Various studies have investigated the extent of open access. A study published in 2010 showed that roughly 20% of the total number of peer-reviewed articles published in 2008 could be found openly accessible. Another study found that by 2010, 7.9% of all academic journals with impact factors were gold open access journals and showed a broad distribution of Gold Open Access journals throughout academic disciplines. A study of random journals from the citations indexes AHSCI, SCI and SSCI in 2013 came to the result that 88% of the journals were closed access and 12% were open access. In August 2013, a study done for the European Commission reported that 50% of a random sample of all articles published in 2011 as indexed by Scopus were freely accessible online by the end of 2012. A 2017 study by the Max Planck Society put the share of gold access articles in pure open access journals at around 13 percent of total research papers.
In 2009, there were approximately 4,800 active open access journals, publishing around 190,000 articles. As of February 2019, over 12,500 open access journals are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) indexes the creation, location and growth of open access open access repositories and their contents. As of February 2019, over 4,500 institutional and cross-institutional repositories have been registered in ROAR.
There are a number of variants of open access publishing and different publishers may use one or more of these variants.
Colour naming system
Different open access types are currently commonly described using a colour system. The most commonly recognised names are “green”, “gold”, and “hybrid” open access; however a number of others terms are also used for additional models.
Full open access publishing is performed by gold OA publishers. The publisher makes all articles and related content available for free immediately on the journal’s website. In such publications, articles are licensed for sharing and reuse via creative commons licenses or similar.
Self-archiving by authors is permitted under green OA. After peer review by a journal, the author posts the same content the journal will be publishing to a website controlled by the author, the research institution that funded or hosted the work, or which has been set up as a central open access repository.
Hybrid open access journals, contain a mixture of open access articles and closed access articles. A publisher following this model is partially funded by subscriptions, and only provide open access for those individual articles for which the authors (or research sponsor) pay a publication fee.
Delayed open-access journals publish articles initially as subscription-only, then release them as open access after an embargo period (varying from months to years). In this way subscribers get early access to content.
The journals which publish open access without charging authors article processing charges are sometimes referred to as platinum or diamond OA. Since they do not charge either readers or authors, such publishers often require funding from external sources such as academic institutions, learned societies, philanthropists or government grants.
The growth of digital piracy by large-scale copyright infringement has allowed enabled free access to paywalled literature. In some ways this is a large-scale technical implementation of pre-existing practice, whereby those with access to paywalled literature would share copies with their contacts. However the increased ease and scale from 2010 onwards have changed how many people treat subscription publications.
Gratis and libre
Main article: Gratis versus libre
Similar to the free content definition, the terms ‘gratis’ and ‘libre’ were used in the BOAI definition to distinguish between free to read versus free to reuse. Gratis open access refers to online access free of charge (“free as in beer”), and libre open access refers to online access free of charge plus some additional re-use rights (“free as in freedom”). Libre open access covers the kinds of open access defined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. The re-use rights of libre OA are often specified by various specific Creative Commons licenses; almost all of these require attribution of authorship to the original authors. In 2012, the number of works under libre open access was considered to haven been rapidly increasing for a few years, though most open access mandates did not enforce any copyright license and it was difficult to publish libre gold OA in legacy journals. However, there are no costs nor restrictions for green libre OA as preprints can be freely self-deposited with a free license, and most open access repositories use Creative Commons licenses to allow reuse.
FAIR is an acronym for ‘Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reuseable’, intended to mare clearly define what is meant by the term ‘open access’ and make the concept easier to discuss. Initially proposed in March 2016, it has subsequently been endorsed by organisations such as the European commission and the G20.
Licenses used by gold and hybrid OA journals in DOAJ.
The most commons licenses used in open access publishing are Creative commons. The widely used CC BY license is one of the most permissive, only requiring attribution to be allowed to use the material (and allowing derivations, commercial use). A range of more restrictive creative commons licenses are also used. More rarely, some of the smaller academic journals use custom open access licenses.
Since open access publication does not charge readers, there are many financial models used to cover costs by other means. Open access can be provided by commercial publishers, who may publish open access as well as subscription-based journals, or dedicated open-access publishers such as Public Library of Science (PLOS) and BioMed Central.
Advantages and disadvantages of open access have generated considerable discussion amongst researchers, academics, librarians, university administrators, funding agencies, government officials, commercial publishers, editorial staff and society publishers. Reactions of existing publishers to open access journal publishing have ranged from moving with enthusiasm to a new open access business model, to experiments with providing as much free or open access as possible, to active lobbying against open access proposals. There are many publishers that started up as open access-only publishers, such as PLOS, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Frontiers in… journals, MDPI and BioMed Central.
