Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dramatic Growth of Open Access: Revised Update

sThe following update has been revised, based on helpful comments from a fellow open access advocate. In the spirit of open peer review, both the original and the revised update will continue to be available. Comments on the open peer review aspect can be found at the end of this update.

As further evidence of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access, following is an update on some of the figures presented in my peer-reviewed preprint, written early February 2005. In brief, the Directory of Open Access Journals continues to add new open access journals to its list at an average rate of about one title per day. OAIster figures suggest growth in both repositories, and articles contained therein. Highwire Free figures indicate that a related trend, free back issues, is having a noticeable impact as well.

In the author's opinion, there is no authoritative information available on the exact numbers of either open access journals or open access articles at the present time. These, or any other figures, can be interpreted at best as general and somewhat indirect indications of the extent of open access. The author concludes that there is sufficient evidence to prove that there is dramatic growth in open access, even though the precise figures have not been determined at this point in time.

The author cautions that, while is sufficient data to illustrate a dramatic growth in open access, strongly suggesting a very strong interest amongst academics in making their own work openly accessible, the vast majority of peer-reviewed articles still are not openly accessible.

In the author's opinion, it is not necessary or desirable to invest much time in determining precise figures at this point in time. That is, open access is at a stage where a great many academics, research funders, journal publishers, and others, are considering policies, economic models, and new means of publishing. The important question is not how much open access there is, but rather how to implement open access.

Following are the data as presented in the original article, gathered in early February 2005, and current data as of August 19, 2005. Some of the factors which make it impossible to extrapolate precise figures are listed below each section:

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
Early February 2005:
  • over 1,400 journals
  • 63 titles added in past 30 days (Feb. 9)
  • 349 journal searchable at article level
    August 19, 2005:
  • 1,683 journals
  • 43 titles added in the past 30 days Note: this is August - if the number of titles added is slightly less in August than in January, summer vacations are likely the reason
  • 414 journals searchable at the article level
  • 76,422 articles included in DOAJ service (no comparison figure for Feb.; included for future reference)
    Note: journals are listed in DOAJ after they are discovered, and have passed a vetting process meant to ensure that all titles are fully open access, and peer reviewed.
    Some factors to consider when interpreting DOAJ figures:
  • DOAJ figures can only reflect OA journals which have been reported to DOAJ, or discovered by DOAJ. The electronic medium, the internet, and open source publishing software such as Open Journal Systems, make it very easy for researchers to start up their own independent journals, anywhere in the world with an internet connection. In some cases, the development of open access journals is highly coordinated, as with the Scielo group, facilitating discovery. In other cases, the new OA journal appears to have been developed quite independently, as is the case with The Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching.
  • To illustrate what the author sees as a very high probability that DOAJ significantly understates the total number of open access journals, consider the list of thousands of OA journals compiled by Jan Sczepanski, as reported by John Kelljberg to the SPARC Open Access Forum. This European-based list alone includes a very great many journals not reflect in DOAJ (or perhaps, not yet reflected in DOAJ? DOAJ is run by human beings, after all, who, like the rest of us, only have so much time at their disposal. Plus, with OA journals springing up around the world, perhaps the small DOAJ staff are not perfectly fluent in each and every one of the languages of the world?
  • As an illustration of the complexities of determining open access journal numbers, consider the case of the open source Open Journal Systems. On the OJS web site, there is a list of a sample of users of this software at Open Journal Systems sample OJS users - 40 participants as of August 20, 2005, (including the 210 titles in the African Journals Online project). This list represents only a sample of OJS users. For example, almost all of the 40 OJS users listed publish in English, whereas in 2003, it was reported that OJS "is being translated into Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Turkish by contributors to this open source software in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Canada and Turkey." Anyone can download and use the open source software, and create their own support community. Reporting either to OJS, or to DOAJ, is optional. It is likely that many journals have not yet reported. Then, too, there is a strong tendency for most of the OJS users to pursue full open access, however this is not required. Even journals which fully intend to move towards open access may not yet be fully online. For example, many of the journals in the African Journals Online project only have abstracts online so far. There are OJS journals which are not open access at all, and at least one commercial, traditional subscription-style publisher is using the software. You could do research to find out whether OJS users plan to make their journals open access; however, this may not be timely, as it is quite likely that many journals are in the process of exploring models for making their work accessible in the electronic environment.
  • There are variations in the definition of open access, so that a determination of what constitutes an open access journal or article can vary depending on the definition. As one example, if a journal's articles are free to read on the journal's web site, but the author cannot post to an institutional repository, the journal will be considered open access by some observers, and not others.
  • There are variations in what is characterised as peer review, which makes it difficult to assess with any certainty the total number of peer-reviewed journals, whether open access or not. For example, there are many journals which review articles through an editorial rather than peer review process, but may self-identify as peer review.

