Open access appears to mirror better cross-border working

Data on open access trends since 2000 show some countries embracing model have also boosted collaboration 

January 26, 2019
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Some of the countries that have been slower to embrace open access publishing have also been among those lagging behind on international collaboration, a new report says.

The data analysis of open access research trends over the past 20 years, by Digital Science, suggests that nations such as Japan may have lost ground on collaboration by not opening up scientific literature as much as other nations.

Meanwhile, countries that have been able to substantially increase their levels of open access research, such as the UK, appear to have had more success in increasing collaboration while also keeping pace with the rapid development of emerging countries such as China.

The report – The Ascent of Open Access – used Digital Science’s Dimensions platform to look at data from the huge open source Unpaywall database of almost 25 million pieces of open access research.

Analysing trends in open assess publishing by country from 2000 to 2016, it found that “countries that have invested in open access have typically increased their level of international collaboration”. 

For instance, in 2000 Japan stood second only to the US in terms of the countries with the biggest shares of the world’s open access research, with almost 8 per cent. But by 2016, it had fallen to fifth in this ranking, with just 3.5 per cent of all open access publications.



At the same time, over this period, Japan has struggled to increase its international collaboration to the same extent as other countries like the UK. Between 2000 and 2016, the UK managed to largely maintain its share of world open access research by growing the proportion of publications that were open access to 52.5 per cent.

The report says that the UK’s “substantial commitment to open access through successive waves of initiatives” has “clearly been a significant strategic advantage”.

As a result, it has allowed the country to “retain a disproportionately highly ranked position in open access output, fending off China for several years while other countries progress at a more sedate pace”.

Meanwhile, the report points to Brazil as another open access “success story”, with it being second only to the UK in 2016 in terms of the share of its overall research output that was open access.

Data in the report also suggest that some research made available under a “green” open access model gained significantly more citations on average than articles made open access under other models.

However, the data show that in general the “green” route – where research is often placed in a repository after a set embargo period – has been far less popular in recent years than research made open access through author-pays “gold” and publisher-controlled “bronze” models.

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

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