Friday, February 27, 2015

Canada's tri-agency open access policy

Kudos to Canada's three major research funding agencies (the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council or SSHRC, CIHR & NSERC) on their new open access policy.

In brief, for grants awarded as of May 2015 (January 1, 2008 in the case of CIHR), researchers are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication. Researchers can select whether to make their work openly accessible via an open access repository or through publishing in an open access journal.

In many respects this is an exemplary policy. Strengths of the policy include:

  • researchers are required not just encouraged to make their work freely available
  • the aim is free accessibility - this is clearer and simpler than technical definitions of open access that appear equally simple but introduce potential problems down the road - see my Creative Commons and Open Access Critique series for details
  • researchers are responsible for ensuring that they publish in journals that will allow compliance with this policy - this reinforces that the primary rights in results of published research rest with the researchers and the public that funded the work, not the publisher
  • researchers are strongly encouraged to deposit their article in an accessible online repository even when publishing in an open access journal
  • open access publication fees (APCs) are an allowable expense under the granting conditions. This is excellent because it provides the option for researchers who feel the services provided are of value to them and this makes sense in their context, and this will improve the prospects for some open access journals. By leaving the decision about how to use funds to the researchers this gives market incentive to spur competition. For example, researchers using their own grant funds that could otherwise be directed to other purposes have far more incentive to seek a good price, or even to ask whether such services are really necessary, than researchers accessing block funds otherwise unavailable to them (e.g. the UK approach). Being forced to make such decisions about whether to pay APCs, hire research assistants, or fund travel and conference expenses gives scholars a needed incentive to reconsider the whole publishing system. As far back as 1994, Odlyzko wrote about the impending demise of the scholarly journal. The stickiness of the current system developed and primarily suited for print publication and physical delivery is far from optimal in the internet age
  • the harmonization of the policy for all three granting agencies will facilitate education and compliance
  • the policy includes an open data policy for specific data under CIHR funding. This too is wise. We have only begun to consider the issues surrounding opening access to data with many different types of research, such as the primary rights and policies of third party organizations that researchers work with, confidentiality and other rights of human research subjects. At this point, my perspective is that to open up research data what we need most is support and infrastructure, an appropriate role for the university library, with careful development of policies over time that will likely be discipline and situation specific.
No policy is perfect, and here are my suggestions for improvement:
  • Researchers should be required and not just strongly encouraged to deposit a copy of their research in a Canadian open access repository, even if they have published in an open access journal or deposited in a disciplinary repository. The only way we can ensure ongoing preservation and open access to the results of Canadian-funded research is by keeping a copy of the works in repositories over which we have control. Journals come and go; whether open access or not, there is no guarantee that a journal will remain available forever. Open access journals can change their business models. Funding for a disciplinary repository maintained elsewhere could dry up.
  • 12 months is too long. The permitted embargo should be shortened to 6 months, with a view to eventually elimination.

Odlyzko, A. (1994). Tragic loss or good riddance? The impending demise of scholarly journals. Journal of Universal Computer Science 0:0. doi 10.3217/jucs-000-00-0003

My response to the tri-agency draft policy is posted here.

Monday, February 09, 2015

May 2014 survey of DOAJ journals charging APCs

Just published in MDPI's Publications!

For further background on this suite of research projects see the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons project page.

Abstract: As of May 2014, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) listed close to ten thousand fully open access, peer reviewed, scholarly journals. Most of these journals do not charge article processing charges (APCs). This article reports the results of a survey of the 2567 journals, or 26% of journals listed in DOAJ, that do have APCs based on a sample of 1432 of these journals. Results indicate a volatile sector that would make future APCs difficult to predict for budgeting purposes. DOAJ and publisher title lists often did not closely match. A number of journals were found on examination not to have APCs. A wide range of publication costs was found for every publisher type. The average (mean) APC of $964 contrasts with a mode of $0. At least 61% of publishers using APCs are commercial in nature, while many publishers are of unknown types. The vast majority of journals charging APCs (80%) were found to offer one or more variations on pricing, such as discounts for authors from mid to low income countries, differential pricing based on article type, institutional or society membership, and/or optional charges for extras such as English language editing services or fast track of articles. The complexity and volatility of this publishing landscape is discussed.

