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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Kerala kids rock digitization of heritage materials

Schoolkids and the public in Kerala, India, digitized, proof-read and uploaded 150 rare and out-of-print books for the Malayam Wiki Library. What a great idea! The students and members of the public get to contribute to something that is real and of lasting value, not just some classroom exercise to mark and throw away, and the important work of digitization gets done.

There are a number of similar initiatives in India. Apparently the Digital Library of India "states that they are trying to digitize all the significant works of mankind"!

Good luck to them! What are your kids doing in their school?

Monday, July 07, 2014

Canada's supreme court decision, or aren't we all indigenous to this planet?

On June 26, 2014 Canada's Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on aboriginal title. In my opinion this was a very wise decision, and there is at least one part of this decision that I think merits global consideration. In brief, the Supreme Court decision subjects Aboriginal title to a responsibility to group interest and the enjoyment of the land by future generations. To me, this is perfectly appropriate but begs the question: why are non-aboriginal governments not held to this standard? I'd like to suggest that this concept should be expanded - to continue to recognize aboriginal title, but also to look at the world's entire human population as indigenous to the planet, and hold every government everywhere accountable for making decisions in the collective interest and for the benefit of future generations - and to include water along with land.

Quote from the Supreme Court decision:
The nature of Aboriginal title is that it confers on the group that holds it the exclusive right to decide how the land is used and the right to benefit from those uses, subject to the restriction that the uses must be consistent with the group nature of the interest and the enjoyment of the land by future generations.  Prior to establishment of title, the Crown is required to consult in good faith with any Aboriginal groups asserting title to the land about proposed uses of the land and, if appropriate, accommodate the interests of such claimant groups. The level of consultation and accommodation required varies with the strength of the Aboriginal group’s claim to the land and the seriousness of the potentially adverse effect upon the interest claimed. 

Citation Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44
Date: 20140626
Docket: 34986 

Updated July 8 to correct spelling of "indigenous". Thanks to Douglas Carrall for spotting the error and letting me know. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Dramatic Growth of Open Access June 30, 2014

The June 30, 2014 Dramatic Growth of Open Access celebrates the milestone of more than half a million articles funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health that are now freely accessible! After 3 years, the percentage of items found through a PubMed search funded by NIH rises to 71% (for NIH staff), 66% for NIH external funded research, and 31% for any article regardless of funding. At first glance, this looks a lot like evidence suggesting the NIH Public Access Policy is very effective, more than doubling the percentage of items freely available! Thanks to Jihane Salhab from the Sustaining the Knowledge Commons team for the charts, data gathering and analysis of PMC Free this quarter.

Research Support, N.I.H. Extramural + Intramural

Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural [pt]

 Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural [pt]

No Limits (No distinction based on researcher)
The Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series is a quarterly series (end of March, June, September, and December) of key data illustrating the growth of open access, with additional comments and analysis. The series is available in open data and blogpost (commentary) editions. The quarterly series began December 31, 2005, and is predated by a peer-reviewed journal article featuring data as of February 2005. To download the data or the rationale & method, see the Dramatic Growth of Open Access dataverse. Morrison, Heather, 2014-03, "Dramatic Growth of Open Access", Morrison, Heather [Distributor] V1 [Version].  The rationale and method has not been updated; March 31 is the latest. If you are using the June 30, 2014 PMC Free data, please Morrison, Heather and Salhab, Jihane.

More highlights this quarter

By the numbers, it's usually the large, well-established and much used services that tend to impress. This quarter, the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine added 140 content providers and over 2 million documents for a total of over 3,000 content providers (illustrating the growth of the repository movement) and 62 million items (illustrating the growth of self-archiving). The Internet Archive gathered another 14 billion webpages for a total of 416 billion. The Electronic Journals library added another 958 journals that can be read free-of-charge for a total of over 45 thousand free journals. PubMedCentral added about 100 thousand free articles, for a total of over 3 million, and the number of journals actively contributing to PMC that now provide immediate free access grew by 63 to a total of 1,315. Searchable article growth in DOAJ was 75,000, bringing the total number of articles searchable by article in DOAJ to over 1.6 million.

By percentage growth, it's the newest services starting off with nothing that have the greatest ability to impress. SCOAP3, the high energy physics full flip to open access global collaboration, started this January and nearly doubled the article count this quarter, to a total of over 2,000 articles. The Directory of Open Access Books added 6 publishers and 175 books for a total of 68 publishers and over 200 books.

