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Journal Comparison Service: analysis of the 2022 data


The Journal Comparison Service has been developed by cOAlition S to shed light on publishing fees and services. It enables those who procure publishing services to better understand how journals and publishers compare on a range of key indicators. 

In this blog post, we provide an overview of the data held within the system, before looking in more detail at the 2022 data.  Mindful of the fact that some of these data – especially those that relate to the prices charged for specific services – are considered confidential, we will aggregate and anonymise the data for this report. 

Publisher participation: an overview 

Table 1, below, provides an at-a-glance summary of publisher participation in the JCS. Between 2021 and 2022, the total number of publishers providing data increased slightly, from 28 to 33. Nevertheless, this number remains disappointingly low, especially in light of the increasingly louder calls for greater price transparency, as evidenced, for example in the recent conclusions from the Council of the European Union, the NIH plan on public access, and a statement from LIBER

JCS participation 2021 2022 
Participating publishers 28 33 
Participating journals 2172 1871 
Publishers using the IP framework 17 19 
Publishers using the FOAA framework 11 14 
Journals using the IP framework 2000 1668 
Journals using the FOAA framework 172 203 
Table 1:  participation in the JCS – an overview

Of the 28 publishers who shared data in 2021, all but one (Common Grounds Research Networks) continued to provide data in 2022; a retention rate of 96%. 

The data also shows that although both frameworks are being used, the number of titles making use of the IP framework massively outweighs those using the FOAA framework, with some 1668 (89%) journals using the Information Power one in 2022.  

Table 1 also shows that despite the slight increase in the number of publishers participating in the JCS, the total number of journals in the 2022 dataset fell from 2171 titles to 1871; a decline of 14%. Detailed analysis at the publisher level (see Annex A) shows that titles published by Wiley were primarily responsible for this reduction, with 23% fewer journals providing data. Most significantly, the overwhelming majority of 391 journals which did not permit Wiley to share their 2022 data, were titles which Wiley publishes on behalf of others, such as learned societies. Efforts will be made to reach out to these societies to encourage them to deposit data, either via Wiley, or by creating their own account on the JCS, in much the same way as EMBO Press have done.

2022 data 

For the rest of this blog, we will focus exclusively on the 2022 dataset, and analyse it by APC, discipline, and price and service elements.   

We recognise, however, that we can only report on data provided to the JCS and thus the analysis presented may not be applicable to all academic journals and publishers.  That said, the dataset is from a diverse set of publishers, publishing across all disciplines and as such is likely to be indicative of general trends. 

APC data 

Recognising that some publishers may offer different priced APCs, the JCS asks publishers to provide a “low” and a “high” APC.  Data provided for these two elements can be identical.  Equally, if a publisher charges zero APCs (i.e. Diamond model) then this can also be recorded. 

Taking the higher APC figure for 2022 – and having converted all APCs into US$[1], the currency most frequently used by publishers participating in the JCS – Figure 1 shows how the APCs vary over this dataset.  

Figure 1: Distribution of APCs 

In summary, as shown in Figure 2 below, 125 (7%) journals have an APC of zero, whilst 349 (19%) have an APC of less than $1000.  In contrast, some 37 titles have an APC of $5000 or more. The median APC is $2940, whilst the average is $2648.   

Figure 2: Journal Comparison Service: APC statistics 

Disciplinary data 

The JCS also requires publishers to provide information about the primary subject discipline of each journal, using the controlled vocabulary set out in the Frascati manual, 2015.  The full disciplinary breakdown can be seen in Annex B, but for ease of understanding Figure 3 provides a summary. 

 Figure 3: JCS data by subject discipline 

To understand how disciplinary differences might impact the prices levied for different services, we looked at two broad disciplines, namely ‘medical and health sciences’ (referred to hereafter as MHS) and ‘social sciences / humanities’ (SSH).  By combining journals in the humanities and social science disciplines, the number of journals totalled 393, broadly comparable with the number of journals in the MHS discipline.  It also ensured that we were comparing similar number of publishers; 10 for the MHS journals, and 12 for the SSH titles. 

APCs by discipline 

Table 2 provides a summary as to how APCs varied across these two datasets.  

