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Gold Open Access? A Snapshot of HKUST Journal Articles Publishing

HKUST authors publish over 2,000 journal papers every year, how many of them are openly accessible? The Library analyzed our institutional publishing profile, the study will help us when we negotiate new contracts with publishers.

Gold Open Access (OA) is the paid-option that many journal publishers now offer to authors. Upon acceptance of a paper to a journal with this option, authors have to pay the Article Processing Charge (APC), to have the final published version of the paper immediately accessible to all readers. APCs vary widely from publisher to publisher; lower end is around USD1,000; some charge much higher. How much of HKUST papers are currently published with Gold OA? Recently the Library conducted a study to find out. We retrieved publication data from the database Scopus, and analyzed the OA portion as well as journals and publishers. This post shows you some of our findings.

Publishing Volume of HKUST Authors

A search in Scopus for articles and conference papers affiliated with HKUST gave us these counts:

Year All Papers OA Papers
2015 1829 350
2016 1972 455
2017 1960 414
2018 2171 485
2019 2372 483

(Scopus search conducted on March 11, 2020)

The data from the past 5 years shows that:

  • HKUST research output has been rising in general
  • The portion of OA has remained stable at the level of 20%.

Publishing Venues

Analyzing the papers in these 5 years, we find that most of the HKUST work has been published with a handful of major STEM publishers. Prominently we see Elsevier had a share of over a quarter of our output.

Publishers have different policies to OA publishing. It is therefore not surprising to see the proportion changed when we narrow down to OA papers.

As it turned out, most of HKUST OA papers were published with SpringerNature journals, rather than Elsevier’s:

  No. of OA papers % out of all papers with that publisher
SpringerNature 668 49%
APS 180 47%
IOP 32 19%
Taylor & Francis 27 10%
Elsevier 275 10%
AIP 14 10%
RSC 65 10%
Wiley 74 9%
IEEE 64 6%


SpringerNature’s figure is high because they publish 4 prominent Full OA journals that are popular among HKUST authors:

Popular Journals where HKUST Authors Publish OA Papers

  • Scientific Reports – SpringerNature
  • Journal of High Energy Physics – SpringerNature
  • European Physical Journal C – SpringerNature
  • Nature Communications – SpringerNature
  • Physics Letters B – Elsevier
  • Physical Review D – American Physical Society
  • Physical Review Letters – American Physical Society
  • PNAS – National Academy of Sciences
  • PLOS ONE Public Library of Science
  • IEEE Access – IEEE
  • Chemical Science Royal Society of Chemistry

Why Should we Care About These Figures?

Academic publishing is a complex system. While authors make their personal decisions which journals to submit papers, universities take their affiliated publications collectively as the institutional research output. With OA options becoming better recognized, it is also demonstrated that OA papers have higher impact, should we encourage authors to choose OA publishing? Is supporting the hefty APC a good option? Many libraries and publishers started to experiment new payment models that cover both journal subscription and APC, would that be a sensible strategies?

These are all complicated issues. The Library conducted this study to get a better picture of our university research output, as well as the publishing behaviors of our authors. The data will help us make informed decisions when it comes to designing library research support services, and when we negotiate with publishers in the near future.

This post features the study findings relating to publishers; we will share about citation trends of those OA papers in a future post.

— By Gabi Wong, Library

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published March 12, 2020
last modified March 11, 2022

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