Highwire Press added 8 completely free sites, for a total of 107 completely free sites, 8% growth this quarter (annual equivalent 32%).

Items of interest since March 31, 2014

  • June 4: the home page for Peter Suber's MIT Press book Open Access passed the milestone of 100,000 page views (I highly recommend this as an excellent brief starting point for learning about OA).
This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Bravo to India's DBT/DST on proposing a new world standard for OA policy

Government of India Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Science and Technology (DBT / DST) Proposed Open Access Policy
Comments submitted by Heather Morrison to the Open Access Policy Committee and cross-posted to Sustaining the Knowledge Commons and The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
Congratulations to the Open Access Policy Committee for a proposed policy that can be considered a new model for the world in almost every respect!
My two suggestions to perfect this policy are as follows:
1.                  After this sentence on page 1: “Grantees can make their papers open-access by publishing in an open-access journal or, if they choose to publish in a subscription journal, by posting the final accepted manuscript to an online repository”, this sentence were added: “Grantees who publish in an open-access journal should post the final published manuscript to an online repository based in India”.
Rationale: journals and publishers are free to come and go and change business models as they please. A journal that is open access today could cease to exist, or be sold to a publisher that uses a toll access business model in the future. The only way to ensure ongoing open access to publicly funded research is through the use of repositories under the direct or indirect control of the funding agency.
2.                  p. 2: “Suggest that the period of embargo be no greater than one year” – change “Suggest” to “Insist”, and add this phrase: “Future revisions of this policy will look to decreasing and eventually eliminating accommodation for publisher embargoes”.
“Suggest” to “Insist”: the experience of one early open access policy leader, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, illustrated very well that certain publishers will take every advantage of any policy loophole available. The 2004 policy merely requiring open access had a dismal compliance rate; this changed dramatically with the strong 2008 policy. If researchers have options, publishers will refuse open access or demand longer embargoes. If policies are strong, publishers adjust as can be easily observed through the Sherpa RoMEO Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving service, which illustrates the shifting landscape of scholarly publishing overall towards compliance with open access policy as well as concessions for specific policies.
“Decreasing and eventually eliminating…publisher embargoes”: the purpose of permitting publisher embargoes is to give the industry time to adjust. Publishers have now had more than a decade to adjust to open access policies around the world, including many by the world’s largest research funders. There are now close to 10,000 fully open access peer-reviewed scholarly journals, employing a variety of business models, including commercial operations that are quite successful financially. There is no reason for publishers to continue to need the “training wheels” support of embargo periods indefinitely.
There is no reason to delay the advance of research by one year at every step. We need clean energy solutions and answers to tough questions like climate change today. Since scientific advance is incremental in nature, a one-year embargo at every step towards an advance can mean an actual delay of many years in achieving a breakthrough.
Particular strengths of this policy that I would like to highlight:
p. 1:  “DBT/DST will not underwrite article processing charges levied by some journals”.
Bravo! The purpose of public funding of research is and should be to facilitate the conduct of research, not to subsidize secondary support services such as scholarly publishing.  The priority for DBT/DST funding should be ensuring that India’s research facilities are state of the art and providing salaries for Indian researchers and support for Indian students.
Also, there are areas (with this policy being a good example) where government policy is the best approach, and other areas that are best left to the market. It is appropriate for governments to direct researchers benefiting from public funding to make their work openly accessible. However, there are reasons to leave business models to the market. One reason is that commercial companies employing the article processing fee method are likely to be subject to the same market forces that caused distortion in the subscriptions market, and targeted government funding in this area could easily exacerbate the problem. Another is that currently many publishers using the open access article processing fee approach provide waivers for authors from developing countries; this may even be the default. This information is from my research in progress (my apologies that my data is not yet ready to share; it will be posted as open data as soon as it is ready). If governments provide funding for authors from developing countries for article processing fees, this concession may well disappear and have a severe impact on authors without the benefit of such funds.
p. 1: “The DBT/DST affirms the principle that the intrinsic merit of the work, and not the title of the journal in which an author’s work is published, should be considered in making future funding decisions. DBT/DST does not recommend the use of journal impact factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions”
Bravo! This is the approach recommended by the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, and an approach that I heartily support. Among other things, heavy reliance on the impact factor as surrogate for quality of academic work has been a factor in market distortion in scholarly publishing. Also, reliance on impact factor has been an incentive for scholars to focus on topics of interest to high impact factor journals generally based in developed countries. For scholars in the developing world, this is an incentive to redirect focus from problems and issues of local concern to topics of interest to the developed world. This has also been a disincentive to development of local scholarly publishing systems. The ease of publishing on the internet means that it is timely for scholars in India and elsewhere to consider growing local scholarly publishing initiatives, providing opportunities for local leadership, outlets for research on topics of particular interest to India, and taking advantage of local currency and economic conditions to get the best deal on publishing services.
Other strengths shared with previous open access policies:
·       The policy is required, not just requested
·       Strong incentives for compliance (compliance considered in future funding and promotion requests)
·       Immediate deposit of final manuscript post peer review is required, even when access must be delayed due to publisher embargoes
In summary, India’s DBT/DST proposed open access policy is sound, innovative, and in my expert opinion, sets a new standard for the world. The two recommendations for improvement is to ensure that all articles are deposited in a local open access repository, including articles published in open access journals (which may in future cease to exist, change ownership or business model), and to insist on rather than suggest an embargo of no more than one year with language indicating eventual elimination of embargoes. Particular strengths highlighted are the refusal to provide funds for article processing fees and the direction to consider the quality of the work, not the impact factor of the journal in which it is published.
Dr. Heather Morrison
Assistant Professor
École des sciences de l'information / School of Information Studies
Master of Information Studies (M.I.S.) program accredited by the American Library Association
Maîtrise en sciences de l’information (M.S.I.) accréditée par l’American Library Association
University of Ottawa
July 5, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sustaining the knowledge commons (open access scholarship)

