It is Open Access Week and this makes it even more apt to have alook at what is really moving in this field. And moving it is. Mikael Laakso (Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki) and Bo-Christer Björk studied the 'anatomy' of Open Access publishing by performing a longitudinal study of scholarly journal literature. Their article was published in BMC Medical.
The results, in particular the finding that approximately 17% of scholarly journal articles are already now made openly available on the Web within a year by the publishers, should be an important input for the policy discussions on Open Access in venues like the US Congress, the European Commission and the UK Finch Committee that recently published its report with OA-guidelines for British research funders, Laakso thinks.
Green versus gold
The study also sheds new light on the relative contributions of the two complementary routes for achieving OA, the publisher-provided gold route and the author-provided green route, indicating that the contribution of gold (both immediate and articles withheld for short embargo periods) is much larger than many earlier estimates. The results should also be considered together with two other recent studies.
These studies suggest that the level of article-processing charges paid is on average around 900 USD, which is lower than generally believed, and that the scientific impact of OA journals founded in the last decade, and in particular in biomedicine, is on par with similar subscription journals, as measured by average number of citations.
Of the 1.66 million articles indexed by Elsevier's Scopus in 2011 11% were published in full immediate OA journals, 0.7% as hybrid OA and 5.2% in journals that have a maximum OA delay of 12 months. Together, these account for almost 17% of the total article volume in the whole index.
The figures for articles indexed by Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge are comparable to those of Scopus, with a total publisher-provided OA rate of 16.2% for 2011. Of the 1.29 million articles indexed by Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge, 7.9% are available in full immediate OA journals, 0.7% as hybrid OA and 6.4% in journals that have a maximum OA delay of 12 months.
Overall the results suggest that there has been an increase of about one percentage point annually in relative OA volume in both Scopus and Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge during 2008 to 2011.
Quality is key now
The growth of open access publications has lead to a lot of discussions about the competition with and quality of new open access publishers. In a colloquium organised by SURF in Rotterdam for the Open Access Week funders, editors and publishers debated the question how new journals will find a proper place for their OA-content in the market of academic publications.
Springer vice-president Wim van der Stelt put it this way: "We need a quality-validation,a 'seal of approval' for all journals and publishers. This will support the steps toward the creation of a level playing field. Reliable indicators of quality such as a transparent peer-review proces should be made standard in such a process of validation."