The sheer scale of hybrid journal publishing

The last few years have seen a significant rise in what are termed ‘hybrid open access journals’, where only some of the articles are freely available to read and a subscription is still required to read the remainder. As many journals require payment from authors to publish in this fashion, then university libraries need to pay subscriptions to read the remaining articles, publishers are in effect being paid twice for the same work.

With recently published data from the Wellcome Trust, the scale of this double charging has become much more clear.

In Oct 2012 – Sept 2013, academics spent £3.88 million to publish articles in journals with immediate online access – of which £3.17 million (82 % of costs, 74 % of papers) was paying for publications that Universities would then be charged again for. For perspective, this is a figure slightly larger than the Wellcome Trust paid in 2012/2013 on their Society & Ethics portfolio.

Only £0.70 million of the charity’s £3.88m didn’t have any form of double charging (ie, was published in a “Pure Open Access” journal) – with this total being dominated by articles published in PLOS and BioMed Central journals (68 % of total ‘pure’ hybrid journal costs, 80 % of paper total).

Top 5 publishers by total cost to Wellcome Trust


No. of articles

Maximum Cost

Average Cost

Total Cost (nearest £1000)

Elsevier (inc. Cell Press)















Oxford University Press





Nature Publishing Group (not inc. Frontiers)





Top 5 publishers by total cost to Wellcome Trust – separated into money spent on author charges for articles appearing in hybrid and pure open access journals


Journal Type

No. of articles

Max Cost

Average Cost

 Total Cost (nearest £)







Pure OA











Pure OA











Pure OA





Oxford University Press






Pure OA





Nature Publishing Group






Pure OA





Wellcome Trust pays nearly £1 million to Elsevier, and pays over £500,000 to Wiley-Blackwell to make articles freely available on point of publication, in journals that a university library will also be trying to find money to also pay subscription fees to. These are outrageously high sums of money! Especially given a recent explosion in the number of journals, and an increase in journal prices, means even well-funded libraries can no longer afford the cost of subscribing to many journals!

Journal articles should be published in a way that means they are freely available – and not just to academics, but also to wider public audiences. And I’m not critical of article processing charges. However, I’m unsure how any publisher can justify charging an academic an average cost of £2,443 to publish in a journal that is already being supported by library subscriptions from not just one university, but many universities around the world. And surely no cost based model should charge more for publication in a hybrid journal with multiple funding streams than in one supported purely on author charges (as appears to be the case with Wiley-Blackwell).


Data source found here

Original data: Kiley, Robert (2014): Wellcome Trust APC spend 2012-13: data file. figshare

Enhancements on original data made by Cameron Neylon:

Wiley-Blackwell open access licenses – clarity needed

Update – the Vice-President & Director of Open Access from Wiley has responded below.

Alongside the awesome Theo Andrew, I’ve been leading the crowd sourcing effort to explore the Wellcome Trust Article Processing Charge data (Original data found here). This effort is still on-going, so please do have a look if you have even a few minutes to spare.

I’ve found an interesting case when looking at the licenses of work published in Wiley-Blackwell journals.

Every Wiley-Blackwell article I’ve looked at so far makes the statement: “Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5, which does not permit commercial exploitation.” (For an example, see the image below).

This isn’t my understanding of ‘Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5’ at all.

CC BY (as it is otherwise known), allows for any use, including commercial use, as long as you “give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.” (Text taken from Creative Commons CC BY 2.5 human readable summary).

Creative Commons have spent a lot of time ensuring that the licenses are incredibly easy to understand, but it seems the license statement here from the publishers is deliberately difficult to understand and contradicting the actual meaning of CC BY licenses.

Have I gotten confused about Creative Commons licenses? Or have Wiley-Blackwell?

If it’s not clear to me – someone who spends a lot of time thinking about open access and licensing – it’s hardly going to be clear to other academics and professionals who should be able to spend time focusing on research, rather than spending time talking to lawyers.