Counting the costs of Open Access

When article processing and staff costs are included, OA compliance cost the UK over £20million in the last academic year.

A study conducted by Research Consulting on behalf of SPARC Europe and London Higher set out to discover the true costs of complying with RCUK OA policy.

A web based survey, open to all of the UK’s higher education (HE) institutions, was followed by case study discussions and supplemented by data from other sources including the Higher Education Statistics Agency, RCUK and HEFCE.

Main findings

  • The cost to UK HE institutions and public sector research establishments of implementing the RCUK open access policy in the 2013/14 academic year was at least £9.2million
    • This figure excludes article processing charges
    • Administration (staff costs) is responsible for the biggest cost – estimated at £3.2 million
    • The total administrative staff time dedicated to implementing OA equates to 95 full time equivalent staff members (FTEs)
    • The equivalent of 16 FTE academic staff is required.

Article processing charges

  • The report identifies the key stages of processing Gold OA articles and calculates that on average the cost of article processing is £81 per article.
  • The cost of depositing an article into an institutional repository (Green OA) is £33.

Recommendations for cutting costs

  • Staff time accounts for the largest proportion of costs.  In particular, senior level staff are involved in policy development, advocacy and infrastructure development to support OA and these levels are not expected to be reduced in the next few years.
  • However, some time-costs may be reduced as institutions begin to improve processes and share good practice.
  • The costs of Gold OA are increased by the time spent liaising with publishers.
    • Born OA publishers are much easier to deal with
    • Prepay arrangements with publishers significantly reduce time
    • A reduction in the number of ‘difficult’ cases would significantly reduce costs
    • Costs of Green OA could possibly be reduced by developing a quick and easy deposit processes

 The full report is available here.