Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Those ACTIVE Open Access Journals!

In brief, this post presents data illustrating that scholarly open access journals have rates of ongoing activity that compare VERY favorably with subscriptions-based journals (i.e. not being cancelled), based on data gleaned from Ulrich's. Also worth noting is the number of journals going back some time that are now open access - 370 journals listed as open access in Ulrich's started publishing before 1960, and of these, 98% are still active! All of the searches that I am talking about are limited to academic/scholarly, refereed journals. Ulrich's lists 3,525 such open access journals (a far cry from DOAJ's more than 6,300). Of the journals listed in Ulrich's as OA, 3,458, or 98%, are listed as active. This compares VERY favorably with ALL academic/scholarly, refereed journals, a total of 32,058, of which 28,269 or 88% are active.

Could this reflect a certain reticence on the part of Ulrich's to include open access journals until they are pretty sure that they are going to be around for a while? That would explain the discrepancy between Ulrich's OA journal list and DOAJ's. Let's look at a few other figures. The chart on the left shows the percentage of active journals by publisher. On the left-hand side, we see that the publishers with the highest percentage of active journals are open access publishers Copernicus and Hindawi with 100% and 99% active titles respectively, while on the right hand side we see that two subscriptions-based publishers, Elsevier and Taylor & Francis, have a much lower percentage of active titles overall, 85%.

The chart on the right shows the percentage of active academic/scholarly, refereed journals for open access as a whole, and for a few selected publishers both open access and subscriptions based, for journals started in the last ten (10) years, from 2001 to 2010. Note that on the left side of the chart, open access publisher Copernicus has the highest percentage of active journals, 100%, followed closely by open access as a whole with 98%. On the right hand side, we see that Elsevier, with 89% of journals started in this time frame still active, has a lower percentage of active titles than at least 4 open access publishers (Copernicus, Hindawi, BioMed Central, and Public Library of Science). Still, this could reflect a hesitancy about open access on the part of Ulrich's. I should note here that I needed to correct some of Ulrich's figures, as a number of thriving PLoS journals were listed as cancelled, apparently because they cancelled print subscriptions (in favor of a leading-edge print-on-demand service).

If Ulrich's is hesitating to add open access journals, perhaps this reflects a tendency to be conservative about adding new titles or publishers. This might make some sense - even DOAJ waits to be sure that a new journal actually publishes a bit before adding titles. To account for this, I looked at open access journals from a wide time range, and found that the percentage of active academic/scholarly, refereed open access journals was 93% or better for every time range I looked at, going back to before 1960! Needless to say, this compares VERY favorably with the 88% active titles for ALL academic/scholarly, refereed journals from all time ranges.

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