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Feature


As the open access landscape


grows in volume and complexity, Rebecca Pool asks whether calls for caution should be heard


Earlier this year, a small Springer Nature survey of professional staff in research institutions and libraries around the world delivered big results for open access. Of the 200 respondents working in


research institutions or libraries, more than 70 per cent agreed that all future research articles, scholarly book and research data should be accessible via open access (OA). Meanwhile, a mighty 91 per cent of the librarians surveyed agreed OA to be the future of scholarly publishing. As Carrie Calder, vice president for business development and policy, open research at Springer Nature, said at the time: ‘We see the rise of open research as one of the major forces reshaping the way that researchers collaborate to advance discovery... We will continue to push forward open access in all its forms.’ Without a doubt, Springer Nature has


“German and Swedish research institutes recently – and very publicly – cancelled Elsevier contracts”


www.researchinformation.info | @researchinfo


seen overwhelming success with its multidisciplinary science title, Nature Communications, now regarded as the highest-cited OA journal in the world. And, following the success of PLOS ONE and the subsequent flurry of mega-journals – including Nature’s Scientific Reports, BMJ Open and PeerJ – the volume of open access articles has mushroomed. But despite the hype, absolute figures are less grandiose. Publishing industry


analyst firm, Simba Information, recently reported that the share of OA articles in hybrid journals was just over two per cent at Elsevier, and a mere four per cent at Springer Nature. And, in his recent PeerJ paper,


‘Evolution of the scholarly mega-journals 2006-2017’, information systems scientist Bo-Christer Björk from Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, called for context on the article output of mega-journals. Referring to the Scopus index, he estimated that in 2016, while the share of OA articles in Scopus came in at 19.4 per cent, mega-journal articles took a 2.6 per cent Scopus share, and articles in hybrid OA journals contributed two per cent. Rob Johnson, founder and director of


UK-based Research Consulting, believes a clear distinction should be drawn between the volumes of OA content now available and the business models adopted by academic publishers: ‘In terms of the proportion of content that is OA, we have passed the ideological tipping point here as there are a lot of green OA articles available, with copies to be found somewhere other than a publisher’s platform,’ he says. ‘But, in terms of publishers changing their business models, we are not there yet,’ he adds. ‘The vast majority of journal publishers are still using the subscription model, and the market share held by the pure OA journal is very much in the minority.’ Given the diminutive numbers, many


librarians and researchers are impatient for change, calling for journals, books and data to become open access at a faster pace, as reflected in Springer Nature’s recent survey. Indeed, some two thirds of respondents were hopeful that a move


August/September 2018 Research Information


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