Researching Into Open Access

30/04/2013 – 8:45 am
Tony McCall

As part of IT Services’ contribution to Open Access Oxford, we have been exploring the perspectives on OA held by different stakeholders, both through interviews with University staff (of which more in a future post) and through a review of the recent literature on OA. In conducting this review we interpreted ‘literature’ in its broadest sense, embracing everything from peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers to media releases from research councils and ‘opinion pieces’ in blogs that reflect academics’ uncertainty during the months preceding the finalisation of the RCUK’s policy. They are all recorded in a Google document.

For readers who are specifically interested in the findings of scholarly research into OA, I summarise here a selection of papers that seem particularly enlightening. They are, of course, open access – either green or gold. I have listed them in logical (rather than chronological) order, starting with a historical overview, then moving through matters of green vs gold and APCs to questions of impact.

Laakso, M. & Björk, B-C. (2012). Anatomy of open access publishing: a study of longitudinal development and internal structure. BMC Medicine, 10:124.
An overview of developments since c.2000. The authors calculate that OA publishing has been ‘steadily’ increasing by roughly 1% annually across all scientific disciplines, with the greatest growth (unsurprisingly) in biomedicine.

Gargouri, Y., Lariviere, V., Gingras, Y., Carr, L. & Harnad, S. (2012). Green and Gold Open Access Percentages and Growth, by Discipline. 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (STI), Montreal, 5th–8th September 2012.
An investigation into the growth of green and gold OA by discipline over the period 1998–2010 and found that green exceeds gold by a factor of 10 except in biomedicine. The authors suggest that the proportion of green OA will triple if institutions make self-archiving mandatory. In contrast to Laakso & Björk they consider an overall growth rate in OA of 1% as ‘still very slow.’

Solomon D.J. & Björk, B-C. (2012). A Study of Open Access Journals Using Article Processing Charges. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63: 1485-1495. (Link is to the preprint.)
An analysis of journals listed in the DOAJ as charging APC (2010 data). The authors found a price range from $8 to $3900. As one might expect, the lowest APCs are mainly charged by journals in developing countries and the highest by the publishers of high-impact journals. Moreover, journals published by scholarly societies, HE institutions, and academics have lower APCs than those published professionally.

Björk, B-C. (2012). The hybrid model for open access publication of scholarly articles: a failed experiment?
Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63: 1496-1504. (Link is to the institutional repository version.)
The author notes the high level of APCs charged by hybrid journals, which may account for the low proportion of authors taking up this option (estimated at 1–2%). He concludes that the hybrid model has not helped significantly to increase the volume of OA articles (at least, at the time of writing), and suggests that publishers will tend to set up new journals that are wholly OA instead.

Davis, P.M. & Walters, W.H. (2011). The impact of free access to the scientific literature: a review of recent research.
Journal of the Medical Library Association, 99: 208-217.
Review of recent studies to evaluate the impact of OA publishing on scientists’ academic behaviour. Findings include evidence that a) the access status of a journal is not an important factor in deciding where to publish; b) OA increases the number of times an article is downloaded (but impact on citations is unclear); and c) not enough is known yet about the extent to which the general public accesses OA articles in the biomedical sciences. The authors conclude that there is ‘little evidence to support the idea that there is a crisis in access to the scholarly literature.’ They recommend that research be carried out into the informal dissemination of scientific literature.

Björk, B-C. & Solomon, D.J. (2012). Open access versus subscription journals – a comparison of scientific impact. BMC Medicine, 10:73.
A comparison of the scientific impact of OA journals with subscription journals, controlling for journal age, the country of the publisher, discipline and (for OA publishers) their business model. The authors suggest their results indicate that ‘OA journals indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus are approaching the same scientific impact and quality as subscription journals, particularly in biomedicine and for journals funded by article processing charges.’

Articles may be accessed from :-

author: Liz Masterman
source: OAO (22/4/13)

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