 Average APC Median APC No. titles with APC = $0.00 APC range  
MHS titles (n=543) $2792 $3060 9 (2%) $0 – $5300 
SSH titles(n=393) $2519 $2940 55 (14%) $0 – $4940 
Table 2: Comparing APCs across disciplines

The broadly similar average and median APCs across both disciplines is surprising, as the common perception is that APCs in SSH titles tend to be lower than in MHS journals. This, however, may be an artefact of the data and the fact that one publisher – Wiley (excluding Hindawi) – is responsible for publishing over 60% of all journals listed in the JCS. 

The finding that 14% of all SSH titles in the JCS charge no APCs is broadly in line with other analyses on diamond publishing, which show that this equitable approach to OA is more common in SSH than in other disciplines.  

Price & service data 

One of the core functions of the JCS is to provide registered End Users with information as to how the various services that publishers provide – managing peer review, copy editing, marketing etc. – contribute to the total price charged. 

This however, is made more challenging by dint of the fact that the JCS currently allows publishers to provide data using either the Information Power framework – developed specifically for the JCS – or one based on the Fair Open Access Alliance framework.  Although there were sound reasons for supporting both frameworks – not least the fact that some publishers had already started to use the FOAA one – we now believe the time is right to review this decision. The JCS Advisory Panel will discuss a recommendation to move exclusively to the IP framework at their Spring 2024 meeting. 

The analysis below uses data from those publishers who provided information using the IP framework.   

Focusing on the two broad disciplines discussed above, the following findings emerged (Table 3).  

Service/Price element MHS titles: n=526 SSH titles: n=317 
Key service elements 
Research articles published (median): 101 52 
Acceptance rate (median/average): 24%/27% 21%/26% 
Desk rejection rate (median): 60% 69% 
Median number of reviews: 
Median no. of days to first decision 22 days 32 days 
Median no. of days to undertake peer review  33 days 64 days 
Median no. of days from acceptance to publication 20 days 21 days 
Price elements – publishers indicate what % of the price is spent on each element.  
(Table shows median data and thus may not add up to 100%) 
Price Breakdown: Journal Community Development 27% 34% 
Price Breakdown: Journal Submission on First Decision 7% 6% 
Price Breakdown: Peer Review 14% 14% 
Price Breakdown: Services Acceptance Publication 15% 12% 
Price Breakdown: Services Post Publication 2% 1% 
Price Breakdown: Platform Development Support 5% 5% 
Price Breakdown: Sales Marketing 10% 8% 
Price Breakdown: Author Customer Support 2% 2% 
Table 3: Service and price elements in the JCS: MHS vs SSH journals

Note: for definitions of what is included in each service/price element, see here. 

Because of the need to aggregate and anonymise the data before publicly sharing it in this blog, Table 4 can only provide a flavour of the potential richness of the JCS.  

That said, even at this level, we can see that the median time for SSH titles to make a first decision (desk reject or send a manuscript to peer review) is 32 days, compared with 22 days for MHS titles, whilst the time to manage the peer review process for SSH titles (64 days) is almost twice as long as it takes journals in the MHS disciplines to complete this activity. 

In terms of the percentage of the price spent on providing the various services, there is very little difference (at this aggregate level) between the two disciplines. Interestingly, the percentage allocated to managing the peer review service – arguably the most critical service publishers provide – is identical at 14%. 

The largest price element in both disciplines is allocated to the “Journal Community Development” price bucket, which is defined as “activities to establish or develop the journal so that articles can be submitted (i.e. identify a need for the journal, its aims and scope development, investment in funding for the field, editorial board costs, commissioning content, competitor analysis, benchmarking, policy development, and portfolio development)”. How useful this catch-all bucket is to those who make purchasing decisions is something the Advisory Panel will be asked to comment on. 

Further analysis 

As this piece has already made clear, the need to respect the sensitive nature of the JCS data limits what can be disclosed in a public forum. However, registered End Users – on the understanding that they do not share the data outside their organisation – are not subject to these restrictions: they can use the JCS to compare different publishers and different journals to help determine if the price they are being charged is commensurate with the services provided.  

