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Open Access Publications Become Increasingly Important for Libraries and Publishers to Include into Databases

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Book Curve, The original British Library reading room, The Great Court, The British Museum, London, UK, January 21, 2006 | © Courtesy of Alex Watson/Flickr.

As partnerships between national libraries and global publishers, such as the British Library and Elsevier, on the one hand, and Unpaywall, on the other hand, indicate, the significant growth in the Open Access sector also makes it imperative for publishing and scholarly institutions to enter into partnerships with non-profit indexing ventures, e.g., Impactstory, that facilitate unfettered access to scientific knowledge.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


While the artificial intelligence-powered search engine for tapping into peer-reviewed articles published in Open Access that Unpaywall seeks to develop in partnership with the British Library, Internet Archive, Open Knowledge Maps and Iqaluit Action Lab is yet to be launched, the initiative clearly shows that, as the share of new scholarly articles published in Open Access has approximately reached 50%, paywall-based databases can no longer be relied upon for accessing high-quality and recent research results. In other words, as far as the global production of new knowledge is concerned, Open Access has reached a tipping point of parity with paywall-based models in terms of article output.

This has also been noticed by charitable funders, such as Arcadia that has provided 0.85 million USD to support this collaboration between the non-profit startup Impactstory and libraries and increasingly publishers. On July 26, 2018, Elsevier has partnered with Impactstory to make peer-reviewed Open Access articles more discoverable at Scopus, an indexing and search engine for academic articles, to ensure that all Open Access papers are equally accessible to researchers via its interfaces, rather than only those that publishers tag as Open Access. Whereas this partnership is also aimed at making the performance of Open Access publications in terms of market share and audience visibility more transparent for all market participants, as well as scientific communities, this demonstrates the existence of the discoverability gap between publishers and the specialist and lay public that Open Access content continues to be in need of bridging.

The integration of Unpaywall into the Web of Science and Scopus provides empirical information on this gap, as even though Impactstory claims to already provide access to almost 20 million Open Access articles from over 50,000 different sources out of 73.4 million articles accessible from Crossref, the extent to which they are indexed by go-to scholarly databases may differ significantly. Thus, the integration of Unpaywall into the Web of Science has dramatically increased the number of peer-reviewed articles that are available through this scientific citation database from 2.1 million to 12 million. Similarly, the integration of Unpaywall into Scopus has raised the number of Open Access papers effectively indexed by this engine from 1.5 million to 7 million.

Therefore, the further partnerships of Impactstory with academic and research organizations, such as the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States and the University of Barcelona in Spain, demonstrate that around the world the organizations that produce new scientific knowledge are increasingly aware that between Open Access publishing and unfettered access to recent research findings and data technological and institutional barriers continue to exist.

In its turn, this demands a comprehensive, third-party-supported, and partnership-based indexing of Open Access articles as a precondition for their performance analysis and inclusion into widely-used scientific databases.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Book Curve, The original British Library reading room, The Great Court, The British Museum, London, UK, January 21, 2006 | © Courtesy of Alex Watson/Flickr.

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