It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge that Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has selected my proposal Sustaining the knowledge commons (open access scholarship) for funding in the amount of $71,000 Canadian for the period 2014 - 2016. This suite of research projects involves an open research approach; to facilitate sharing of knowledge in this area (both existing knowledge and new knowledge gained through this suite of research projects) I've created a new project blog, Sustaining the Knowledge Commons (open access scholarship) which can be found at A summary of the research proposal has been posted on this new blog and is copied below for the convenience of readers of IJPE. Watch for more on this as the research unfolds.

Sustaining the knowledge commons (open access scholarship)
Open access literature is digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (Suber, 2012). Open access to the scholarly literature is a public good that 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” (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002). Much has been accomplished in transitioning scholarly works to open access in the past decade. The Directory of Open Access Journals lists about 10 thousand fully open access, peer reviewed scholarly journals. The relatively new Directory of Open Access Books lists over 1,500 open access scholarly monographs from more than 50 publishers. There are thousands of open access archives around the world, housing millions of documents. Hundreds of research funding agencies and universities require open access to the results of research they support, as listed in the Registry of Open Access Material Archiving Policies. However, much remains to be done, and in particular there is a need to address the challenge of ensuring sustainable funding mechanisms for open access publishing, especially high-quality publishing led by scholars that is free to prioritize the needs of scholars and the public good (as opposed to the single bottom line of profit).
The proposed research would create a macro-level analysis on the economics of an open access scholarly journal publishing system through the examination of three separate but related areas of research: 1. a thorough in-depth analysis on the article processing fees charged by some open access journals; 2. an examination of the resources needed by small not-for-profit scholar-led publishers (e.g. needs for editorial or technical support); and 3. supplementing the work of Edgar & Willinsky (2010) that found an average revenue of $188 per article for journals using Open Journal Systems, by factoring in infrastructure costs for journal hosting services. The proposed budget allocates over 80% to research assistantships as this proposal is my first step towards the creation of a research centre and the active participation of students is a crucial first step to the research centre. In addition, the proposed research will help university libraries to make prudent decisions to transition the underlying economics of scholarly publishing (currently the vast majority of funding for the system comes from university library budgets) from a subscriptions / purchase to an open access basis. An open research approach to knowledge dissemination will help journals and libraries struggling with the transition early on in the process through sharing knowledge to date through a dedicated website. This research falls under the SSHRC priority area Digital Economy. Knowledge gained through this project is expected to benefit the other newer “open” movements, including open education, open data and open government through the development of scenarios for transition that might be worth considering in these other areas.
This proposal builds on research developed for my 2012 doctoral dissertation, Freedom for scholarship in the internet age (Morrison, 2012) and published in First Monday (Morrison, 2013) that strongly suggest a potential for transitioning to a scholarly communication system that is more cost-effective than the current system as well as being fully open access.
The overarching objective is to understand how best to bring about the transition of published scholarly works to a knowledge commons. The knowledge commons is conceived of as a system where the world’s scholarly knowledge is available to everyone, everywhere, to draw from and contribute to, one that prioritizes the values and needs of scholars, scholarship, and the public good, and is open to all by default, with exceptions as necessary to accommodate other social values such as the right to individual privacy.
The specific objective of the proposed research is to address the question of how to transition the underlying economics of the system from a subscriptions / purchase model to one that funds works at the production stage. This research will develop a macro analysis of the economics of scholarly publishing that demonstrates the potential to transition the global spend of the world’s university libraries from support for subscriptions / publishing to support for open access production and to achieve significant cost savings at the same time. This issue was developed as part of my dissertation research (Morrison, 2012) and subsequently published in First Monday (Morrison, 2013).
