First copy costs of scientific articles – a short overview

While I was working on a longer text, I gathered – more or less as a by-product – information from studies and reports on the (first copy) costs of a scientific article. As a result, it can only be noted that the information available on these costs (and related costs as margins) are very different and really difficult to compare. The latter confirms my impression that there is a huge lack of transparency in the scientific publications market. The following table may give some insight in the information I found. It is also available via GitHub (, so please feel free to improve/ update the data or add new information.




British Academy








 Houghton et al.
 Van Noorden
First copy costs of an article, including profit margins  

1.127 £


PNAS: 3.700 $

Nature: 30.000 – 40.000 $

First copy costs of an article, without profit margins 1.136 £  

420 – 650 $


10 $

First copy costs, including profit margins per page  

360 $



Closed Access on average 20-30%,


Open Access (commercial) on average 15%

Cost of peer review (not included in first copy costs): 1.194 £ 900 £  –
Methods analysis of literature and reports expert discussion empirical study empirical study case study analysis of literature and reports analysis of literature and reports, interviews
Disciplines mixed Social Sciences & Humanities mixed Social Sciences & Humanities Machine Learning mixed mixed



British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences. (2007). Peer Review : the challenges for the humanities and social sciences. A British Academy Report. Retrieved from

Dubini, P. (2012). PEER Economics : the effect of large scale deposit on scholarly research publishing. Retrieved from

Houghton, J. W., Rasmussen, B., & Sheehan, P. (2010). Economic and Social Returns on Investment in Open Archiving Publicly Funded Research Outputs. Melbourne. Retrieved from

Research Information Network. (2008). Activities, costs and funding flows in the scholarly communications system (p. 88). Retrieved from
Shieber, S. (2012). An efficient journal. The Occasional Pamphlet. Retrieved June 05, 2012, from

Van Noorden, R. (2013). Open access: The true cost of science publishing. Nature, 495(7442), 426–429. doi:10.1038/495426a

Waltham, M. (2010). Humanities and social science journals: a pilot study of eight US associations. Learned Publishing, 23(2), 136–143. doi:10.1087/20100209




Graduate sociologist, information scientist (PhD degree), working for the Saarland University and State Library (Germany), owner of the consulting agency scidecode, journalist.
ORCID: 0000-0002-3500-3119
Ulrich Herb
First copy costs of scientific articles – a short overview

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