The remarkable number of Q1-ranked journals indicates the high level of publications produced by researchers and clinical staff of the three institutions involved in the study. This means that authors carefully consider IF values when deciding where to target their work, notwithstanding the widely-recognised biases of the raw IF value . Research quality assessment is still a much-debated issue, also in the light of innovative parameters (i.e. webometrics ). This is not, however, the place to discuss this relevant topic and its impact on public health.
Where journal business models are concerned, it is worth mentioning that according to administrators of public funds and opinion leaders in the OA debate, the hybrid formula, which is based on a double income (subscription fees and article publication charges), is criticised for increasing publishers’ revenues while neither incurring any risk, nor reducing subscription costs. Publishers claim they will not “adjust” subscription costs until income from the paid OA option becomes steady. On the subject of publishing costs, Michael Jubb claims that “policymakers […] should also promote and facilitate a transition to gold open access, while seeking to ensure that the average level of charges for publication does not exceed circa £ 2,000” . Notwithstanding the increasing number of publishers embracing the hybrid formula for their journals, it seems that economic revenues still remain low for publishers, compared with the income coming from subscription rates. According to Elsevier , the number of sponsored OA articles published in 2010 in its subscription-based journals, on payment of a publication charge of $ 3,000 per article, accounted for less than 1% (corresponding to 1114 articles). This low rate is probably due to the high cost of the sponsorship charge which, in some cases, is in addition to routinely charged author fees (costs of editing, colour charges, etc.). The paid OA option is thus not so affordable for authors, unless they can rely on funding from their own institutions or other public or private bodies. A remarkable number of articles authored by IRE researchers appeared in JECCR, a BioMed Central OA journal. This was probably due largely to the availability of funding provided by IRE in 2010 to institutional staff to cover their publication charges. This shows that decisions made at institutional level may have a strong impact on researchers’ publishing choices and, at the same time, represent a good opportunity to promote gold OA and wider visibility of institutional research findings.
With regard to OA publishing costs, it is interesting to note that, except in the case of the journal ranked second in Q1 (Cancer cell), which offers the highest paid OA option at $ 5000 (€ 3864), no relationship was found between IF ranking and article publication charges: in other words there was no correlation between more expensive fees and higher IF values. Thus, researchers should be aware that there are no additional economic costs to publishing in high-IF value journals compared with lower-IF journals. The publication fee most frequently charged by the journals surveyed for this article was $ 3000 (€ 2393) which is considerable when compared with the average publication fees ($ 900; € 718) for the journals listed in the multidisciplinary Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) in 2010 . The issue of cost-comparisons between OA journals and traditional subscription-based publications in times of financial constraint has recently been addressed by library administrators and other stakeholders . Indeed, OA journals were initially welcomed as a “way of providing less costly alternatives to conventional journals” . It was hoped that, in addition to allowing free access to the findings of science, the savings from cancelled subscriptions could exceed the publication fees charged by OA journals. However, this expectation of savings may be misguided, as the charges associated with the increased numbers of papers appearing in OA journals could lead to higher costs than in a traditional publishing environment.
The reasons and methods of meeting the financial costs of OA are still hotly debated. Once again, the recent Research Council UK (RCUK) and Wellcome Trust policies, which stress the need to ensure not just immediate access to but real reuse of published articles through CC-BY licensing, raise the issue of OA expenditure. In fact, their policies aim to promote the OA gold route by asking authors to cover the Article Processing Charges (APCs) while green OA supporters promote the lower cost of repositories in delivering access to research outputs. A crucial point of discussion is the transitional costs institutions currently have to meet for both subscriptions and publication charges. This means that, until now, investment in OA costs has not been compensated by a reduction in subscription costs for libraries. To address this problem, 6 the scientific community will have either to negotiate with publishers or to build consortia of institutions able to face the burden of costs. As pointed out by Neylon, “institutions need to take the opportunity to negotiate more imaginative and favourable arrangements with subscription publishers, to constrain transitional costs” .
Other rewarding ways to reduce publishing costs may be represented by free-software-based models such as the Open Journal System  (OJS), an open source journal management and publishing system, and by projects for national OAI-compliant repositories .
With regard to data relating to copyright rules, authors should be aware that the above models (CTA, ELF, CCA) may sometimes all be adopted by the same publisher, depending on different types of contribution (research articles, review articles, commissioned articles, etc.). Nature Publishing Group, for example, offers different kinds of licences, including the Creative Commons Attribution non-commercial, Share alike licence for articles reporting the primary sequence of an organism’s genome for the first time. Copyright rules adopted by the same publisher (either for OA or non-OA journals) may include various models. It is highly advisable to pay close attention to the information provided by each journal on copyright issues. This is particularly recommended for both OA and hybrid journals that require authors to pay a publication fee, as it is not always clear whether or not the author retains the entire copyright. When conditions for the re-use of contents are not clearly stated, uncertainty persists about which rights are actually granted “forcing users [the authors] to choose between the delay of seeking permission and the risk of proceeding without it” . Given this situation, the standardisation of copyright licences would be welcome in order to provide a clear definition of the rights granted to authors of scholarly journals.
The data shown in Table S 3 refer to SHERPA/RoMEO colours of the surveyed publishers, revealing fewer (6 out of 24) publishers graded green and blue (most permissive conditions for self-archiving) compared with 13 out of 24 graded yellow and white (restrictive conditions or self-archiving not supported). It is worth noting that Elsevier and Springer are classified as green publishers, even allowing authors to deposit the published version (Pdf) of their journal articles in institutional repositories. This reveals a trend of major traditional publishers towards the OA business model, under pressure from the OA movement. However, this study shows that in the sample of the journals surveyed the yellow and white policies are still adopted by more than half of publishers, imposing restrictions on self-archiving practices.
The Directory of Open Access and Hybrid Journals  and the table provided by the Berkeley University Library, showing a selective list of OA and hybrid publishers , are two examples of tools (journal and publisher directories) for authors to enable them to identify at a glance the different OA models and detailed options offered by publishers. The latter represents a valuable effort by the library of an academic institution to support authors’ choices of suitable journals.