The proposed research will make it possible to develop more accurate scenarios for the potential for overall transition of the scholarly publishing system by collecting and analyzing data on key components of the system: the current costs per article charged by existing open access publishers; the necessary future costs based on the actual resource needs of scholar-led publishers; and infrastructure costs for support services such as university library and university press journal hosting services. A more accurate economic analysis will assist university libraries with making the case to collaborate to transition support for scholarly publishing from subscriptions / purchase to support for production so that works can be open access.
The context section consists of several sub-sections, covering the history and present of scholarly publishing, the theoretical framework and major research to date on the three sub-projects.
Until the Second World War, scholarly societies published nearly all scholarly journals (Mabe, 2003, 2011). Journals were published in print and distributed to society members and subscribers, many of which were university libraries. After the Second World War, the commercial sector became involved in scholarly journal publishing, particularly in the area of science, technology and medicine (STM), areas of scholarship that the commercial sector in general had become interested in as technology was viewed as having the potential to open up new areas for commercial exploitation (Price, 1963). In the next few decades a “serials crisis” developed, as documented by the Association of Research Libraries (1989). Even the largest university libraries were no longer able to purchase all of the scholarly journals. Average journal prices increased at rates above inflation year after year. During the same period, scholarly monograph purchases by university libraries declined from about 3 – 5,000 copies per monograph to about 300 – 500 copies per monograph, causing a different kind of crisis in scholarly monograph publishing (Thompson, 2005). Brown (2007) describes a university press system in crisis.
This situation illustrates what I call irrational rationality (Morrison, 2012). Universities, through their libraries, fund a system where a small number of very large commercial publishers enjoy exceptional profits in the 30-40% range while in the same time frame they reduce or eliminate the modest subsidies traditionally provided to university presses. Every element of this system is rational. For-profit corporations are expected to return maximum profits to their shareholders. In tight financial times, it makes sense that universities cut services like university presses that serve the whole system but are not essential to their own operations. However, all of these rational elements add up to a system that funds extraordinary profits for a few scholarly publishers while threatening the existence of other scholarly publishers and even the careers of scholars who need to publish monographs and find it increasingly difficult to do so (Harley et al, 2010). The concept of irrational rationality builds on the intellectual tradition initiated by Weber (1968) in the nineteenth century, Lukács (1967) and Marcuse (1964) who articulated the difference between rationality based on values and goal-oriented or instrumental rationality. A real world society-wide example of this in modern society is the contrast between the common human value of having an ongoing ecosystem capable of sustaining a high quality of human life for ourselves and our children and our inaction on climate change, identified by the World Economic Forum (2013) as one of the ten top global trends for 2014.
Rather than analyze irrational rationality I propose a holistic or systemic approach. This is illustrated by my macro level analysis of the global spend on scholarly journal articles by university libraries (approximately $5.6 billion annually) and the global production of articles (approximately 1.5 million annually) (Morrison, 2013). In recent years the commons has emerged or re-emerged as one potential alternative. A number of scholars have written about the potential of information technologies to facilitate enclosure of intellectual property as an emerging stage of capitalism. In 1989, Mosco described this as the pay-per society in which emerges usage charges for things that used to be free or charged for on a blanket basis as having the potential to radically change society; Lessig (1999) makes similar arguments in Code: and other laws of cyberspace. Enzsenberger (1974) described the potential of new media to facilitate a new more democratic form of communication, while warning that social action would be necessary in order for the technology to fulfill this function. Ostrom’s (2000) groundbreaking Governing the commons effectively debunks arguments against the impossibility of collaborative approaches such as Hardin’s notion of the “tragedy of the market” and provides substantive evidence of highly effective commons-based approaches. Heller (1998) warns about the tragedy of the anti-commons. Bollier (2007), Boyle (2003), Lessig (2004), Vaidhyanathan, and Hess & Ostrom (2007) discuss the enclosure movement and the potential of the commons in terms of culture, knowledge and information. Caffentzis (2012) focuses on the knowledge commons. In seeking alternatives it may be wise to consider the perspectives of other societies such as the first nations approach to intellectual property as articulated by Young-Ing (2006) and the idea of the gift in traditional societies as explicated by anthropologist Mauss (2002).