Citation: Morrison, H.; Salhab, J.; Calvé-Genest, A.; Horava, T. Open Access Article Processing Charges: DOAJ Survey May 2014. Publications 2015, 3, 1-16.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Dramatic Growth of Open Access: 30 indicators of growth beyond the ordinary

There has been a remarkably constant growth rate of scholarly journals since the 1600’s (De Solla Price, 1963, p. 17). Mabe (2003) calculates the average annual scholarly journal growth rate at 3.46% per year from the 1600’s to the present day, with an increase to 4.35% from 1946 to 1976 and subsequent fall to 3.26% after 1976.
This issue of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access highlights 30 indicators of open access growth that are beyond this background growth of scholarly works - in many cases far beyond, with a range of percentage growth from 5 - 89%. In some cases, high percentage growth reflects early start-ups (low starting figures), but in other cases there are very high growth rates on resources that were very, very large to begin with (these are the highlighted numbers below). Note that some numbers are rounded for ease of understanding; if precise numbers are required, please download the full dataset from the DGOA dataverse.

A special congratulations is in order to arXiv for recently surpassing the milestone of over 1 million documents. Note that these 30 indicators likely underestimate the growth of open access beyond the ordinary by a large factor, as this series focuses on just a few indicators of macro level growth of open access. To continue the momentum in 2015 open access advocates are encouraged to remember the vision of open access as unprecedented public good and not get caught up in the minutiae of implementation. Although the focus of this series is the numbers, a special mention to an exceptional open access policy recently announced by India's departments of Biotechnology and Science and Technology which represents a new model OA policy for the whole world.

Open access indicators with percentage growth above the 3.5% background growth of scholarly works in 2014
  • 89% growth - over 38,000 more journals that are free-to-read: the libraries collaborating on the Electronic Journals Library service added 38,865 journals that are free-to-read in 2014 for a total of 82,363 journals that can be read free of charge. This figure encompasses not only the fully open access, peer-reviewed journals included in DOAJ, but also the many journals that are free to read after an embargo period or that are of interest in an academic context without necessarily being peer reviewed. 
  • the Directory of Open Access Books was hopping in 2014, adding:
    •  863 books for a total of 2,482 (53% growth) 
    • 25 publishers for a total of 79 (46% growth).
  • the Internet Archive added:
    • 1.7 million texts (29% growth) for a total of 7.3 million texts
    • 107,000 movies (23% growth) for a total of 1.7 million movies
    • 400,000 audio recordings (22% growth) for a total of over 2.2 million concerts
    • 61 billion webpages (16% growth) for a total of 435 billion webpages
    • 12,000 concerts (10% growth) for a total of over 100,000 concerts
  • Highwire Press added:
    •  24 completely free sites for a total of 113 completely free sites, a 27% percentage increase 
    • close to 160,000 free articles (7% growth) for a total of close to 2.4 million 
    • 13 sites with free back issues (5% growth) for a total of 280 sites
  • the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) service added:
    • 12 million documents (21% growth) for a total of 68 million documents
    • 500 content providers (18% growth) for a total of over 3,000 content providers
  • PubMedCentral added
    • 483 journals (20% growth) that deposit selected articles for a total of  2,897 journals
    • 214 journals (18% growth) with immediate free access for a total of 1,402 journals
    • 180 journals (18% growth) with all articles open access for a total of 1,201 journals
    • 51 journals (18% growth) with some articles open access for a total of 338 journals
    • 224 full participation journals (16% growth) (all articles added to PMC) for a total of 1,618 journals
    • 250 actively participating journals (15% growth) for a total of 1,904 journals
    • 400,000 items (14% growth) for a total of 3.3 million items
    • 26 journals that deposit NIH-funded articles (10% growth) for a total of 299 journals 
  • DOAJ added:
    •  240,000 articles searchable at article level (15% growth) for a total of 1.8 million articles 
    • 12 countries (10% growth) for a total of 136 countries
    • close to 400 journals (7% growth) searchable at article level for a total of over 6 thousand journals
  • RePEC added 50,000 downloadable items (14% growth) for a total of 1.5 million items
  • Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) added:
    • 55,000 fulltext papers (13% growth) for a total of 483,000 papers
    • close to 60 thousand abstracts (11% growth) for a total of close to 600 thousand abstracts
    • 27 thousand authors (11% growth) for a total of close to 270 thousand author
  • arXiv added close to 100,000 documents (11% growth) for a total of over a million documents
  • OpenDOAR added 175 repositories (7% growth) for a total of 2,729
For full data, see the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Dataverse:

A call to remember the vision of open access in 2015

As open access moves further and further from idea to reality, it's all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of implementation: the procedures of developing open access archives, journals, books and other works and the development of the technology and services to make it happen, and to make the works attractive to use. In the process of developing OA initiatives, it may well be useful to develop and implement a variety of standards, new metrics and technical procedures. But in the process let's not confuse the means with the ends - let's keep our rationality rational (Morrison, 2012) and focused on the goals that we really want to achieve.

To further grow the momentum in 2015, let's remember the great vision of open access, as expressed in the first paragraph of the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative:

An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.
Special acknowledgement of a new leading-edge open access policy

The recently announced new open access policy of two of India's science departments represents the best of funding agency open access policy to date and includes important advances. There is a focus on green or open access archives and a call to develop the institutional repository system to implement the policy. This will ensure that the results of research funded by India remains open access and remains available to Indians - there is no substitute in OA policy for ensuring local control. The maximum embargoes are six months in the sciences and one year in the humanities and social sciences. The major advance is inclusion of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment instructing evaluators not to consider impact factor or other metrics in assessing the work of researchers, but rather focus on the quality of the work per se. This is an absolutely critical step in addressing the systemic dysfunction in the scholarly communication system I have described elsewhere (Morrison, 2012), facilitating a shift to rational rationality, a system that is free to prioritize the advancement of scholarly knowledge, the knowledge commons, rather than the imperfect measures people have devised as heuristic devices.


Mabe, M. (2003). The growth and number of journals. Serials, 16(2), 191-197. Retrieved August 27, 2011 from,16,24;journal,26,72;linkingpublicationresults,1:107730,1

Morrison, H. (2012). Freedom for scholarship in the internet age.  Doctoral dissertation, Simon Fraser University, Department of Communication. The second chapter discusses the theme of irrational rationality, drawing from the work begun by Weber. This is also called instrumental rationality, and in brief is our tendency to develop tools, techniques and measures to help us achieve our goals, only to become slaves to the measures.

Price, D. J. d. S. (1963). Little science, big science. New York: Columbia University Press.

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 year end Dramatic Growth of Open Access comment post

If you have news about the dramatic growth of open access in 2014 that you would like to share with others, please do so as a comment to this post. This year I'm skipping the usual early year-end edition due to lack of time, but the final year end (Dec. 31) will continue as usual. Please note that I may not be keeping up with of the usual social media for OA, so reader alerts via comments would be most appreciated.

Friday, November 14, 2014

France chooses publisher profits over academic jobs

Updated Nov. 14, 2014 - correction of calculation of academic positions...

According to a leak of the France-Elsevier deal, while France has cut $400 million Euros from the budgets of its academic institutions, at the same time the country secretly agreed to a 5-year $172 million Euro deal with Elsevier. That's a systemic annual budget cut of $80 million Euros and an Elsevier annual payment of $34 million Euros.

I don't have details about academic employment in France. However, assuming the same situation as in North America it is likely that this will primarily impact the employment prospect of new graduates in academia, and/or may cause some professors to accept early retirement. In effect, again assuming a similar situation, this means that many more new academics will accept very part-time, poorly paid positions with little or no benefits or job security than would otherwise be the case.

