Monday, July 02, 2012

June 30, 2012 Dramatic Growth of Open Access

"As the costs of publishing continue to be driven down by new technology, we will continue to see a growth in open access publishers. This new and innovative model appears to be the wave of the future." This is what I have been saying for years - but significantly, this is from the co-sponsors of the anti-open-access Research Works Act - just one of the great quotes from Shieber's The inevitability of open access discussed below.

The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE), operated by Bielefeld University Library, is described as "one of the world's most voluminous search engines especially for academic open access web resources". BASE's total document count is what I use as the best available surrogate for the number of open access resources currently available. This is far from an exact count (not all the resources in the archives harvested by BASE are open access, there is no deduplication, and the types of documents is difficult to discover). However, the sheer volume of BASE is a clear indication of dramatic growth of open access archives - with over 36 million documents in total, the real number would be impressive even if it were only a small portion of the total. This quarter, the just over 2,000 repositories harvested by BASE collectively added close to 2 million documents.

Actual numbers from specific repositories illustrate that the BASE total is no mirage. PubMedCentral alone, as of March 2012, provided access to 3.5 million fulltext documents, or 17% of the literature indexed by PMC (with no limitations by date or funder). Since April 2008, when the NIH introduced a stronger Public Access Policy, over 200,000 NIH-funded journal articles have become freely available through PMC, for a compliance rate of 74%.

arXiv contains over 750,000 documents; RePEC, over 1 million, and the Social Sciences Research Network about 350,000 documents. These 4 repository services taken together add to over 5.5 million documents - and this is just 4 of the over 2,000 open access repositories available around the world.

The Directory of Open Access Journals is getting close to 8 thousand titles, and adding titles at a rate of over 3 per day. The newly launched Directory of Open Access Books already lists more than a thousand titles from 27 contributing publishers. The Electronic Journals Library, which collects free titles of interest to academics whether peer reviewed or not, and including titles that are not fully OA but provide free access to back issues, lists over 35,000 journals, and continues to add titles at an average rate of 15 per day.

The Internet Archive provides access to 670,000 movies, 100,000 concerts, 1.3 million audio recordings, and 3.5 million texts.

No wonder then that many people - and not just the usual suspects - are beginning to see that open access is inevitable! This issue of The Dramatic Growth of Open Access briefly explains the purpose of this series, highlights Shieber's collection of quotes on the inevitability of open access, discusses one of the less immediately visible indications of the growth of open access, the increasing citations of open access journals, and provides selected growth numbers. Full data for this series can be downloaded from SUMMIT.

The purpose of this series

It is important not to overstate the extent of open access today; the vast majority of scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles are still published in toll access journals. However, it is also important to notice and celebrate what has been accomplished to date, and that is the primary purpose of this series, The Dramatic Growth of Open Access.

Reasons why this recognition of accomplishments to date are important include:
  • raising awareness of the resources already available for people to use
    • increases usage and hence success of existing open access initiatives
    • usage can raise awareness of the benefits of open access
    • increase understanding that there is no need for any one region to consider a unilateral move to open access - it's happening everywhere
  • countering misperceptions of lack of progress - for example, there is the occasional setback, but when a single journal reverts from open to toll access, let's keep in mind that the net growth for DOAJ that same day was about 3 titles
  • celebrating success to date is good for morale!
The inevitability of open access
In a post on The Occasional Pamphlet called The inevitability of open access, Stuart Shieber says: "I get the sense that we’ve moved into a new phase in discussions of open access. There seems to be a consensus that open access is an inevitability. We’re hearing this not only from the usual suspects in academia but from publishers, policy-makers, and other interested parties". Even the co-sponsors of the anti-open-access Research Works Act, Issa and Maloney, are quoted as saying: "As the costs of publishing continue to be driven down by new technology, we will continue to see a growth in open access publishers. This new and innovative model appears to be the wave of the future."

The growing citation impact of open access journals

Thanks to Matt Cockerill for A striking example of a society journal improving its impact factor radically following a move to #openaccess 

A striking example of a society journal improving its impact ... on Twitpic

and to David Wardle for research illustrating that ecological papers in PLoS ONE have a greater impact than those published in the main ecological journals.  Details:

ecological papers published in PLoS ONE, which accepts 69% of submissions, publishes work that on average has a greater impact than papers published in Oikos which accepts 15% of submissions,
and has a comparable impact to those in Ecology and Functional Ecology which respectively accept 20% and 15% of submissions. Ecological papers published in,PLoS ONE are on average cited less than those in Ecology Letters (with an 11% acceptance rate) but evenhere there is considerable overlap
Wardle, David A. On plummeting manuscript acceptance rates by the main ecological journals
and the progress of ecology. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 5: 13–15, 2012
doi:10.4033/iee.2012.5.4.e  "

