While Green and hybrid Open Access articles have been tentatively found to out-perform paywall-protected articles based on their citation statistics, Gold Open Access articles show lower citation levels than subscription access articles, which could be due to revenue performance differences between respective publishers.
A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.
In the United States, since the early 2000s print publications have been witnessing steeply declining advertising revenues, such as from more than 60 billion USD in 2000 to less than inflation-adjusted 20 bullion USD in 2012, after the absolute majority of which have begun to offer Internet-based Open Access to their contents, as the diagram cited by Alexander Gerber in 2013 shows. Given that newspapers have been projected by PricewaterhouseCoopers to deal with further decreases in their overall revenue performance toward the year 2020, apparently despite partial paywalls that some newspapers have introduced, the nature of the interrelationship between Open Access and performance in the publishing industry more generally continues to receive research and industry attention.
Thus, in his Scholarly Kitchen blog post, on October 4, 2017, David Crotty has offered a review of a pre-print, yet to be peer-reviewed article by Heather Piwowar et al. published on August 2, 2017 by PeerJ Preprints, an innovative Open Access repository service that accepts articles for publication without article processing charges or publishing membership fees that PeerJ journals charge upon a streamlined review by its editorial stuff. In the blog post, Crotty has highlighted that free access is not tantamount to Open Access, as defined within the guidelines of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, while drawing attention of its readers to the methodological flaws of the research results presented by Piwowar et al., such as imprecise Open Access categorizations and research population definitions.
At the same time, a closer look at Piwowar et al.’s (2017) pre-print publication reveals that sample-based estimates of the share of Open Access articles out of all scholarly publications are likely to vary widely, since different information sources, such as Crossref, Web of Science and Unpaywall, have access to significantly differing populations of published papers. This accounts for respective variations in the share of Open Access articles that range from 27.9% according to Crossref to 47% according to Unpaywall. While the number of Open Access articles published have been steadily growing in recent years, to reach close to 1.5 million articles by circa 2016, Piwowar et al. (2017), nevertheless, show that large publishers with over 1 million articles published, such as Elsevier, Wiley and Springer, have approximately 60% of their articles published in closed, paywall-protected access. The significant presence of Open Access articles holdings that these publishers demonstrate may be explained by the significantly higher citation performance of Green and hybrid Open Access articles than that of articles in subscription-based journals between 2009 and 2015.
By contrast, the lower and declining citation performance of Gold Open Access articles as opposed to paywall-protected articles in the same period may be explained by a qualitative, comparative perspective on Piwowar et al.’s (2017) quantitative findings, as across journal publishers surveyed only two small to medium-sized publishers are based on Gold Open Access standards only, e.g., PLoS and Hindawi, with a declining revenue performance of PLoS in recent years, whereas the number Gold Open Access articles published by other publishers ranges from 0% to circa 20%.
This suggests a possible publisher-level positive link between revenue and article citation performance exists.
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Preprint Exhibits, January 20, 2007 | © Courtesy of Jeffrey Beall.