How big is the problem? Assuming an average full-time academic salary of $100,000 Euros per year, $34 million Euros could fund 340 full-time academic positions (1700 annual salaries over 5 years). Even if Elsevier took half the amount (not unrealistic since the company's current profit rate is close to 40%), that's still 170 full-time academic positions. Note that Elsevier is only of the very large highly profitable commercial scholarly publishers - to assess the full impact of publisher profits on academic work it is necessary to take other publishers into account.

And that's at Elsevier rates - by my calculations, we can flip the current subscriptions system to one that is fully open access, and, if we're smart, at a small fraction of the cost - again by my calculations, the current average spend per article for the DIY academic publishing largely reflected in journals using Open Journal Systems - is $188 per article, just 4% of the world's global library annual spend per article in subscriptions journals. Redirecting this money to academic salaries could do a lot towards revitalizing universities.

If readers have citations to data on academic salaries and/or employment in France, that would be helpful.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Open Access Week 2014!

To celebrate OA Week 2014, the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons team has released an early version of our  Open access article processing charges: DOAJ survey May 2014 for open commenting (until November 3, 2014) - details here:
Direct link to the OA APC dataverse (open data) where select files from this project have been posted:

Les étudiants dans mon cours ISI 5701 information et Société rédigeront postes du blogue pour la semaine de libre accès 2014. On peut voir mon propre exemple ici

Still working on your own promotion or presentation? Don't forget that the September 30, 2014 Dramatic Growth of Open Access focuses on useful numbers for OA Week! 

Happy Open Access Week! ~ Heather

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Dramatic Growth of Open Access September 30, 2014: some useful numbers for open access week

This edition of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access (DGOA) features a few numbers and facts that might be useful for forthcoming Open Access Week celebrations and presentations. The post starts off with a few really quick illustrations of the growth of open access, followed by detail and some answers to frequently asked questions. DGOA aims at only the most macro level indicators of growth and each post does not link to other major studies in this area. Readers are invited to add key links and details in the comments, only with comments, questions on DGOA itself. Open data is available for download through the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Dataverse (hint: if you'd like to make your own pretty charts I recommend the show growth edition). With Canadian thanksgiving around the corner, I would like to say a hearty thank you to everyone around the world who is doing all the hard work to make this happen!!!

Quick facts about open access status and growth

There are more than 10,000 fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals in the world, about a third of all peer-reviewed journals. These journals are published in more than 100 countries, and contain over 1.7 million articles. (Details: DOAJ).

There are close to 50,000 free-to-read journals of academic interest (including fully open peer reviewed journals, journals with free back issues, and journals of academic interest that are not peer-reviewed). (Details: DOAJ section / Electronic Journals Library).

Open access monographs is an area experiencing rapid growth, an annual growth rate of over 40% for both books and publishers. Currently there are over 2,200 open access books from over 70 publishers (Details: DOAB).

There are over 2,700 open access repositories (details OpenDOAR) containing approximately 64 million documents of various types (details BASE - note that not all items are open access).

PubMedCentral has more than 3.2 million free fulltext documents. There is substantial annual growth in journal PMC participation, including the number of journals actively participating in PMC, the number of journals providing immediate free access, and the number of journals providing open access to all articles. 

arXiv is approaching one million free documents and an annual growth rate of 11%.

RePEC has about 1.5 million downloadable items.

The Social Sciences Research Network has close to 500,000 items and an annual growth rate of 13%.

There are close to 500 open access policies, an area growing at a rate of 16% annually (details: ROARMAP).

The Internet Archive includes over 430 billion web pages and 6.5 million texts, to name just a couple of items, and in spite of its huge size the growth rates for all types of works continue to be absolutely amazing.


DOAJ: over 10,000 journals from 135 countries, over 1.7 million searchable articles.This is roughly one third of the world's scholarly journals.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists over 10,000 fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Over the past year DOAJ has been undergoing some major and much-needed renovations (technical and getting tough about journal inclusion). For this reason, DOAJ journal growth numbers would be misleading at the present time, for two reasons a) comparing apples to oranges, a more inclusive list with a list with more stringent criteria for inclusion; and b) DOAJ is likely behind on adding new journals due to this work. For example, the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons team's open access article processing charges project has found that the DOAJ titles listed as of May 2014 do not closely match the list of titles found on OA publisher sites, with the OA publisher title lists tending to be under-represented in DOAJ. Over the coming year, watch for DOAJ to begin to catch up.

