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The Ascent of Open Access

24th January 2019
By Katy Alexander
Quick Read
  • Countries that have invested in Open Access have typically increased their level of international collaboration.
  • All countries appear to be increasing the proportion of their research that is collaborative.
  • Brazil is success story, second only to the UK, with 51.2% of its research output available through Open Access channels
  • China is the second highest producer overall and the third highest in OA (2016).

We’re excited to release our latest report, The Ascent of Open Access, which is an analysis of the Open Access landscape since the turn of the millennium. We’ve used Dimensions and the data that it contains from Unpaywall to analyse Open Access trends between 2000 and 2016. The underlying dataset includes all publications with a DOI or PubMed identifier.

Open access has only gradually become part of collective academic consciousness. While it has been a key issue for the publisher, funder, and librarian communities for more than 20 years, most academics have come to be aware of open access in a more measured way. The speed of uptake of open access has depended on the field, with economics and physics being among the very earliest movers as they pioneered the concept of pre-prints – sharing pre-published work in an open manner with colleagues. 

The main report writer, Daniel Hook, concludes that:

“Continued waves of innovation in policy and technology will be needed to take us from the current state of Open Research to some future equilibrium.”

Other findings from the report are:

  • Countries that have invested in Open Access have typically increased their level of international collaboration.
  • Open Access, Funded and Internationally Collaborative papers account for just 6.3% of all output but garner 15.2% of the citations.
  • The UK’s substantial commitment to Open Access through successive waves of initiative has clearly been a significant strategic advantage, and has allowed them to retain a highly-ranked position in Open Access output.
  • India’s more measured success is still no less remarkable – not in the top 12 producers in either category in 2010 to being ninth highest producer overall and twelfth highest in OA (2016).
  • Countries that have invested in Open Access have managed to stay near the top of the output rankings
  • Notably, the UK has “punched above its weight” through successive initiatives to champion the cause of OA – Over 52% of the UK’s output is available through Open Access channels, accounting for 7% of world output.
  • Japan, initially a great proponent of OA in 2010, has descended in the table as its capacity to collaborate internationally has waned versus the average.
  • Countries with slower rates of development such as Japan, Canada or France have descended in the table while countries with smaller research bases have also not been able to keep up with overall production rates in spite of their significant investments (Switzerland, Netherlands).
  • A significant outlier is Australia, which has managed to maintain a position in the top 12 through aggressive growth in Open Access to offset the relative size of their university sector.
  • The US remained fairly stagnant between 2012 and 2016 as OA rates peaked at around 41% and their world share of OA actually reduced by around 4% as the rest of the research world (and notably China) began to produce more, with more of it available through Open Access routes.

Open Access Classifications used in the report:

  • Pure Gold: Version Of Record (VOR) is free under an open licence from a full OA journal
  • Bronze: Freely available on publisher page, but without an open licence
  • Hybrid: Version Of Record (VOR) is free under an open licence in a paid-access journal
  • Green, Published: Free copy of published version in an OA repository
  • Green, Accepted: Free copy of accepted version in an OA repository
  • Green, Submitted: Free copy of submitted version, or where version is unknown, in an OA repository
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