Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dramatic Growth of Open Access: Inclusion Criteria


The most common question about my Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series is: why is my open access service not included? This blogpost explains the inclusion criteria for Dramatic Growth. It would not be possible to include every open access service, not even every truly great open access service, for reasons of human limitations. A collaborative approach to expanding Dramatic Growth through disciplinary or geographic subsets would be welcome. Services included in Dramatic Growth are those that most closely reflect the overall growth of OA (e.g. total number of OA articles or journals), the largest open access archives, and a few services that reflect the author's own discipline and geographic region (which could be moved into one or more subsets). One factor is considering inclusion in Dramatic Growth that your favorite open access service might wish to consider: how easy is it to determine the quantity of open access in your service? A prominent, frequently updated count of articles or journals included in your service, particularly if these can be limited to OA, tips the balance in your favor.


The quick answer to why not every OA service is included in DOAJ, is that there are simply so many open access services that it beyond the author's ability to highlight each and every one, regardless of merit. There are more than 800 repositories, more than 2,800 fully open access journals, more open access portal services than I likely know about. The number of services selected for Dramatic Growth reference must be limited, reflecting my own human limitations, and also for the benefit of readers, as attempting to cover all of the numbers would be overwhelming.

The ideal numbers would look something like:

  • All peer-reviewed journal articles produced in the world, in this quarter and for all time
  • How many are open access (broken down by definitions, i.e. full, immediate OA, delays - by how much, almost OA but not quite by the BOAI definition, and so forth).

There is no way that I am aware of to obtain directly and precisely any of these numbers; all measures are somewhat indirect. If I'm missing something, please let me know. Therefore, I seek the best indirect measures possible.

The largest repository metasearch tools (OAIster, Scientific Commons)are the best indicators of the open access portion of the equation. This is an imperfect measure, since both include other types of materials besides fully open access, peer-reviewed journal articles. However, this is a substantial portion of the content of both, so it is reasonable to assume this as a rough measure of the growth of open access.

The largest open access archives (PubMedCentral, arXiv, and RePEC), are tracked. arXiv and RePEC provide an important measure of the growth rates of mature archives.

To measure open access publishing, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is selected for two reasons. Most importantly, the DOAJ vetting process and the fact that DOAJ is very well-known, so that inclusion in the list is actively sought by OA publisher, means a fairly accurate measure of the growth of OA journals.

The other factor is that DOAJ posts an accurate, up to date count of journals and new titles which is prominent and easy to find on their website. When selecting other services for inclusion in Dramatic Growth, this is a key factor, that is, how easy is it to figure out how much content is in the service, and perhaps more importantly, how much of the content qualifies as open access? This is one of the reasons why Highwire Free is included, even though many of the titles are embargoed; Highwire Free provides a count on their website.

Some of the services included in Dramatic Growth are included primarily because they represent the author's own discipline and geographic area (E-LIS and the CARL Metadata Harvester). If a collaborative approach to Dramatic Growth were developed, splitting off disciplinary and geographic subsets, these services might move to these sections. There are advantages to including some services such as these in the overall Dramatic Growth, however, as they provide some contrast with other services. For example, E-LIS is a much newer archive than PMC, arXiv, or RePEC, so provides a useful illustration of the difference in growth curve between new and mature archives.

Many thanks to those who join me in the awesome task of chronicling the Dramatic Growth of what, in my opinion, is one of the great moments of history, the rise of open access, whether through reading or providing suggestions for improvement. The next edition of this quarterly series is scheduled for September 30.