Article processing charges
See also: Article processing charge
Article processing charges by gold OA journals in DOAJ.
In one model of open access, journals generate revenue by charging publication fees in order to make the work openly available at the time of publication. The money might come from the author but more often comes from the author’s research grant or employer. Some publishers will waive all or part of the fee for authors from less developed economies. Journals charging publication fees normally take various steps to ensure that peer reviewers do not know whether authors have requested, or been granted, fee waivers, or to ensure that every paper is approved by an independent editor with no financial stake in the journal. While the payments are often incurred per article published (e.g. BMC journals or PLOS ONE), there are some journals that apply them per manuscript submitted (e.g. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics until recently) or per author (e.g. PeerJ). As of June 2018, only 26% of journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) required payment of article processing charges. A 2013 study showed this practice was higher in journals with a scientific or medical focus (43% and 47% respectively), and lowest in journals publishing in the arts and humanities (0% and 4% respectively). Traditionally, many academic journals levied page charges, long before open access became a possibility.
There currently is a growing global debate regarding open access’s ideology and ethics and its related article processing charges, as they are being created and managed by academic journal and monograph publisher conglomerates together with some national and international academic institutions and government bodies. One controversy is “double dipping”, where both authors and subscribers are charged.
Subsidized or no-fee
No-fee open access journals, also known as “platinum” or “diamond” have no fees for readers and no article processing charges or publication fees for authors. They use a variety of business models. As summarized by Peter Suber: “Some no-fee OA journals have direct or indirect subsidies from institutions like universities, laboratories, research centers, libraries, hospitals, museums, learned societies, foundations, or government agencies. Some have revenue from a separate line of non-OA publications. Some have revenue from advertising, auxiliary services, membership dues, endowments, reprints, or a print or premium edition. Some rely, more than other journals, on volunteerism. Some undoubtedly use a combination of these means”.
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Main article: Academic journal publishing reform
Open access (mostly green and gratis) began to be sought and provided worldwide by researchers when the possibility itself was opened by the advent of Internet and the World Wide Web. The momentum was further increased by a growing movement for academic journal publishing reform, and with it gold and libre OA.
The premises behind open access publishing are that there are viable funding models to maintain traditional peer review standards of quality while also making the following changes:
- Rather than making journal articles accessible through a subscription business model, all academic publications could be made free to read and published with some other cost-recovery model, such as publication charges, subsidies, or charging subscriptions only for the print edition, with the online edition gratis or “free to read”.
- Rather than applying traditional notions of copyright to academic publications, they could be libre or “free to build upon”.
An obvious advantage of open access journals is the free access to scientific papers regardless of affiliation with a subscribing library and improved access for the general public; this is especially true in developing countries. Lower costs for research in academia and industry have been claimed in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, although others have argued that OA may raise the total cost of publication, and further increase economic incentives for exploitation in academic publishing. The open access movement is motivated by the problems of social inequality caused by restricting access to academic research, which favor large and wealthy institutions with the financial means to purchase access to many journals, as well as the economic challenges and perceived unsustainability of academic publishing.
Stakeholders and concerned communities
The intended audience of research articles is usually other researchers. Open access helps researchers as readers by opening up access to articles that their libraries do not subscribe to. One of the great beneficiaries of open access may be users in developing countries, where currently some universities find it difficult to pay for subscriptions required to access the most recent journals. Some schemes exist for providing subscription scientific publications to those affiliated to institutions in developing countries at little or no cost. All researchers benefit from open access as no library can afford to subscribe to every scientific journal and most can only afford a small fraction of them – this is known as the “serials crisis“.
Open access extends the reach of research beyond its immediate academic circle. An open access article can be read by anyone – a professional in the field, a researcher in another field, a journalist, a politician or civil servant, or an interested layperson. Indeed, a 2008 study revealed that mental health professionals are roughly twice as likely to read a relevant article if it is freely available.
Research funders and universities
Research funding agencies and universities want to ensure that the research they fund and support in various ways has the greatest possible research impact. As a means of achieving this, research funders are beginning to expect open access to the research they support. Many of them (including all UK Research Councils) have already adopted open access mandates, and others are on the way to do so (see ROARMAP).
In the US, the 2008 NIH Public Access Policy, an open access mandate was put into law, and required that research papers describing research funded by the National Institutes of Health must be available to the public free through PubMed Central (PMC) within 12 months of publication.
A growing number of universities are providing institutional repositories in which their researchers can deposit their published articles. Some open access advocates believe that institutional repositories will play a very important role in responding to open access mandates from funders.
