A decisive step was taken recently in the race to open access. On August 21st, the European Commission issued a press release stating that “open access had just reached a critical threshold”. According to one of the three reports by Science-Metrix, over 40% of the articles published all over the world between 2004 and 2011 are freely available online. In several countries and several disciplines, this number might even exceed 50%.
This article is a translation of "50% Open Access: L'accès libre aux publications scientifiques franchit un tournant décisif". It was translated from French by Timothée Froelich.
In a previous article (in French), we told you that “the transition toward open access was now on its way” and that it was time to take things to the next level and start asking new questions. Now, the evidence is clear that this transition is more than on its way. As more than half of existing articles are now published according to its extended principles, open access is becoming quite the norm.
Surprisingly high numbers
On August 22nd, as I tweeted “#help: Looking for recent numbers on percentage of publications in #OA”, I was expecting to get results between 12 and 20%, like the previous numbers forecasted. You can imagine my surprise when I read these tweets:
The numbers were twice as high as those previously taken into account. This had never been seen before! (I’d like to take the opportunity here to thank the members of the #OA community for their constant responsiveness.) The European Commission’s press release indicated that these results were twice higher than previous forecasts because a more refined method and a larger definition of open access had been adopted.
No surprise there. Publications in hard sciences, biomedical research, biology and mathematics were always ahead and sometimes exceeded 50% over the period 2004-2010. Social sciences, applied sciences, engineering and technology are the disciplines that showed the lowest levels of open access. Nothing really new here.
What’s more significant is a strong 24% per year increase in articles published in journals using gold open access.
According to the report, there are more citations of articles in open access and in green open access, in particular. Articles published in gold open access journals have been less cited, mainly because lots of these young journals in open access have not (yet) achieved the same visibility and recognition as traditional journals.
Over the period 2008-2011, the level of publications in open access in certain countries also exceeded 50%. That’s the case for 30% of European countries, as well as the United States and Brazil. Thanks to the SciELO electronic library, the latter reached 63%.
Older articles increasingly opened
The report states an increase in the volume of open access publications of 2% each year. This is considerably amplified by previously published articles that, later, are made open access. The report also draws our attention to certain biases, like articles being put online for a certain time then removed by the publisher. A threshold was passed in December 2010: 48% of the articles published in 2008 were then available in open access.
The considerable increase in open access publications, especially in gold open access journals, and the various policies for open access adopted by governments (UK, US, University of California, etc.) foreshadow glorious days to come for the free and open diffusion of scientific publications for all. Responding to my tweet, Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, confirmed the objective of reaching, by 2020, 100% open access for all studies financed by the European Commission. So tell me, when will it be 100% open access everywhere, and for all?