APC Payment Management: In Practice and Good Practice

Wednesday November 18th 2015
Brunel Boardroom, Engine Shed, Temple Meads, Bristol


10.00 Coffee and registration
10:15 Welcome, housekeeping and outline of the day Kara Jones (University of Bath)
10:20 Introduction Frank Manista (Jisc) and Kara Jones (University of Bath)
10.30 University APC payment perspectives Isobel Stark (University of Southampton)
11:00 University APC payment perspectives Kathryn Smith (University of Bristol)
11.30 Summary and review Kara Jones (University of Bath)
12:00 Jisc Monitor Frank Manista (Jisc )
12:30 Offsetting and APC reporting Anna Vernon (Jisc Collections)
13:00 Lunch
14:00 APC payments: a publisher perspective Mark Purvis (IOP)
14:30 APC payments: a publisher perspective Raegel De Guzman (BMJ)
15:00 Final summary and review Kara Jones (University of Bath)
15:30 Close with thanks

Summary report on the workshop supplementing the presentations.


Pre-payments and the development of the APC market

This survey of the literature describing benefits and disadvantages of pre-payment deals is an attempt to pull together the issues surrounding pre-payment models and the development of the APC market to inform further discussion.

A survey of the published literature on the potential wider market effects of pre-payments on the development of the APC payments market

The survey is an output of our Jisc Good Practice Pathfinder project, any feedback, comments or issues please tell us!

Open Access Good Practice Project: GW4 Offset Implementation Review

This review of current offsetting deals focusses on the practical issues of implementing the available deals and briefly compares the deals with the Jisc Principles for Offset Agreements.

Open Access Good Practice Project: GW4 Offset Implementation Review

This document has been updated in November 2015 to reflect an error in the data collection.
The review is an output of our Jisc Good Practice Pathfinder project, any feedback, comments or issues please tell us!

Finlay Jones
University of Exeter

Managing APC payments using Access and Excel: a comparison

Managing APC payments for Wellcome Trust and particularly RCUK requires the collection of a lot of data for each payment. Finding a way to record all the necessary information in an efficient way is a significant challenge.

The most common method for collecting this data is an Excel spreadsheet, with a few institutions opting for an Access database. Two of the GW4 Pathfinder institutions, Bristol and Exeter, have just transferred their data between these two systems in opposite directions. The following details their reasons and experiences.

Excel to Access
At Bristol we have been grappling with a large and unwieldy spreadsheet of APC data. This happened gradually as new demands were made on the data for reporting internally and externally, and over time, more and more columns were added to the spreadsheet. By the time the number of columns had gone round to the beginning of the alphabet again, it seemed like time to change the system.

Although unwieldy, the spreadsheet was functioning adequately but was dependent on a number of formula and data validation methods to automate the data entry as much as possible. This was not too much of a problem until the expanding team meant that the fragility of the system was revealed. The formulas were easy to override by simply accidentally typing in the wrong cell and not all members of the team had the Excel knowledge to fix problems that occurred. The spreadsheet had simply become too complex and was leading to mistakes that were time consuming to fix. Add to that the inefficiency of simply scrolling through the many columns and the problems caused by the fact that only one member of the team could use the spreadsheet at the same time, and it meant that the spreadsheet was becoming extremely problematic.

The solution was an Access database. This was not a quick fix, it involved considerable preparatory work to clean up the Excel data, plan the structure of the tables and determine the relationships between them. We decided to put in the time in this preparatory phase in order to maximise the benefits of transferring to Access.

We have now transferred from Access to Excel, but we are still learning. We have not yet determined how to do all of the tasks that we could previously do in Excel. Monitoring the spending, particularly the totals for individual prepayment accounts, has still not been completely resolved. Despite this, we are already seeing the benefits in the data entry. The ability to use queries and forms means that it is easier to concentrate on the required part of the workflow, and data entry is quicker and more accurate.

We are really pleased we made the change; getting data in is already significantly improved, and we’re confident that this will be true for getting data out soon.

