to finance OA at scale.






Executive summary


Part one: Author payments – data from researchers



Part two: The institutional role in APC tracking



Summary and conclusions


Appendix 1 – Additional data from author payment survey

Appendix 2 – Questions used in author survey

Appendix 3 – List of interviewees

Appendix 4 – Institutional interview questions