Open access reaches a turning point: Science-Metrix presents a study on open access to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation

Published on August 2 2013

Three new Science-Metrix reports on the availability of open access scientific literature and data are now available for download. These reports highlight the faster than previously thought growth of open access to scientific literature, showing that around 50% of papers published in 2011 are now available online for free. This is nearly twice the level estimated in previous studies and confirms the global shift towards open access to research findings.

These three reports were prepared as part of a study on open access conducted for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. According to Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, “These findings underline that open access is here to stay. Putting research results in the public sphere makes science better and strengthens our knowledge-based economy."

The first report measures the availability of scholarly publications in 22 fields of knowledge across the European Research Area, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and the United States, between 2004 and 2011. The study estimates that more than 40% of peer-reviewed articles published worldwide over this period are now available online in open access form, while in several countries and disciplines this proportion is superior to 50%. For example, a majority of articles are freely available in the fields of general science and technology, biomedical research, biology and mathematics and statistics. Open access is more limited in the social sciences, humanities, and applied sciences, engineering and technology.

The second report, focusing on open access policies, showed a growing trend in the adoption of such policies by governments and other funding bodies. In a sample of 48 research funders, the report found that the majority considered both key forms of open access to be acceptable: open access publications in journals (referred to as “gold” and “hybrid” open access) and self-archiving (referred to as “green” open access). Delayed open access is widely accepted, as 75% of funding bodies allow embargo periods of 6 to 12 months.

The third report found that open access to scientific data is less developed and more difficult to implement than open access to scholarly publications, both in terms of policies and infrastructure. Open access to research data is rapidly evolving in an environment where citizens, institutions, governments, non-profits and private companies loosely cooperate to develop infrastructure, standards, prototypes and business models.

To access the reports, please use the following links:

[HTML] – Information on the European Commission