March 31, 2016
Academic authors have, in general, a positive view on open access, but other factors are more important in choosing a place of publication for an academic article. However, it seems that there are numerous groups of researchers around the world who are formally or informally mandated to publish in open access, and this factor influences significantly the global output of open access journals.
Authors that were surveyed in De Gruyter’s Open research, Key Challenges of Research Communication have a generally positive view on open access. 87,5% agree or strongly agree with the statement that “open access may have a positive influence on the chances of being cited”. Only a slightly smaller fraction believe that “the general public should have access to research” , 83,3% of surveyed researchers agree or strongly agree that “Open access makes it easier to promote an academic work”.
Who needs open access?
On the other hand, 63,8% of authors agreed that “Virtually all the readers that I want to be read by have access to all the important journals operating in my field”, 23,5% disagreed with that.
One may expect that there is a big difference in the acceptance of the last statement between the core and the peripheral countries (to see how I define the core and the periphery see my previous post). Indeed 33,5% of authors from the peripheral countries rejected this diagnosis against 25,1% of researchers from the core countries. However, much more than half of researchers accepted this in both groups. This might be partially because researchers from the peripheral countries want to be read by researchers from the core countries, who, as they believe, have access to all important journals in their field.
So, the majority of the surveyed authors believe that open access is a helpful and ethically good feature, but even without it, their work might be read by all readers they want to be read by. This is probably one of the reasons why they treat openness as the least important from all researched factors of choosing a journal to publish their work in.
However, 32,1% of all authors agree or strongly agree that they are “expected by supervisors and/or colleagues to publish in open access”. What is even more surprising, among authors based in the peripheral countries it is 37,9% against 25,4% in the core countries. As we will see, this social pressure to publish in open access is the most important factor that influences real publishing behaviours.
Factors of choosing journal
Abstracting and indexing services covering the serial, impact factor, chances of getting published, readership among their peers and reliable peer review are the factors that were selected as most important in the process of choosing a place to publish an academic article by researchers answering the survey. (All of these factors reached a median of 8 on a 1 to 10 scale, and all of them were graded 10 by more than 20% of authors). Publication delay, opinions about the journal among colleagues and supervisors, other than impact factor qualitative measures were selected as less important (median of 7). Open access was chosen as the least important factor (Scoring median of 6).
10.4% of authors labelled open access as a “10 – extremely important” factor to them and 58,3% rate it with 6 or more on a 1 to 10 scale, so we cannot say that open access is not important to researchers, but apparently there are more important factors.
A big market for predatory journals?
What might be seen as interesting is that for 39.9% of surveyed authors, the chances for getting published are a more important factor in choosing a journal than a reliable peer review. Are these authors likely to choose extremely low quality journals? Well, they tend to admire impact factor and readership among their peers almost as much as the others. So in fact I think there is a little space for so called predatory journals, as long as they are not gaining broader recognition despite shortcomings in peer review process.
Also 58,1% of authors agree or strongly agree with the statement that “No one should pay a single dollar in publication fees”. So in the end it seems like new open access journals employing the author pays model will face a lot of hardships challenging old, established, toll access venues. Being open access is an advantage, but not in comparison to the prestige associated with the old brands, at least not for a majority of authors.
Who really publishes in open access?
As you know from my previous post, surveyed authors have extraordinarily high publishing output in open access journals. This might be seen as a paradox, while the same authors generally pay small attention to open access as a factor for choosing journals. And indeed, it might be easily spotted, that those of our respondents who publish more in gold open access tend to treat open access as a more important factor for choosing a journal (Spearman correlation of 0.35, which means that 12,2% of values of one variable might be exactly predicted on the base of another value). This comes as little surprise. More surprising is the fact that the the real share of gold open access works in researcher’s output correlate strongest with the social pressure to publish in OA faced by an author.(Spearman correlation of 0,29 which is still not so strong).
Influence of social pressure on real publishing behaviour is bigger than the influence of believing in citation advantage (0,20), acceptance of the rights of a general audience to access the research, and other measured factors. The social pressure to publish in OA also correlates with the importance paid to open access as a factor for choosing journals (0,41). Therefore we may say that there are numerous groups of researchers around the world who are formally or informally mandated to publish in open access, and this factor influences significantly the global output of open access journals.
Why do the global periphery publish more in gold OA?
I promised you in my previous post that I will answer the question as to why authors from the global periphery are much more likely to publish in open access. I presented two hypotheses, one that these authors admire the promotional benefits of the open access, and second, that it is easier for them to get published in international open access journals than in traditional ones.
The first hypothesis might be partially confirmed, this is true that authors from the global periphery are even more likely to accept both the promotional advantage and citation advantage of open access (in both cases median is “Strongly agree” for authors from the peripheries and “Agree” for those from the core). But in fact, the acceptance of neither of these facts much influence the real publishing behaviours. (Spearman correlation for the acceptance of open access promotional advantage, citation advantages and share of works published in open access in the group of authors from the global periphery are weak.)
The second hypothesis might have been confirmed by the positive correlation of the importance of the chances of getting published as a factor for choosing a journal, and the share of gold open access works in a publishing output. This correlation is not taking place, neither for authors from the peripheral countries nor in general population.
An additional factor that was discovered in this analysis is that there are more authors from the peripheral countries who are under pressure to publish in open access. This may explain part of the difference, but not all.
Data and code behind this post will be soon published. Stay tuned. More analysis to come soon.