This research builds on macro analysis of the economics of scholarly publishing conducted by the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) designed for the purpose of business planning for STM members (Ware & Mabe, 2012, 2009). The United Kingdom has been a leader in conducting in-depth economic analysis of the scholarly communication system at a national level. The Research Information Network (2008) released the report Activities, costs and funding flows in the scholarly communications system in the UK. Houghton and colleagues have conducted major macro-economic analysis of the potential for transition to an open access system at a national level. The most in-depth research, conducted in the UK, found that cost savings could be achieved with a full switch to open access by the UK for its own research with 3 different methods, with the smallest savings resulting from a full switch from subscriptions-based to open access publishing, greater savings with open access archiving, and the greatest potential savings through a more transformative approach, using open access archives with a peer review overlay (Houghton et al, 2009a, 2009b). This research also draws on global best estimates of the world’s scholarly peer-reviewed journal production (Björk et al, 2008, 2010).
The third project in the overall proposal deals with research on economic models for supporting open access, including Crow’s (2006) work on publishing cooperatives, and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition’s Income models for open access: an overview of current practice (Crow, 2009), and an overview of innovative models for support for open access focusing on collaborative support by libraries that I wrote as the literature review for a national survey on library and university press publishing (Taylor, Morrison, Owen, Vézina and Waller, 2013). One result of this survey was a finding that Canadian university libraries would be willing to support a number of different approaches to funding open access, with collaborative approaches being the one option that all libraries would support to some extent, and none would (a priori) oppose. Examples of collaborative models for support including the ongoing work of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to use library funding (similar to subscriptions) to build an endowment to fund ongoing open access for this scholar-led encyclopedia (Sanville, 2005). Another example: as of January 2014, the Sponsoring Consortium for Particle Physics Publishing (2014) is implementing a new fully open access publishing system for all articles in high energy physics, a remarkable accomplishment involving global cooperation among libraries and negotiations with all publishers involved in this area.
A key element for the macro analysis of the economics of scholarly publishing is the average cost per peer-reviewed journal article. Previous research indicates a wide range of actual costs, with Willinsky reporting a range from 0 to $20,000 per article (Willinsky, 2006). The low end of the range is made possible by the large percentage of work contributed by academics on a voluntary basis by scholars. Harvard’s Shieber (2012) explains how the high-impact peer-reviewed Journal of Machine Learning manages on $10 per article. My macro analysis (Morrison, 2013) illustrates the importance of this key element. If the average cost per article in an open access environment were $1,350 (the current cost per article for publishing in PLoS ONE), then libraries could fund a global system at one third the current global library spend. Even at an average cost of $2,000 - $3,000, substantial savings are possible. However, at an average of $5,000, the system would cost more than at present.
Edgar and Willinsky’s (2010) survey of over 900 journals using the open source software Open Journal Systems found an average spend of $188 per article. This suggests that in addition to prioritizing scholarship this “renaissance of scholar-led publishing” described by the authors might be a great deal more affordable than the current system as well. The proposed research builds on the work of Edgar and Willinsky, aiming for a more accurate costing taking into account such elements as the cost of universities’ hosting and support of journals, as well as whether these new journals have factored in the necessary resources for sustainable open access publishing in the long term. For example, do these journals reporting such low costs have all of the resources needed to sustain their journals in the long term, or is there an over-reliance on volunteer labour with the potential for burn-out? If this is the case, what resources could be provided (copyediting, teaching relief, technical support and training, etc.) that would prevent this from happening? Currently I am conducting preliminary interviews designed to develop one or more focus groups and survey research and several interviewees to date have expressed their perspective that this research is very much needed.