DOAJ's stringent inclusion criteria (immediate OA, peer-review, minimum number of articles published) results in an understatement of the works of academic interest that are free-to-read. The Electronic Journals Library's  over 46,000 free-to-read journals is the best estimate I'm aware of of the free-to-read category. (Close to 50,000 free-to-read journals would be a reasonable estimate, as the EJL added about over 4,000 journals over the past year).

DOAB: over 2,200 open access books from 70 publishers, annual growth rate over 40%
The Directory of Open Access Books currently lists 2,261 books from 77 publishers. The over 40% annual growth rate applies to both books and publishers. Note that as a relatively new service high percentage rates are relatively easy to achieve (lower starting figures).

OpenDOAR: 2,700 repositories
The Directory of Open Access Repositories lists 2,729 repositories, an 11% increase (277 repositories) over the past year. Another way to express this trend, at least in some regions like Canada: having an open access repository is rapidly becoming the norm, an essential service for a university or a research institution.

Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE): over 64 million documents from over 3,000 content providers. Over the past year BASE grew by over 14 million documents for a growth rate of 29%.
Bielefeld Academic Search Engine is the service that I use for the best guesstimate of how much content is available through all of those open access repositories. This number is far from perfect as not all items in all of the repositories are open access, there could be duplication, and there is a wide range of content types. However, BASE is the best number I have found to indicate the broader growth of open access including all of these content types and even the freely available metadata; and, if only a very small portion of BASE's growth were due to peer-reviewed journal articles becoming open access, that would still be highly significant. For example, if all of the world's approximately 1.5 million peer reviewed articles produced yearly became OA through a repository over the past year, that would only account for 10% of BASE's 14 million document growth.

Highwire Free includes over 2.3 million free articles, and 109 completely free sites.

PubMedCentral: over 3.2 million free fulltext, 14% increase over past year. 1,890 (close to 2,000) journals actively participating in PMC, a 15% jump from last year.  20% increase in journals offering immediate free access (1,358 journals) and 17% increase in journals with all articles open access (1,163).
PubMedCentral: PubMed now links to over 3.2 million free fulltext items, an increase of about 400,000 over the past year for an annual growth rate of 14%. There was a 15% growth of journals actively participating in PubMedCentral, up 243 over the past year for a current total of 1,890 (close to 2,000 would be a reasonable ballpark figure to quote). The number of journals in PMC offering immediate free access increased by 20% to a total of 1,358 and the number of journals in PMC with all articles open access increased by 17% for a total of 1,163.  

arXiv is approaching 1 million items (974,813), annual growth rate 11%.

RePEC has about 1.5 million downloadable items. Growth rates not available due to a combination of changes at RePEC and my rather substantial error in calculating RePEC numbers in June.

The Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) has 469,960 full text papers (close to 500,00) and an annual growth rate of 13%.  

The Registry of Open Access Material Archiving Policies (ROARMAP) lists 483 open access policies (close to 500), an increase of 16% in the past year.  

The Internet Archive continues to be the exception to the rule that new, smaller initiatives have an easier time demonstrating high growth rates. The Internet Archive currently includes over 430 billion web pages (20% annual increase), 1.7 million videos (25% annual increase), 133,000 concerts (10% annual increase), 2 million audio recordings (23% increase) and 6.5 million texts (29% annual increase).

For full details and downloadable data, please see the Dramatic Growth of Open Access dataverse.

Previous posts in the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series can be found here

Comments on this post, data corrections, and links to other studies on the growth of open access (or if you're making use of the open data, links to your results) are welcome and appreciated in the comments section. Please note that this is a scholarly blog; comments should be signed and relevant interests, if any, noted.