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Recent Findings Suggest That Open Access Mandates Promote Hybrid Rather Than Gold or Green Open Access Models

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Roof Area, Wellcome Trust, London, England, UK, October 31, 2014 | © Courtesy of Matt Brown/Flickr.

As the European Plan S joins numerous research funding institutions in mandating the adoption of Open Access, empirical data for Western Europe and North America do not demonstrate dramatic spikes in Open Access article outputs after mandates come into force between 2009 and 2017, due to the spectacular increases in hybrid Open Access prevalence on the background of mixed paper output share performance of pure Gold and Green Open Access models.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


While the Plan S recruits a growing number of supporters, such as from initial 11 founding organizations and bodies funding scientific research to 14 toward October 24, 2018, 779 science funders and research organizations worldwide have Open Access policies in place that are aligned with the Horizon 2020 Open Access guidelines of the European Union (EU) to the degrees that, according to estimates, range from 23% to 100%. In other words, the Plan S has been launched in view of the relatively limited extent to which the policies in different countries in Europe comply with the Open Access mandate of the EU.

In this respect, in Western Europe the United Kingdom (UK) demonstrates the highest level (58%) of policy compliance with the Open Access goals of the EU, whereas in North America Canada’s relatively high level (52%) of conformity with these policies is followed by that (42%) of the United States (US). However, the latter country has a significantly higher number (n=131) of Open Access mandates in place than Canada does (n=27), but a comparable one to those in the UK (n=118).

These differences in the extent and number of Open Access mandates can also be assumed to be behind the relatively moderate increase in the output of Open Access articles in recent years that Vincent Larivière and Cassidy R. Sugimoto have found, since in the EU countries other than the UK the share of scientific articles has only risen from over 30% in 2009 to below 40% in 2017 with no significant increase between 2011-2011 when first EU-wide Open Access mandates were adopted and the end of this period.

Though in the UK the Open Access mandates of funding organizations, such as the Wellcome Trust, have led to a rise in the share of scholarly articles published in Open Access from between 35% to close to 80% in 2009 to between 45% and close to 90% in 2017, this reflects a gradual process of Open Access adoption, despite the extensive presence of Open Access mandates.

Moreover, Larivière and Sugimoto have also found that in the US and Canada Open Access mandates have not only failed to lead to significant increases in the share of articles published in Open Access, but also more often than not seen marked declines in the relative output share of Open Access papers after these mandates’ adoption, such as in the framework of the policies of the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

These findings can be likely explained by the significant growth of hybrid Open Access adoption in these countries between 2009 and 2016. More specifically, whereas in the UK for the year 2009 the output share of pure Gold Open Access articles has varied from 5% to 18%, in 2016 the corresponding figures have ranged for different funders from 3% to 16%, whereas the European Research Council saw a drop in Gold Open Access articles from 8% in 2009 to 7% in 2016, with similar dynamics in the US and Canada and relatively stable levels of Green Open Access articles.

By contrast, across the UK, the US and Canada scholarly articles published in hybrid Open Access journals combining the features of both Gold and Green Open Access have increased their output share from between 6% and 57% in 2009 to between 7% and 80% in 2016.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Roof Area, Wellcome Trust, London, England, UK, October 31, 2014 | © Courtesy of Matt Brown/Flickr.

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