    OAIster records:
  • 3.7 million records - Nov. 15, 2004
  • over 5 million records - early February, 2005
  • 5.7 million records - August 18, 2005
    OAIster institutions:
  • 405 institutions - early February 2005
  • 523 institutions - August 18, 2005
    Factors to consider in interpreting OAIster data
    OAIster includes all data and institutions using the Open Archives Initiative protocol. OAI is a standard designed to facilitate metadata harvesting that is frequently, but not necessarily, associated with open access scholarly articles.
  • OAIster data does not include self-archived items which are not deposited in a OAI-compliant repository - for example, articles posted on author's web sites.
  • While the increase in the number of records retrieved through an OAIster search cannot be directly related to open access articles, the author's experience strongly suggests that at least some of the growth in OAIster records arises from articles in institutional repositories. For example, in Canada, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries has an Institutional Repository program underway, with each university library proceeding independently. Many repositories are in early stages - some still in discussion stages, others in pilot project phase, still others fairly recently released publicly, and just beginning to fill. The number of institutional repositories, and articles contained therein, has increased in a pattern consistent with the OAIster increase in numbers.

    Country Update on Institutional Repositories
    Detailed information on institutional repositories, articles, and other information, from 13 countries. Illustrates the international nature of the IR movement. Provides data that will likely be useful in determining OA growth in the future.
    This paragraph added August 22, 2005. Thanks to the SPARC OA News written by Peter Suber for the tip.

    Free back issues from Highwire Press: not open access, but definitely related:
  • over 800,000 free full-text articles in January 2005
  • 940,830 free full-text articles as of 8/18/05

    OA News growth from specific publishers
    My apologies to all the other OA publishers not listed here, whose collections are also growing rapidly, such as India's Medknow Publications, not addressed in detail below. The purpose of this update is to illustrate that open access continues to grow dramatically; it is not meant to list all of the important open access initiatives currently underway.

    Note: this paragraph added August 22, 2005, based on data supplied by Matt Cockerill at BMC.
    As of today, BMC has 139 journals that are fully OA in terms of research, although some journals feature subscriptions for non-research content. Many more journals are in the pipeline. This contrasts with the "over 100" journals I reported in early February. Although I do not have the exact figure at that time, I do not underreport open access journals, so it is likely that this meant "just over 100 journals". My figures from early February for BioMedCentral were from the CUFTS knowledgebase, which may not always equal BMC numbers due to CUFTS updating procedures (usually monthly). As an indication of the likely accuracy of CUFTS figures, the CUFTS journal count for BMC today is 138, as compared to the 139 reported by Matt Cockerill at BMC.

    George Porter's OA Journal Announcements
    Caltech's George Porter frequently posts updates on new and converted-to-OA journals. You can find these message at the SPARC Open Access Forum Archives. To find the full list, search for George Porter by name, look up his e-mail address and search again. You should find a total of 319 messages (as of August 22), mostly OA journal announcements. Close to 50 of these announcements are dated February 2005 or later. One example is the latest update to the Public Library of Science collection.

    African Journals Online Update
    Details about the dramatic growth of the African Journals Online project have been published in the INASP Newsletter No. 29: July 2005. Highlights:
  • 1998: pilot project - 10 journals with tables of contents online
  • end of 2000: 50 English language journals with tables of contents, document delivery service added
  • end of 2003: 175 journals from 21 African journals
    Comment: according to the INASP article, this is "slow". Makes you wonder: what does "fast" look like, from an INASP perspective?
  • July 2005: over 1,500 tables of contents, over 18,000 articles on the site
  • July 2005: ability to add own content introduced for journals over the past year
  • July 2005: readers around the world have signed up for alerts service to individual titles; 10 of the journals have over 200 alerts subscribers, one has over 300
    Comment: demonstrates - yet again, in another way - the OA impact advantages
    This paragraph added August 22, 2005. Thanks to the SPARC OA News, written by Peter Suber, for the tip.

    Notes on open peer review
    The author's original update was revised, based on helpful comments from a fellow open access advocate. These were presented as comments, rather than peer review, at the request of the person making the comments. While this individual is widely considered to have academic expertise in the area of open access, in the individual's own view, numeric analysis of open access is outside their area of expertise - an area where the individual feels competent to comment, but not peer review. From the author's point of view, these comments were particularly helpful in identifying the need to articulate some of the limitations to be considered in interpreting this data, which were no doubt much more obvious to the author than they would be for many readers.

    Note: this post, originally posted August 20, 2005, has been updated August 22, 2005, with new information. Three times. Feb. 26, 2007 - this is now a quarterly series.

    This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.
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