Selected numbers

Directory of Open Access Journals
  • 7,912 journals
  • 305 added this quarter (3 per day)
Directory of Open Access Books
  • 1,098 academic peer-reviewed books
  • 27 publishers
Electronic Journals Library
  •  35,296 journals that can be read free of charge
  • 1,312 added this quarter (15 per day)
Number of repositories
For extensive detailed statistics on repositories see OpenDOAR and ROAR
Number of items in repositories
For extensive statistics on items by repository including deposit rate see the Registry of Open Access Repositories 

Global: Bielefeld Academic Search Engine 
  • 36 million documents
  • 2 million documents added this quarter (22 thousand / day)
PubMedCentral: 2.4 million (from PMC website - this total not updated regularly)

arXiv (physics)
  • 766,772 documents
  • 20,789 added this quarter (230 per day)
RePEC (Research Papers in Economics)
  • 1 million downloadable documents
  • 30 thousand added this quarter (333 per day)
Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN)
  •  350,000 fulltext documents
  • 28,000 added this quarter (311 per day)
E-LIS (Library and Information Science)
  • 13,387 documents
  • 460 added this quarter (5 per day) 
Open Access Mandate Policies (from ROARMAP)
  •  330 policies listed 
  • 237 policies excluding thesis policies
  • 10 institutional policies added this quarter
Internet Archive
  • Moving images (movies) 670,000 - 40,000 added this quarter (444 per day)
  • Live music archive (concerts) 100,000 - 3,455 added this quarter (28 per day)
  • Audio (recordings) 1.3 million - 128,000 added this quarter (1,400 per day)
  • Texts 3.5 million - 150,000 added this quarter (1,600 per day)
  • 1,347 journals actively participating in PMC (decrease of 13 this quarter)
  • 1,092 journals deposit ALL articles in PMC (increase of 51 this quarter)
  • 928 journals with immediate free access (increase of 49 this quarter)
  • 792 journals with all articles open access (increase of 46 this quarter)
PubMed indexed articles with free fulltext available
  • 200,000 articles (74%) by NIH funded external researchers since 2008 Public Access Policy freely available
  • 340,000 articles (58%) by NIH internal or external researchers freely available (no date limit)
    • 150,000 articles (60%) within 3 years of publication
    • 84,000 articles (50%) within 2 years of publication
    • 16,000 articles (20%) within 1 year of publication
This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series. 


  1. Unfortunately, the numbers don't tell the whole story. Just as important as numbers in open-access is quality. Sadly, the high statistics include the works of many exploitative publishers whose output is bottom-tier work that often includes pseudoscience and plagiarism. I think it's neglectful to only tell the numbers side of the story. Ignoring the downside of open-access publishing won't make it go away, and predatory open-access publishers increasingly threaten the entire system of scholarly communication.

    1. Jeffrey, many thanks for your list of predatory open access publishers, this is an important part of understanding open access. I am not sure how much this impacts the numbers. These journals are less likely to be in DOAJ, for example, and I am not sure how many articles they publish - but definitely much less than PLoS ONE which is the world's largest journal and has a good reputation for quality peer review.

      To aim for an inclusive picture, perhaps your list of predatory publishers should point to some of the positive accomplishments of

  2. Anonymous2:19 PM

    Can I add that there are now 4060 Open Access journals in JournalTOCs JournalTOCs can only include scholarly journals which have Table of Contents RSS feeds. RSS TOC feeds can be used by anyone for current awareness, and can also be displayed by free services such as JournalTOCs. Few if any of the 'predatory' journals have RSS TOC feeds, and in any case we try to ensure that all journals in JournalTOCs comply with quality criteria. On the downside WRT OA, some OA journals are struggling to continue publishing new issues - see:

  3. Thank you for your comment, Roddy. This is another important aspect of growth of open access journals, the technical sophistication of the journals for dissemination - this includes things like RSS feeds as well as OAI metadata harvesting capability (tracked by DOAJ for article search).

    With respect OA journals that are struggling, may I suggest that this is common with new journals, regardless of their open access status. I just did a search of Ulrich's for academic / scholarly journals with a start year of 2000 or later that are ceased, and retrieved a list of 657 journals, of which 42 are open access. In other words, since 2000 far more new toll access journals than OA journals have ceased to publish (about 15 times as many).

    It is also important to keep in mind that not all open access journals are new; many are well established journals that have converted to OA. Also, at the article level the vast majority of OA is green or self-archiving, not gold.

  4. Australia's Treasure Trove links to over 302,682,563 Australian and online resources:
    books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives and more
    as of today

    (Thanks to Lisa Kruesi)


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