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Friday, June 05, 2009

A careful confirmation that 70+% of OA journals charge no fees

Stuart Shieber, What percentage of open-access journals charge publication fees?  The Occasional Pamphlet, May 29, 2009.  Excerpt:

In the popular conception, open-access journals generate revenue by charging publication fees. The popular conception turns out to be false....You can verify this yourself using some software I provide in this post.

The first study of what we’ll call the “publication-fee percentage”, by Kaufman and Wills, showed that fewer than half of the OA journals they looked at charge publication fees. The figure for publication-fee percentage they report is about 47%. (For convenience, we put all publication-fee percentages in boldface in this post.) Following on from this, Suber and Sutton provided a figure of 16.7% for scholarly society journals charging publication fees.

Bill Hooker came up with a clever way of calculating a figure for publication fee percentage, by taking advantage of the publication fee metadata hidden in the “for authors” journal listings at the Directory of Open Access Journals to calculate the figure as of December 2007....Depending on the disposition of the “information missing” cases, Hooker’s study indicates that 18-33% of OA journals charge fees.

Hooker performed his study using a combination of automated and manual methods. In particular, he apparently used manual effort to eliminate the hybrid journal listings. But it isn’t difficult to write software to perform the entire analysis automatically, which allows anyone to replicate the results him- or herself. Unfortunately, the OAI-PMH feed that DOAJ kindly provides doesn’t include the crucial information of whether journals charge fees and whether they are pure or hybrid OA journals, so I, like Hooker, resorted to screen-scraping. The method is effective, if inelegant.

Here are the results computed by my software, as of May 26, 2009:


No charges

Information missing



The numbers are consistent with those of Hooker’s study some 16 months earlier. You’ll see that the total number of full OA journals is up from 2967 to 4110, and the number with missing information has been halved from 15% to about 7%. The reduction in those with missing information seems to have gone more to those with fees than those without, so that the percentage charging fees is up some 5% and those not charging fees only up 3%. Again, depending on the “information missing” cases, the range of fee-charging journals is 23-30%. Assuming that the missing information cases are similar in distribution to those that were resolved over the last year, the figure would be about 27%. That leaves 73% of OA journals, the overwhelming bulk, charging no fees.

Anyone interested in replicating the results should feel free to use the simple Python script below, provided without warranty....

Comment.  This is important for two reasons.  First, it's new confirmation that most OA journals charge no publication fees.  Like Hooker's earlier study, it covers all the OA journals listed in the DOAJ.  Second, it provides a Python script (omitted here) to repeat the census at any time, allowing us to watch how the number changes over time.  Thanks to Stuart for writing the script and for opening the source.