In May 2005, 16 major Dutch universities cooperatively launched DAREnet, the Digital Academic Repositories, making over 47,000 research papers available. From 2 June 2008, DAREnet has been incorporated into the scholarly portal NARCIS. By 2019, NARCIS provided access to 360,000 open access publications from all Dutch universities, KNAW, NWO and a number of scientific institutes.
In 2011, a group of universities in North America formed the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI). Starting with 21 institutions where the faculty had either established an open access policy or were in the process of implementing one, COAPI now has nearly 50 members. These institutions’ administrators, faculty and librarians, and staff support the international work of the Coalition’s awareness-raising and advocacy for open access.
In 2012, the Harvard Open Access Project released its guide to good practices for university open-access policies, focusing on rights-retention policies that allow universities to distribute faculty research without seeking permission from publishers. Rights retention is currently being explored in the UK by UKSCL.
In 2013 a group of nine Australian universities formed the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG) to advocate, collaborate, raise awareness, and lead and build capacity in the open access space in Australia. In 2015, the group expanded to include all eight New Zealand universities and was renamed the Australasian Open Access Support Group. It was then renamed the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group, highlighting its emphasis on strategy. The awareness raising activities of the AOASG include presentations, workshops, blogs, and a webinar series on open access issues.
Libraries and librarians
As information professionals, librarians are often vocal and active advocates of open access. These librarians believe that open access promises to remove both the price barriers and the permission barriers that undermine library efforts to provide access to the scholarly record, as well as helping to address the serials crisis. Many library associations have either signed major open access declarations, or created their own. For example, IFLA have produced a Statement on Open Access.
Librarians also lead education and outreach initiatives to faculty, administrators, and others about the benefits of open access. For example, the Association of College and Research Libraries of the American Library Association has developed a Scholarly Communications Toolkit. The Association of Research Libraries has documented the need for increased access to scholarly information, and was a leading founder of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).
At most universities, the library manages the institutional repository, which provides free access to scholarly work by the university’s faculty. The Canadian Association of Research Libraries has a program to develop institutional repositories at all Canadian university libraries.
In 2013, open access activist Aaron Swartz was posthumously awarded the American Library Association’s James Madison Award for being an “outspoken advocate for public participation in government and unrestricted access to peer-reviewed scholarly articles”. In March 2013, the entire editorial board and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Library Administration resigned en masse, citing a dispute with the journal’s publisher. One board member wrote of a “crisis of conscience about publishing in a journal that was not open access” after the death of Aaron Swartz.
The pioneer of the open access movement in France and one of the first librarians to advocate the self-archiving approach to open access worldwide is Hélène Bosc. Her work is described in her “15-year retrospective”.
Open access to scholarly research is argued to be important to the public for a number of reasons. One of the arguments for public access to the scholarly literature is that most of the research is paid for by taxpayers through government grants, who therefore have a right to access the results of what they have funded. This is one of the primary reasons for the creation of advocacy groups such as The Alliance for Taxpayer Access in the US. Examples of people who might wish to read scholarly literature include individuals with medical conditions (or family members of such individuals) and serious hobbyists or ‘amateur’ scholars who may be interested in specialized scientific literature (e.g. amateur astronomers). Additionally, professionals in many fields may be interested in continuing education in the research literature of their field, and many businesses and academic institutions cannot afford to purchase articles from or subscriptions to much of the research literature that is published under a toll access model.
Even those who do not read scholarly articles benefit indirectly from open access. For example, patients benefit when their doctor and other health care professionals have access to the latest research. As argued by open access advocates, open access speeds research progress, productivity, and knowledge translation. Every researcher in the world can read an article, not just those whose library can afford to subscribe to the particular journal in which it appears. Faster discoveries benefit everyone. High school and junior college students can gain the information literacy skills critical for the knowledge age. Critics of the various open access initiatives claim that there is little evidence that a significant amount of scientific literature is currently unavailable to those who would benefit from it. While no library has subscriptions to every journal that might be of benefit, virtually all published research can be acquired via interlibrary loan. Note that interlibrary loan may take a day or weeks depending on the loaning library and whether they will scan and email, or mail the article. Open access online, by contrast is faster, often immediate, making it more suitable than interlibrary loan for fast-paced research.
In developing nations, open access archiving and publishing acquires a unique importance. Scientists, health care professionals, and institutions in developing nations often do not have the capital necessary to access scholarly literature, although schemes exist to give them access for little or no cost. Among the most important is HINARI, the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative, sponsored by the World Health Organization. HINARI, however, also has restrictions. For example, individual researchers may not register as users unless their institution has access, and several countries that one might expect to have access do not have access at all (not even “low-cost” access) (e.g. South Africa).
