Open access journals are 10% of journals: Findings from SOAP

Open access journals are transforming how researchers share information, and how the public can access it. They are peer reviewed journals which are digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

Open access journals are now commonplace. As of last lear, nearly 10% of scholarly articles were published in open access journals. There are now currently over 7500 open access journals, according to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which indexes freely available, peer-reviewed journals that don’t have an embargo period (see criteria). 

Here’s a current breakdown of which fields currently have open access journals:

The above graph is based on DOAJ’s data on the number of journals from last month. Also, we can see which fields tend to have more or fewer articles per journal. Here’s a graph of the total number of journals, and articles/year:

The above data is from the EC-funded Study of Open Access Publishing (SOAP), as of winter 2009-10.

Open access journals span many subjects, and are based in a surprising range of countries.

Some related online scholarly publications, e.g., some conference proceedings, partially fit the spirit of open access because they don’t have an ISSN or a formal peer-review process. Also, there are related models which are variations of open access, such as “hybrid” open access where only selected articles are free to the public, and “delayed” open access which becomes free after a fee-only embargo period.

Key facts

For a view of how open access journals are used in academia and research, the SOAP project surveyed over 40k published scholars, and released their findings in Fall 2010. Findings:

  • The number of open access articles published in “full” or “hybrid” open access journals was around 120,000 in 2009, some 8-10% of the estimated yearly global scientific output. Journals offering a “hybrid” open access option had a take-up of around 2%.
  • Open access journals in several disciplines (including Life Sciences, Medicine, and Earth Sciences) are of outstanding quality, and have Impact Factors in the top 1-2% of their disciplines.
  • Scientists who published in open access journals say they did so because of the free availability of the content to readers and the quality of the journal, as well as the speed of publication and, in some cases, the fact that no fee had to be paid directly by the author.
  • The main barriers encountered by 5000 scientists who would like to publish in open access journals but did not manage to do so are funding — some open access journals require a fee to publish — (for 39% of them) and the lack of journals of sufficient quality in their field (for 30%).

For more comprehensive background on the foundation and history of open access, see Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview. And also Stevan Harnad’s Open Access Archivangelism blog.

There is also evidence that open access boosts citations. Last month, Donovan (U Kentucky) and Watson (U Georgia) looked at citation patterns in law journals and found that publishing in open access journals led to a 50% higher chance of being cited in subsequent papers.


One comment on Open access journals are 10% of journals: Findings from SOAP

IDEA » Science museums are disconnected from new science research

25 Apr 2011, 3:06 pm

[…] & research, as well as social science research about learning. (See my recent articles about open access journals; and rise of […]


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