Using Functional Cost Analysis to Evaluate the APC Payments Process

The Bath Pathfinder project have just released a draft for comment of their analysis of the administrative costs of processing APC payments in the four universities of the GW4 alliance: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

Functional Cost Analysis (FCA) methodology was used to investigate labour costs per APC payment and identify resource intensive functions with a view to later improvement.

An obvious but important finding evidenced by the report is that the larger the RCUK grant, the smaller the administrative costs and time for each APC payment.  There are clear economies of scale.

The document is available here GW4 OA PathfinderWP 1 Report March2015.

In a nutshell, after mapping the workflows at each institution and developing a functional family tree, the time and effort were recorded for each function and sub-function, giving the project an idea of what was the most resource intensive.  These were:

  1. Paying the APC
  2. Reporting
  3. Meeting funder requirements.

Additional points of information gleaned from the analysis included:

  • Three of the four institutions had remarkably similar patterns around the implementation of APC payments.
  • Payment by invoice tends to be the most resource intensive method and has the highest number of activities in the process.
  • Adding suppliers to finance systems can add significant times to invoice payments.
  • We can infer costs in the order of £50+ per simple APC for these comparable institutions, although this doesn’t account for problem investigation or incomplete data (the ‘Counting the Costs of Open Access’ report estimated £81 for directly attributable costs to research organisations.
  • Other groups doing analysis around the APC payment process may find the Functional Family Tree useful as a starting point for breaking down the activities.

If you would like to comment on the report or get more information, please contact Kara Jones @

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