SCOAP3 outlines its impact on open access publishing

The SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics) executive committee on November 18 held an online forum to discuss the partnership’s impact since its founding nearly two years ago. SCOAP3 works with publishers to convert articles concerned with High Energy Physics (HEP) to open access by redirecting existing subscription funds. Its members include libraries, publishers, funding agencies and research centers in more than 40 countries with CERN acting as the administrative host.

At the start of its operations in January 2014 only 15 countries and CERN were represented through member organizations. That number has since grown to 46, geographically expanding SCOAP3 outside of North America, Western Europe and Asia and into Central America, Africa, the Middle East and more. “The robust growth of SCOAP3 in the first two years of operation has been extremely encouraging,” says Ivy Anderson, interim executive director of the California Digital Library and a member of the SCOAP3 executive committee.

SCOAP3 has agreements with six publishers (Elsevier, Hindawi, IOP Publishing, Jagiellonian University, Oxford University Press and Springer) who collectively publish ten physics associated journals. “The Goal of SCOAP3,” says Anderson, “is not to create new journals that would require entirely new infrastructure and be disruptive to science and to scientists, but to enable the existing journals that are the primary dissemination outlets for high energy physics… to convert to open access in a[s] seamless and transparent a way as possible.”

As of mid-November 2015, SCOAP3 had published over 8,100 open access articles in these journals, accounting for over 50 percent of all HEP articles published since its founding, according to information provided by SCOAP3 during the online forum.

Through its administrative team at CERN, SCOAP3 contracts with each publisher to pay one publishing fee for the total number of anticipated articles in a given year. Publishing costs, called APCs (Article Processing Charges) are typically invoiced on a per article basis and paid by a researcher, library or institution. SCOAP3 bundles the money its members would otherwise pay to individually publish articles or subscribe to journals and negotiates one rate for services, meaning that the amount SCOAP3 pays doesn’t change based on the number of articles published. If a given journal publishes more articles than anticipated, the additional cost to SCOAP3 is zero. This arrangement has driven the average effective APC that SCOAP3 pays per article to levels below other institutions. In 2014, according to SCOAP3, it paid an average effective APC of $1,189 for each article published while other groups, including the Wellcome Trust and UK higher education institutions, paid over $2300.

After publication, SCOAP3 routinely checks for open access compliance, running scripts to verify that articles are posted on time and are available for free in the formats requested. “I’m really pleased to say we are at 99.98 percent,” says Alex Kohls, SCOAP3’s operations manager. “Only one of our 4,200 articles last year (2014) was not compliant, which I think is a pretty remarkable result. And I think it’s a combination of some really good service we receive from our publishing partners, but obviously also the result of these very close and stringent tests and validations that we are doing.”

This push to lower costs and to publish open access has driven both submissions and membership at SCOAP3. Some 18,000 authors from 90 countries have contributed to articles published by SCOAP3, including several from non-member countries and institutions. “(E)everybody is free to use our journals,” says Kohls.

SCOAP3 in the coming year hopes to add members from Australia and to contract with additional publishers, including APS Physics, to expand the range of its impact and to make even more HEP articles available in open access.