If you are involved in procuring publishing services but do not yet have an account on the JCS, applications can be submitted via: https://journalcomparisonservice.org.  

Annex A – Publisher participation in the JCS

Name of Publisher 2021: No. of journals in JCS 2022: No. of journals in JCS 
About Science 
Beilstein Institute 
Bio-protocol [New in 2022
Common Ground Research Networks  66 
Company of Biologists 
Copernicus Publications 37 41 
EMBO Press 
European Respiratory Society 
Frontiers 126 168 
Hindawi 220 235 
IWA Publishing 14 14 
Institute of Slavic Studies [New in 2022
International Union of Crystallographers 10 10 
JMIR Publications 25 29 
John Wiley  1470 1125 
Journal of Universal Computer Science 
Meise Botanic Garden 
National Institute of Telecommunications [New in 2022
Nordic Africa Research Network [New in 2022
Open Library of Humanities 24 24 
Pensoft Publishers 42 42 
PLOS  12 
Portland Press [New in 2022
Polish Botanical Garden  
PsychOpen GOLD [New in 202215 
Rockefeller University Press 
Royal College of General Practitioners 
Royal Society of Chemistry 43 47 
Royal Society 10 10 
Ubiquity Press 35 35 
Total 2172 1871 

Annex B – JCS titles: breakdown by discipline

Subject No. of journals 
1. Natural sciences 57 
1.1 Mathematics 31 
1.2 Computer and information sciences 27 
1.3 Physical sciences 50 
1.4 Chemical sciences 106 
1.5 Earth and related environmental sciences 90 
1.6 Biological sciences 186 
1.7 Other natural sciences 24 
2. Engineering and technology 45 
2.1 Civil engineering 
2.2 Electrical engineering, electronic engineering, information engineering 51 
2.3 Mechanical engineering 11 
2.4 Chemical engineering 
2.5 Materials engineering 11 
2.6 Medical engineering 
2.7 Environmental engineering 
2.9 Industrial biotechnology 
2.10 Nano-technology 
2.11 Other engineering and technologies 26 
3. Medical and Health Sciences 123 
3.1 Basic medicine 65 
3.2 Clinical medicine 173 
3.3 Health Sciences 162 
3.4 Medical biotechnology 
3.5 Other medical sciences 11 
4. Agricultural and veterinary sciences 
4.1 Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries 74 
4.2 Animal and dairy science 17 
4.3 Veterinary Science 17 
5. Social sciences 
5.1 Psychology and cognitive sciences 86 
5.2 Economics and business 99 
5.3 Education 18 
5.4 Sociology 44 
5.5 Law 
5.6 Political science 17 
5.7 Social and economic geography 10 
5.8 Media and communications 
5.9 Other social sciences 14 
6.1 History and archaeology 14 
6.2 Languages and literature 23 
6.3 Philosophy, ethics, and religion 21 
6.4 Arts (arts, history of arts, performing arts, music) 
6.5 Other humanities 
All disciplines 
All HSS disciplines 20 
All STEM disciplines 66 
Total 1871 

[1] 1605 titles reported the APC in US$.  4 titles used CHF; 133 titles used EUR, 121 titles used GBP and 8 titles used PLN). Average exchange rate from Euro to USD in 2022: 1.0538 USD; Average exchange rate from GBP to Dollar GBP:USD 1.249458, Average exchange rate of CHF in 2022: 1.0481 USD. PLN APCs were 0.

Robert Kiley

Robert Kiley is Head of Strategy at cOAlition S, working to accelerate the transition to full and immediate Open Access. Prior to this, he was Head of Open Research at the Wellcome Trust, where he was responsible for developing and implementing their open research strategy. Over the past decade, Robert has played a leading role in the implementation of Wellcome's open access policy and overseeing the development of the Europe PubMed Central repository. He also led the development - in partnership with Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society - of eLife, the open-access research journal, launched in 2012. More recently he championed the work to create a new open publishing platform for Wellcome researchers – Wellcome Open Research. Robert is a qualified librarian and an Associate Member of CILIP. He is a Board member of Open Research Central and served for 6 years on the ORCID Board of Directors.