Some time ago, I twitted asking about what would be the best cost/benefit for open access (OA) publishing in the field of computational chemistry.

I’ve got a lot of interesting feedback, and I’d like to share with the community some of this information.

Before going on, let me warn that I’m no specialist on this OA topic. Likely, some of the information below may be imprecise or even mistaken. Thus, check everything by yourself, and if you know better, just let me know, and I can fix it here.

The starters

Let me start by defining a few terms and concepts.

Concerning the paper, there are three different objects:

  • Original Manuscript (OM): this is the version of the manuscript that the authors prepared and submitted to a journal.
  • Accepted Manuscript (AM): this is the final version of the manuscript prepared by the authors when it is accepted, but still before any enhancement or formatting by the publisher.
  • Version of record (VoR): this is the final version of the paper with the journal formatting.

Concerning the type of access, we have:

  • Preprint: the authors self-archive the OM in a public repository (like ArXiv or ChemRxiv). Anyone can access and read the work without paying any fee or subscription.
  • Green OA: the authors self-archive the AM or VoR in a public, non-commercial repository (like HAL or Zenodo). Anyone can access and read the work without paying any fee or subscription.
  • Gold OA: Anyone can access and read the VoR at the journal’s website without paying any fee or subscription. The article processing charge (APC) is paid by the authors.
  • Paid access: To access a paper, the reader should have a journal subscription (usually, institutional) or pay for the paper.

Concerning journals, there are basically two categories:

  • Full OA: the journal only publishes Gold OA papers.
  • Hybrid OA/subscription: the journal publishes both Gold OA and paid access papers.

Journal’s menu

I collected some information about some journals relevant to my field (physical chemistry, computational chemistry, molecular physics). This information includes the journal impact factor (2019), type of publication (Full OA / Hybrid), Green OA availability, and Gold OA publication charges.

You can open this Table in Google Docs.

The APCs for Gold OA are in Euros and don’t include VAT.

Institutional, regional, and other discounts may apply.

Excepting for PeerJ Phys Chem, this table only shows journals with impact factors reported by Clarivate. You can find information about other journals in this blog post by Jan Jensen.

So, how is the preprint today?

Usually, authors can submit their paper as a preprint before submitting it to a journal. I have heard of journals that may not accept it, but in my field, preprints are generally welcome. Note that all journals in this list accept submission of manuscripts that have been already appeared as a preprint.

Many institutions and funding agencies require preprint self-archiving or even Green OA. My university, for instance, requires that we self-archive the OM at the French repository HAL.

Feeling a Green OA option?

In H2020 grants (like ERC and FetOpen), Green OA with a maximum 6-months embargo is mandatory, as defined in Article 29.2 of the grant agreement. It means that the AM of a paper funded by these grants must be free to anyone no later than 6 months after publication.

Most journals will impose some kind of restrictions on Green OA. As I show in the Table, in my field, they usually only allow Green OA after 12 months embargo.

This means that H2020 grantees cannot count on this option, as they should have Green OA no later than 6 months.

A notable exception among the hybrid journals is the J Chem Phys, which allows free and immediate Green OA of the AM!

In the full OA journals, when authors pay for Gold OA, Green OA of both AM and VOR is usually allowed as part of the license.

Gold OA: Who is paying the bill?

The publication fees (APC) for Gold OA are generally scorching!

Among the publishers, RSC has the most reasonable fees. ACS has the highest fees.

Note, however, that the final ACS price may be much lower than the full price in the Table, as authors may have institutional and ACS membership cumulative discounts. The price may drop from €3387 to about €2760. But it can also go higher if the authors opt for a CC-BY license.

Curiously, the APC doesn’t correlate with impact factor, as we see in the figure above. On the contrary, publishing Gold OA in a journal with JIF lower than 2 is pretty expensive, reaching €3150 in Int J Quantum Chem.

Between JIF 2 and 4, there are several reasonably priced journals; the cheapest option is RSC Adv, €832.

The sweet spot, of course, is Chem Sci, which is for free!

Why are full OA journals popping out lately?

You probably heard about Plan S, which is an initiative of several funding agencies to make mandatory to publish in Full OA journal from 2021.

For this reason, many Hybrid journals are creating Full OA twin versions, like Chem Phys Lett X or JACS Au.

Journals are like wine

Well, I hope this information helps you to make an informed decision concerning OA.

As for me, from now on, I’m choosing journals like I chose wine: with an eye on the right column of the menu.