This project draws on existing and emerging research on costs of the production of scholarly journal articles, including a major report conducted by the Wellcome Trust (2004) on the cost of open access journals, a body of research based on print journals relying on subscriptions as reported by Tenopir & King (1998), and the data gathered by the Sherpa RoMEO service on publisher open access article processing charges (based on publisher self-reported average prices and with an emphasis on UK-based publishers and the commercial sector). This project will supplement and extend existing knowledge about costs of producing scholarly journals articles through sampling open access article processing fees of journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, a broader and more international set than that included in the Sherpa RoMEO list, and by triangulating data from interviews, focus groups, surveys of scholarly publishers and infrastructure costs from case studies of university hosting and support services to develop a more accurate range of scholarly journal production costs.
A mixed methods approach is used because the macro level analysis of the potential for economic transition to support open access publishing requires several different types of variables.
Open Access Article Processing Charges
The Directory of Open Access Journals is a vetted list of about 10 thousand fully open access (articles freely available on publication) peer-reviewed journals. About a quarter of these journals charge article processing fees, with a small percentage charging article processing fees on a conditional basis (about two-thirds do not charge article processing fees). DOAJ notes whether journals charge article processing fees and provides a URL to look up information, but does not list the amount. A copy of the DOAJ list of journals charging article processing fees was made in November 2013 and the process of looking up the amounts was initiated in December 2013. Preliminary results indicate a skewed distribution with most of these journals published by relatively large publishers (20 or more journals charging article processing fees) or very small publishers (1 to 3 journals, with 1 being the most frequent number of journals). A stratified random sampling method is used to ensure that a selection of journals from large, medium and small publishers is included. Preliminary analysis indicates a much more complex situation than anticipated. While some journals have a straightforward article processing fee, a large portion have variable fees depending on such variables as location of author, membership in a society and article length. There is a wide range of article processing fees, from about $20 US per article to $5,000 per article. The purposes of this portion of the overall project are to capture another set of data for comparative purposes, a step which is advisable as some charges may change (e.g. one publisher, providing a complete set of article processing fees, advised that some of the journals’ charges might be changed the following month, and one rationale for this research is to track the possibility of the commercial sector raising prices at rates above inflation as happened with subscriptions), and to complete the in-depth analysis of existing charges. Examples of questions to be explored include whether some of the journals listed as charging article processing fees are actually producing both print and online open access journals, with traditional page charges for the print version and no open access article processing fee. Preliminary analysis suggests that this is the case for at least some of the journals.
Resource Requirements for Small Scholar-Led Journals in an Open Access Environment
This project builds on preliminary research in the form of informal interviews with editors of small scholarly journals currently underway. Responses to date for a call for participation sent to select scholarly publishers’ and open access listservs (Canadian Association of Learned Journals, Scholarly for Scholarly Publishers, Global Open Access List) indicate a keen interest among publishers in the results of this research. Inductive methodology will be used to develop one or more focus groups with publishers from the qualitative results of this research, to be held in conjunction with the annual general meetings / conferences of the publishers’ associations, and an online survey to be sent to stratified samples of open access and non-open-access scholar-led journals (i.e. scholarly society and independent scholar-led journals).
Infrastructure costs estimate
3-4 case studies of library publishing services will be conducted, representing different types and sizes of library journal hosting services. For example, the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) provides a collaborative journal hosting service for member libraries, while many other university libraries in Canada and elsewhere offer services targeted to their individual faculty members. An attempt will be made to include at least one larger centralized service and one individual institutional service, as well as organizations offering a slightly different package of services.
Macro analysis of costs for a global shift to open access
Results of these three research projects, in addition to other relevant information gleaned through an ongoing review of the scholarly literature and monitoring of related initiatives, such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Councils’ Aid to Scholarly Journals Program and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries’ open access group, will be used to develop cost projections for a global shift to open access based on the range of needed costs uncovered in the study.