Cost of academic publishing in Finland 2010-2017

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Subscription costs to scientific publishers in Finland 2010-2017

This post provides a brief overview of the subscription prices paid by Finnish research institutions to academic publishers in 2010-2017.

Finland is possibly the only country that has systematically released subscription prices that research libraries pay to academic publishers as open data. The data is available for all major research institutions in Finland. Recently, an updated data set for 2010–2017 was made openly available at In addition, full text agreements with many publishers have been made available. The subscription price data was initially provided by Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, and its Open Science and Research Initiative funded 2014–2017, after a successful Freedom of Information request by the Finnish Open Science community, as summarized elsewhere. This post updates our earlier analysis. For source code, see main.R.

Overall subscription costs 2010-2017

Based on the data collected by the Ministry of Education, Finland paid in total 198.7 million EUR subscription and other fees on scientific publishing in 2010-2017. The average annual costs for in Finland were 25 MEUR.

Data for the top-10 publishers in the UK 2010-2014 is available in Lawson, Meghreblian & Brook, 2017 (Table 1). During this period the UK paid altogether 4319 MEUR (rough estimate based on the exchange rate June 12, 2016) for the top-10 publishers. Finland paid 62 MEUR for the same top-10 publishers in 2010-2014. This is 17.1% of the UK expenditure per capita. It could be that the data is not directly comparable but this will require further investigation.

Information for Finland is available by agreement type, organization type, and subscription category.

Costs by publisher

Overall, the Finnish data covers 376 unique publishers. The figure indicates the total subscription fees paid to the top publishers 2010-2017. One third of the total costs go to Elsevier, which has been often criticized for its huge profit margins. The costs are given per bundle, so we cannot compare average journal prices among individual publishers based on this data.

The total costs paid to scientific publishers by Finland have increased roughly 10% per year in 2010-2017 (annual increase is indicated in the left figure). The top-10 publishers correspond to 75% of the overall costs (right figure).

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Let us compare the relative increase in publisher costs. The costs are normalized to 1 in 2010, and the top 10 publishers with the highest cost increase in 2010-2017 are shown. The 275 publishers that did not have declared costs in 2010 or 2017 are excluded.

Costs by organization

The Finnish data collection includes 82 organizations. The universities (‘yliopisto’) are responsible of 78.9% of all costs (left figure); University of Helsinki had the highest total costs in 2010-2017 (37.9 MEUR; top institutions shown in the right figure).

Finally, let us compare the relative share of costs per institution. The top organizations with the highest total costs are shown.