Experience from the Field – Open Access Article Options

Giving authors the opportunity to make their articles within subscription journals open access

As discussed earlier in this issue, Elsevier’s open access article options offer authors the opportunity to make individual articles within subscription journals available open access.

Biophysical Journal has experienced a reasonable uptake of this option and we asked Editor-in-Chief, Professor Edward Egelman, for his thoughts. He says: “While I do not view the open access option that we offer as highly significant, it remains a useful source of revenue for Biophysical Journal.”

He adds: “We have some papers, where research has been supported by HHMI or the Wellcome Trust, which require the authors to use our open access option. This option involves a payment for immediate open access for that paper, as opposed to our normal policy of providing access to subscribers for one year, after which all of our papers are freely available to everyone. If we look at the last 24 papers published in Biophysical Journal with open access, only seven of these have been supported by HHMI or Wellcome. The rest have used other funds to pay for this open access, and we do not know if the open access was mandated by the source of the funds.”

In terms of the importance of sponsored articles within the field, Professor Egelman is yet to be convinced. He says: “The reason that I feel that the open access option is not terribly important within the biophysical community is that the vast majority of people who are reading and citing our papers within the first year after publication are either at institutions which have subscriptions to the journal, or are members of the Biophysical Society, where access to the Biophysical journal is one of the benefits of membership. I do not see many individuals who are involved in biophysical research who would not have such access to the journal.”

Keeping it fair and square

In relation to Professor Egelman’s comments, it is important that we discuss the element of pricing. Currently, Elsevier charges a standard charge for sponsorship of $3,000 across our journals, with Cell Press and The Lancet being the only exceptions. We do not differentiate our pricing according to journals, nor in different disciplines of science and medicine. This is something that we are evaluating and we would ask you to provide feedback to your publishing contact on the appropriate pricing of this option within your field.

Further to this, and to expand on our discussion about 'double dipping' in the article Open Access: Developing New Publishing Models, it is important that we distinguish and account for revenue we receive from subscriptions and from sponsored articles within the same journal. To do this, we have developed an approach to ensure that revenue from sponsored articles is taken into consideration when setting journal prices.

First, we correct our prices across the overall Elsevier list price, so the average price is corrected in relation to this additional revenue. Next, as there are significant differences in uptake of sponsored articles at journal level, we correct journal prices at individual journal level too, so the higher the percentage of sponsored articles in a particular journal, the higher the correction to that individual journal’s price. We believe this is a fair way to ensure we do not double dip and, even though open access article option uptake remains a very low percentage of our total revenue (less than 1%), we take this no double dipping policy extremely seriously. As the uptake increases, this may have a more profound influence on our journal pricing moving forwards, but we have not seen a huge growth in uptake and, consequently, this correction remains at a low level.

This is a topic on which we would greatly appreciate the opinion of our Editors. You can post your comments below, or please feel free to raise it with your publishing contact.

Peer Review and Open Access

There have been some questions around the continued quality of peer review in an open access environment, as several 'mega journals' have been launched by other publishers. These journals often operate under a 'sound science' perspective, which does not assert a quality seal in accordance to the aims and scope of a journal.

Elsevier remains firmly committed to upholding the principles of quality peer review. To us, whether a journal is subscription or open access is not of any significance when it comes to assuring the publication of the highest quality articles within our journals. We continue to support industry initiatives such as CrossCheck, which screens published and submitted content for originality. We are also committed to the development of our own peer-review initiatives and pilots - more information on these will be available in the next issue of Editors’ Update.

Author biography

David TempestDavid Tempest
David’s role focuses on the development of a wide range of strategies and implementation of access initiatives and he is a key contact between Elsevier and funding organizations, universities and research institutions around the world. He has worked at Elsevier for more than 15 years, including periods in both editorial and marketing positions, and spent the majority of his career managing the scientometric research and market analysis department within the company. David speaks frequently at various global events about the development of new universal access initiatives and technologies, as well as publishing matters in general.  He has a BSc in pharmacology from the University of Sunderland and an MBA with distinction from Oxford Brookes University.

Archived Comments

Alan Baddeley CBE FRS FBA says: March 28, 2012 at 8:50 am

I am semi-retired , working in cognitive psychology, an area where I can continue to be active without the need for grants. I publish around 6 papers a year in good journals. This is possible because most journals in my area still do not charge. If payment becomes obligatory, I will simply have to cease publishing. Can you assure me that the system will allow people like me to continue publication?

David Tempest says: March 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Dear Professor Baddeley,

I thank you for your comments.

We believe that authors should have (and should continue to have) a choice on how they wish to publish in our journals. Consequently we will continue to support all methods of publication and provide you with the service that you require.

I hope this provides the assurance that you need.

Best wishes


Richard Laven says: April 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I would like to completely agree with Prof. Baddeley. With the rush to open access, the cost of publication via that method is often forgotten. I have looked at publishing open-access but the cost of publication, even with companies that seem to be making no profit, is often more than the cost of the research. We need both model

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