Wait Until This Bill Arrives . . .

Transformative agreements centralize costs, so when the neutron star of APCs forms at major research institutions, things are going to get heated

A recent section of Clarke & Esposito’s excellent newsletter, “The Brief,” bears more than a little extra scrutiny and amplification.

Describing the neutron star of APC costs at the center of major research institutions, which is coalescing under intense internal and external policy pressures, the authors write:

Back in 2009, Phil Davis described it as “a publication model that costs much more than the system we have in place today.” Blogger Pablo K saw this happening back in 2012 when the Research Councils UK policy was first being put in place. All of this likely seemed an abstract threat in the US, and something worth putting on the back burner in the drive to OA, at least until the Nelson Memo turned it into an urgent concern.

A look at the numbers makes the scale of this problem more evident. According to Dimensions, MIT published some 8,337 articles in 2022. At an average APC of $3,000 (perhaps a bit higher than the average APC, but MIT authors are likely to be publishing in higher-ranked and more expensive journals), that works out to $25 million in payments per year. Harvard published 32,291 articles in 2022, which would be close to $97 million in annual author fee payments. Remember, Harvard has been a leader in the push to OA, and back in 2012 stated that they could not afford to pay $3.5 million in annual journal subscriptions.

There’s more to their analysis, and I encourage you to read it.  

As a recognizable marker, the Harvard subscription burden is worth analyzing more. Back in 2019, the Chronicle of Higher Education published library budget data across more than 900 academic institutions, revealing subscription expenditures compared to other materials expenditures, salaries, and so forth.

It didn’t support the narrative of unsupportable subscription costs.