Many open access projects involve international collaboration. For example, the SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online), is a comprehensive approach to full open access journal publishing, involving a number of Latin American countries. Bioline International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping publishers in developing countries is a collaboration of people in the UK, Canada, and Brazil; the Bioline International Software is used around the world. Research Papers in Economics (RePEc), is a collaborative effort of over 100 volunteers in 45 countries. The Public Knowledge Project in Canada developed the open-source publishing software Open Journal Systems (OJS), which is now in use around the world, for example by the African Journals Online group, and one of the most active development groups is Portuguese. This international perspective has resulted in advocacy for the development of open-source appropriate technology and the necessary open access to relevant information for sustainable development.
Effects on scholarly publishing
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Citation and impact
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Authors may use form language like this to request an open access license when submitting their work to a publisher
The main reason authors make their articles openly accessible is to maximize their research impact. There have been claims of higher citation rates for open access authors. The overall citation rates for a time period of 2 years (2010–2011) were 30% higher for subscription journals, but, after controlling for discipline, journal age and publisher location, the differences largely disappeared in most subcategories, except for those launched prior to 1996. A study in 2001 first reported an open access citation impact advantage. While there is some debate around the impact of open access, most studies conducted show increased citations with open access publications.
Two major studies dispute the claim that open access articles lead to more citations. A randomized controlled trial of open access publishing involving 36 participating journals in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities found that open access articles (n=712) received significantly more downloads and reached a broader audience within the first year, yet were cited no more frequently, nor earlier, than subscription-access control articles (n=2533) within 3 years.
Many other studies, both major and minor and with varying degrees of methodological rigor, find that an open access article is more likely to be used and cited than one behind subscription barriers.
For example, a 2006 study in PLoS Biology found that articles published as immediate open access in PNAS were three times more likely to be cited than non-open access papers, and were also cited more than PNAS articles that were only self-archived. This result has been challenged as an artifact of authors self-selectively paying to publish their higher quality articles in hybrid open access journals, whereas a 2010 study found that the open access citation advantage was equally big whether self-archiving was self-selected or mandated.
A 2010 study of 27,197 articles in 1,984 journals used institutionally mandated open access instead of randomized open access to control for bias on the part of authors toward self-selectively making their better (hence more citeable) articles open access. The result was a replication of the repeatedly reported open access citation advantage, with the advantage being equal in size and significance whether the open access was self-selected or mandated.
A 2016 study reported that the odds of an open access journal being referenced on the English Wikipedia are 47% higher than for paywalled journals, and suggested that this constitutes a significant “amplifier” effect for science published on such platforms.
Scholars are paid by research funders and/or their universities to do research; the published article is the report of the work they have done, rather than an item for commercial gain. The more the article is used, cited, applied and built upon, the better for research as well as for the researcher’s career. Open access can reduce publication delays, an obstacle which led some research fields such as high-energy physics to adopt widespread preprint access.
Some professional organizations have encouraged use of open access: in 2001, the International Mathematical Union communicated to its members that “Open access to the mathematical literature is an important goal” and encouraged them to “[make] available electronically as much of our own work as feasible” to “[enlarge] the reservoir of freely available primary mathematical material, particularly helping scientists working without adequate library access”.
The main argument against requiring authors to pay a fee (as in some gold/hybrid OA models), is the possible damage to the peer review system, diminishing the overall quality of scientific journal publishing. For example, in 2009, a hoax paper generated by a computer program was accepted for publication by a major publisher under the author-pays-for-publication model. In a similar incident, a staff writer for Science magazine and popular science publications targeted the open access system in 2013 by submitting to some such journals a deeply flawed paper on the purported effect of a lichen constituent. About 60% of those journals, including journals published by the major academic publishers Sage Publications and Elsevier the Journal of Natural Pharmaceuticals, accepted the faked medical paper. However, journals published by notable open access publishers PLOS, BioMed Central, and Hindawi Publishing Corporation rejected the fake article. In addition, the faked paper was not published in subscription journals as a control. As a result, this experiment was criticized for using a flawed methodology and not including a control group. Many newer open access journals also lack the reputation of their subscription counterparts, which have been in business for decades. This effect has been diminishing though since 2001, reflecting the emergence of high quality professional open access publishers such as PLOS and BioMed Central.
Opponents of the open access model continue to assert that the pay-for-access model is necessary to ensure that the publishers are adequately compensated for their work. Scholarly journal publishers that support pay-for-access claim that the “gatekeeper” role they play, maintaining a scholarly reputation, arranging for peer review, and editing and indexing articles, require economic resources that are not supplied under an open access model. Opponents claim that open access is not necessary to ensure fair access for developing nations; differential pricing or financial aid from developed countries or institutions can make access to proprietary journals affordable. Some critics also point out the lack of funding for author fees.