Access to Excel
The change from Access to Excel was largely prompted by staff turnover. Both members of the OA team who had been involved with setting up the Access database, as well as two other Access experienced members of staff within the library, left the University.

Inputting data into Access was extremely easy. All the required fields were displayed on one form, which was completely visible on one screen. This meant all data for each request was immediately visible on one screen, and made searching for data easy. However, a lot of the data generation for reporting was not entirely straightforward and we also felt that we did not use Access as expansively as we could have.

We used Access as it had been left for several months, before a change in our OA payment practice prompted the change to Excel: We needed to edit the data input form on Access but no one within the library had the expertise to do so.

When we first made the change we spent some time ensuring the fields were correct for both our data input and reporting needs, and working on pivot tables for reporting. This has now made it simpler to get quick snapshots of where we are with our spending. It also gave us a good opportunity to liaise with our colleagues from Research Accounting, who were using Excel to gather data for the Wellcome Trust reports. Now we have a unified spreadsheet which both departments use, which has reduced duplication in the University, as there is no need for us to pass information back and forth.

The fact the RCUK recommended JISC APC data template that has come from the JISC Monitor project is an Excel spreadsheet also means we can now integrate the institutional specific data gathering with the data for the RCUK report. The nature of formulas and tables within this template means that the additional fields we needed to add to the spreadsheet had to be added to the end otherwise they corrupt the formulas present on the template and the auto-complete fields are not filled in. While this causes the order of some of the data fields to be slightly illogical, it does not create huge problems. All the extra fields we need to fill in are together, but simply at the end of the spreadsheet instead of at the beginning. The size of the spreadsheet also introduces some risk of error as you scroll across the numerous columns.

It is hard to answer whether or not it would have been preferable to stay on Access, if staff expertise were different. Data input is easier in Access, but we believe that Excel is overall easier to use and more accessible for new staff. It also helps us be more efficient and work more closely with our colleagues, as well as tying in directly with RCUK’s recommended data collection template.

Kathryn Smith University of Bristol
Finlay Jones University of Exeter

Update of the Open Access Reporting Checklist

The recently published checklist has been updated with the data required for version 2 of the RCUK APC spreadsheet as applicable to HEI APC expenditure reporting in January 2016. The changes were identified in an email from Stuart Lawson to the UKCORR discussion group dated 21st May 2015 and reported by Neil Jacobs on the Jisc Scholarly Communications blog .

Open Access Reporting Checklist for Institutions V2

Review of APC Intermediary Services

At the beginning of this pathfinder project I was tasked with examining intermediaries for APC payments, specifically in regards to reducing the administrative burden placed on HEI’s by Open Access, but it quickly became clear there was a problem – the rapidly changing Open Access environment we all deal with everyday had already moved past APC intermediaries.

Off the back of the JISC/OAK Pilot I spoke to CCC, EBSCO, Swets and Turpin Distribution. At first there seemed to be some interest in establishing intermediaries. But after initial positive responses, and some development work, the responses cooled down.

Turpin Distribution had presented at UKSG 2014 and mentioned the possibility of an interface for institutions in 2015. Now this has been delayed until a review in early 2016. EBSCO had plans in place but development has since been shelved. CCC still has potential given the services they supply for publishers, but it seems that any Institutional interface, if it comes at all, will still be a while away.

Instead of focusing on APC Intermediaries to enable administrative savings, these will instead have to come from Good Practice and further “bedding in” of Open Access processes and workflows into the operational life of institutions.

At the same time as the interest in Intermediaries was dwindling, the community had turned towards offsetting deals. When I started working on the project there was already information on offsetting in theory, and IOP had launched their offsetting pilot. We are now well and truly stuck into offsetting in practice, with several other publishers now offering offset deals following the work JISC has done establishing these deals and providing guidance.

The focus on savings has thus shifted. Any savings that we as a community might make now come from lowering, or controlling, the total cost of publication, rather than directly from removing administrative burden as was thought a little over a year ago at the commencement of the project.

