Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dramatic Growth of Open Access March 31 2011


The most amazing growth story of the first quarter of 2011 is that of Mendeley, jumping half a million articles downloadable for free, from 300,000 to 800,000, growth of 171% in just one quarter!! Since Mendeley is a DIY tool for researchers, this amazing growth illustrates that there is a considerable appetite for self-archiving, once the researcher has a service that appeals to them. (See Mendeley update at bottom of this post for more). Analysis this quarter focuses on the strong growth rate of so many open access initiatives in comparison to the overall 3-3.5% average growth of scholarly articles and journals. Data is presented that strongly suggests that the success rate for open access journals is already higher than that of subscription journals in this and a related post, Those Active Open Access Journals!. Congratulations to DOAJ for announcing the DOAJ new interface - and surpassing the milestone of more than half a million articles available through the DOAJ article search! As DOAJ's Anna-Lena Johannson expresses it: DOAJ now has more than 6,300 journals, more than 100 countries, over 50 languages, and more than 2,500 journals providing metadata at article level. . Another indication of the international reach of the open access movement from Katarina Lovrecic; there are 133 OA journals in Croatia, and 129 or 97% of the journals in the Croatian Hrčak portal are open access. An additional 47 journals are actively participating in PubMedCentral; the growth for journals in PMC providing immediate free access is 40, and the full open access PMC journal growth rate is 33. This issue of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access introduces two new features for the very busy - a quick numbers section, and a quick reference edition.

Quick Numbers

# of open access journals (DOAJ): over 6,000. Growth rate: 4 per day.
# of freely available journals (Electronic Journals Library): over 28,000. Growth rate: 10 per day.
# of open access repositories: close to 2,000 (OpenDOAR). Growth rate: 1 per day.
# of documents freely available (BASE): 25 million. Growth rate: 6,000 per day.
# of open access mandate policies (ROARMAP): 271. Growth rate: 1 per week or 5 per month.
% of world's scholarly literature that is freely available: 20% (Bjork et al)

For more detail and references, see the Quick Reference. The Quick Reference is available for downloading as a PDF or excel file from the SFU IR.

Open access growth compares VERY favorably with overall growth of scholarship

These charts illustrate just how dramatic the growth of open access is, in comparison with the overall average growth rates of scholarship of 3% (for articles) and 3.5% (for journals) calculated by Mabe (and cited by Ware). In 2004, a little over 62,000 articles were searchable through DOAJ, compared with over 500,000 today (490,000 at the end of 2010). IF DOAJ article search had been growing at the average rate of 3% per year, there would now be about 75,000 articles available through the DOAJ article search. DOAJ article search has grown about 7 times what one would expect given the average scholarly article growth overall over the past 6 years.

Similarly, DOAJ titles are growing much more rapidly than the overall average growth in scholarly journals of 3.5% annually. In the past 6 years, DOAJ has grown from 1,400 to over 6,000 journals. At the average 3.5% annual rate, DOAJ would now be at about 1,700 journals. DOAJ journal titles are growing more than 3 times faster than the average growth rate for scholarly journals.

In the past 10 years, BioMedCentral has grown from 241 submissions to over 35,000 submissions annually (thanks to BMC's Tara Cronin). IF BMC were growing at the average rate of 3%, we would expect only 338 submissions annually! BMC article submissions have grown over a hundred times more than one would have expected at the average growth rate for scholarly journal articles.

In a related post, the phenomenon of Those Active Open Access Journals is explored. It seems that - according to data obtained from Ulrich's - there is strong evidence to suggest that open access journals are more likely to continue to be active after a few years than journals published by some of the top commercial publishers!

Downloadable data for the Dramatic Growth of Open Access can be found at the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Dataverse.

Mendeley update April 1, 2011

Listserve discussion on SCHOLCOMM

On Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 2:40 AM, Steve Hitchcock wrote:
Heather, Thank you for the data from your Dramatic Growth of Open Access series. The latest release certainly begins with a striking figure, but it probably needs some explanation and context. Where do the figures for freely downloadable articles from Mendeley come from, and what is meant in Mendeley by 'self-archiving'?

William Gun, Head of Academic Outreach, Mendeley replied:

Heather, thanks for the post. Steve, the numbers come from self-archived papers and papers marked open access in our catalog. We're currently doing a pilot project to sync the papers in a researcher's My Publications folder with their local institutional repository, so hopefully this will encourage more researchers to make their work available in this manner, where they can. You can see more about the project here:

Comment: it sounds to me like this sort of initiative has tremendous potential to advance the open access archiving movement. If self-archiving in the IR facilitates getting your work into services that faculty seem to like such as Mendeley (and what about, that would only help with getting content into the IR. Plus I wonder what the possibilities are for linking back FROM Mendeley to the IR (or other library services)? Any discussions happening along these lines?


Cronin, T. (2011). Personal correspondence.

Mabe, M., & Amin, M. (2001). Growth dynamics of scholarly and scientific journals. Scientometrics, 51(1), 147-162.

Mabe, M. (2011). Personal correspondence.

Ware, M. (2006). Scientific publishing in transition: An overview of current developments. Bristol, UK: Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers; STM. Retrieved from

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