Back in May of last year I posted about SAGE Publication’s open access multidisciplinary humanities and social sciences “mega journal” called SAGE Open (eISSN 2158-2440). The journal, launched in May 2011, is operated using a producer-side revenue model, where authors (or their sponsors) are charged an article processing fee (APC) once a submitted manuscript has been accepted for publication. The format for SAGE Open is similar to PLOS ONE, the multidisciplinary open access science “mega journal” published by the non-profit open access publisher Public Library of Science (PLOS).
I just learned (thanks to Richard Poynder for the tip) that SAGE has reduced the APC levied for published articles in SAGE Open to $99. (Here is a link to the SAGE press release.) This charge is reduced dramatically from the standard fee of $695, and down significantly from the “introductory rate” of $395 that was previously in force. I confirmed the price change on the Manuscript Submission page of the journal site.
According to the press release, this decision follows from the results of a survey conducted by SAGE indicating that
more than 70% of accepted authors had personally paid the article processing charge (APC) to enable their research to be published in SAGE Open. Author declarations further show that less than 15% of all articles published across SAGE’s Humanities and Social Sciences portfolio in 2012 had allocated funding.
In a post on the SAGE Connection blog, Bob Howard, Vice President, US Journals at SAGE is asked about the impact this announcement will have on the type of research published in SAGE Open.
SAGE is committed to the publication of high quality, peer reviewed research, and this will not be compromised by a change in price. All SAGE Open articles will receive the same high quality peer review, copy editing, typesetting and electronic delivery that have been present since the journal launched in 2011, maintaining the quality you would expect of SAGE as a leading independent publisher for the social sciences.
Howard recognizes that demand for open access is increasing, and SAGE apparently views it as an astute investment move to be a player in this publishing space. His expectation, however, is still heavily weighted on subscription journals.
We view this change as an investment in the future of OA publishing in the social sciences, and we will continue to adapt to our evolving landscape in order to better support HSS scholars. …
While we expect much of social science research to continue to be published in traditional subscription journals, and that remains SAGE’s core business, open access publishing and the demand for it is increasing.
According to the news release, “SAGE Open has received more than 1400 manuscripts, and more than 160 articles published” since it was launched in 2011. That works out to roughly an 11% acceptance rate, and roughly $64,000 in revenue since launch (assuming all accepted articles were charged the $395 introductory rate). Neither the press release nor the blog post gave any indication if SAGE Open is or was designed to be financially self-supporting. It is at least provocative to consider the implications of Howard’s “no compromise” claim in the face of an 86% per article decrease in revenue (assuming the standard rate of $695). How much does it really cost SAGE to publish an open access journal article on its platform? A volume proposition might make it sustainable. Clearly, the aggressive pricing is designed to make this venue more attractive to scholars.
It appears the space for open access journal publishing for humanities and social science scholars is (at last!) starting to heat up, especially in view of Dr. Martin Paul Eve’s recent proposal that interested parties get together to launch a non-profit PLOS-style mega journal for the humanities and social sciences.