My next blog post will examine these offsetting deals, the pros and cons of the different models that have been adopted, and how these deals are being embedded in practice, looking at the main pain points of implementation as well as things we would potentially change.

Finlay Jones
University of Exeter

Open Access Reporting Checklist and Sample APC Payment Workflows for Institutions

This checklist is intended to assist institutions in identifying data required for OA reporting to Jisc for RCUK (APC spreadsheet) and HEFCE for REF OA. We are aware of other work in this area but developed the guide with other work for our Jisc Good Practice Pathfinder project and we believe it may be useful for other institutions. It has confirmed there is very little overlap in data requirements for RCUK and HEFCE OA reporting.

Open Access Reporting Checklist for Institutions

Mapping workflows at our four collaborating institutions identified a generic series of ‘steps’ in each payment scenario used by our institutions. This led to the development of sample workflows for each payment method which we hope will prove a useful aid for institutions developing new, or adapting old, workflows. Institutions may need to adapt the sample workflows to suit their own requirements, systems and processes.

Sample payment workflows

We welcome feedback and comments on the checklist and workflows.

Initial questionnaire for Functional Cost Analysis baselining

Interview schedule for GW4 Pathfinder project 1.2

To baseline the current costs of the payments process for our Functional Cost Analysis (FCA), we need quite a detailed understanding of the whole process – the departments involved, the activities within the process, the staff who perform them, costs (including staff costs), the purpose and requirements for each activity.

To address this an interview schedule (attached) exploring the tasks  within the payments process of each GW4 institution was devised and completed during individual interviews with the Librarians involved in the process at each institution.

A flowchart of the APC payments process for each GW4 institution was developed from this information. We plan to use a second questionnaire for staff working on the process to obtain cost information.


The inaugural post

Welcome to the inaugural post of our blog for the Jisc funded Open Access Good Practice Pathfinder Project lead by the University of Bath Library.

Aims, objectives and final output(s) of the project:

The aim of this project is provide guidance to HEIs on strategies to reduce the administrative burden of OA implementation.

There is an expectation of increased costs, both financial and administrative, during the transition from journal subscriptions to Gold OA and APC payments.  HEIs will need to consider staffing costs, payment outsourcing options and sources of information for reporting on OA implementation, all of which contribute to the administrative burden on services that are often already stretched.

We wish to investigate efficiencies in the administrative overheads involved throughout the lifecycle of OA implementation, specifically:

a.  The use of pre-pay bundles and voucher / waiver codes to reduce workflows and finance transactions.
b. Streamlining administrative processes by providing guidance on reporting requirements for RCUK and HEFCE Open Access reporting, particularly mapping points of overlap between various submissions to funders.
c. Drawing on the work of the Jisc APC project, we’ll be investigating whether the use of payment intermediaries such as OAK/Jisc APC represents a significant reduction in the administrative burden on HEIs.

Wider benefits to the sector and achievements for the host institution

APC payments are relatively new on the scene for HEIs, and many of us find ourselves struggling with systems for dealing with these efficiently and effectively.  It makes for an interesting landscape, particularly when widened to include the strain of changes on publishers, authors and other stakeholders.

This is a rapidly evolving environment, and it is possible that solutions and recommendations from this project are overtaken by developments in APC charges, methods of payment, requirements from funders, etc.  We need to be agile in responding to these changes.  We also need to ensure that any guidance or solutions we develop is scalable so as to be relevant to as wide a community as possible

Project team relationships

All team members are from the GW4 University Libraries.

The project lead is Kara Jones, Head of Library Research Services at the University of Bath.
Representatives from Bristol, Exeter and Cardiff will introduce themselves and their roles in forthcoming blog posts.

Projected timeline

The project runs from June 2014 to June 2016.  We have a number of milestones along the way, and we’ll report on key areas such as:

  • Requirements gathering – methodologies and next steps
  • Options for APC payments (case studies and workflows)
  • Evaluation and possible extension of Jisc APC best practice guidelines
  • Development and pilot of research recommendations
  • Findings from the project