FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot: results of the first two years

The FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot has recently made an analysis of the results of the first ‘period’ of the Pilot – from May 2015 until April 30th 2017 –  in other words, this is the overview of all activity for the Pilot within the 2-year timeframe it was originally intended for.

The dataset it is based on is extracted from the statistics module on the Pilot website – edited, corrected and augmented manually with data obtained externally such as the data from the pre-payment agreements with selected publishers – in order to give a complete overview. This dataset is available on Zenodo (doi:10.5281/zenodo.998041). 4 months into the extension, some of the numbers will already be outdated, but we believe that the trends and conclusions discussed here are still valid, and that they can be used for prediction and projection until the end of the Pilot extension (in February 2018).

On April 30, 2017 a total amount of ca.  € 1 497 000 has been spent on a total of 857 publications. The average author fee paid is € 1747 – with an average of € 1 477 for articles and € 5 364 for monographs. Both averages are well below the imposed funding caps of € 2 000 for articles and € 6 000 for monographs.

The Pilot has funded 59 monographs and 1 conference proceeding, 11 book chapters and 786 articles in full open access journals (the Pilot does not fund publications in so-called hybrid journals, i.e. journals that offer open access for certain articles while the journal as a whole remains subscription based).

The countries with the highest number of funded requests are Spain and the UK, each at 128 publications. Italy, Germany and the Netherlands follow. In total, we have received requests from 36 countries.

Below, you can see the list of the most popular journals and book publishers with the average author fees paid. There have been two different funding caps: one for article processing charges, set at € 2 000 and one for book processing charges, set at € 6 000. However, the numbers below do not represent the huge differences between fees charged – not only to these vary per publisher, the fees can even vary within the same journal as discounts are often applied (on individual or institutional basis). For any analysis, averages need to be dealt with carefully. Especially for journal articles, we should also take into account the median value (which is € 1 4 13 for articles)


Journal Nr of publications funded Publisher Average APC paid
Scientific Reports 91 Nature Publishing Group € 1179
PLoS ONE 73 Public Library of Science (PLoS) € 1333
Nature Communications 34 Springer Nature € 1996
Sensors 22 MDPI AG € 1601
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics* 21 Copernicus GmbH € 1472
Optics Express 17 Optical Society of America € 1838
Biogeosciences* 16 Copernicus GmbH € 1308
Frontiers in Plant Science 14 Frontiers Media SA € 1869
BMC Genomics* 13 BioMedCentral € 1716
Frontiers in Microbiology 11 Frontiers Media SA € 1625


Out of the 59 books and monographs published, 47 where with the following publishers:

Book Publisher Nr of publications funded Average BPC paid
River Publishers 22 € 6 000
InTech 10 € 1 541
Ubiquity Press 8 € 3 261
Springer 7 € 5 260


Via the site, 672 articles in full Open Access Journals have been funded, for a total of € 980 012, 43. This leads to an average APC of € 1 458 and a median APC that is even lower, at € 1 413. The lowest APC funded was € 209. The 114 articles that have been funded via the pre-payment agreements with the publishers BMC, BMJ, Copernicus and Wiley have been funded for a total of € 180 958, 5. Part of the agreement was that these publishers would apply a discounted APC. The average APCs for these publishers is as follows: Wiley € 1411, BMC € 1 712, BMJ € 1 684 and Copernicus € 1 405. Adding these numbers to the submitted data, we arrive at a total of € 1 160 970, 93 spent on 786 (672 + 114) publications, leading to an average of €1 477 per publication.


Number Average author fee paid Total fees paid
Articles 786 € 1 477 € 1160 971
Monographs 59 € 5 364 € 316 449
Total 845 € 1 747 € 1496 811

Some remarks and conclusions:

  • There is a dedicated statistics site on the website which can be used for basic and combined extractions of the data generated by the system. However, this does not reflect fully the complicated combination of factors that can influence the analysis of author fees paid.
    • A first point to notice is that this data is based on information ingested in the system and therefore also copies their errors – whenever a submitter did not make use of the pre-filled information (such as publisher or institution information), this can influence the outputs as some inputs are classified separately while essentially they are identical. For proper analysis, this needed manual editing.
    • Another disturbing factor can be the conversion of other currencies to €. Especially with USD and GBP being rather volatile in the first quarter of 2017, the cap of € 2 000 was sometimes exceeded when converting.
    • A third factor to take into account is the different statuses of the publications. Although the Pilot encourages authors to submit only after acceptance (and thus the generation of an invoice), researchers often like to ‘play safe’ and use the submitting system as a manner of verification to check whether their publication or journal is actually eligible – or to ensure that their publication is one of the three publications allowed per project. This results in a lot of ‘noise’ in the dataset extracted from the system – with plenty of duplicates, incomplete requests and submissions without invoice. This often leads to inconsistent data, for example when one wants to count the number of publications per institution.
  • We can safely say that the average author fee for articles (APC) at € 1 477 lies well below our funding cap of € 2 000. The median, at € 1 413, is even lower.

  • The five countries with the highest uptake are UK, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain. Although it is difficult to point to one cause for this, it is safe to assume that this can be explained either because there is already a high awareness of author fee reimbursement policies (for example in UK and NL), or because there has been intensive promotion of the Pilot (such as in Spain). Of course, country population and number of eligible FP7 projects coordinated play a role as well
  • The most controversial clause in the Pilot conditions is without a doubt the ‘no hybrids’ clause. This clause is not only contested by those publishers who have a lot of hybrid journals in their portfolios, but also by researchers who often either have no idea whether their journal of choice is a hybrid or are used to their hybrid publications being funded by other funders. However, it is the Pilot administration subjective experience that, if explained properly, this clause is not problematic anymore
  • Prepayment agreements with publishers and block grants with libraries can lead to a significant increase in funding, as this takes away most of the administrative burden from the researcher. However, it is to be noted that the current workflows in place, while in all probability are rather efficient in detecting eligible publications, are suboptimal when it comes to statistical analysis.
  • It is important to stress to potential beneficiaries that the support provided via this Pilot is indeed a Pilot and cannot be considered as a structural support mechanism. We have seen a recent influx of questions from H2020 projects who want to know whether they can get support – there is low awareness of the fact that Open Access publishing costs are to be included in the budget of these projects.

The dataset on which this report is based can be found on Zenodo (doi: 10.5281/zenodo.998042). Some of the data has been prepared by my predecessor at LIBER, Pablo de Castro – currently employed at Strathclyde University. Sincere thanks are in place.

Gwen Franck

Open Access Programme Coordinator at EIFL - Electronic Information for Libraries / Open Access Project Officer at LIBER - Association of European Research Libraries

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