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The global periphery love gold open access

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Authors from the peripheral countries tend to publish more often in gold open access. The “precarious beginners” researchers are those who publish most frequently in gold OA, but only if they are based in the peripheral countries. This might be the result of a pressure to publish in “international journals”, which is present in these countries. New open access journals might be the best way to satisfy this expectation, since vogue toll access venues unnecessarily raise rejection rates. Here I publish a partial analysis from Key Challenges of Research Communication De Gruyter Open Author’s Survey. The open data from the research are here.

Preferences to publish in open access journals seems to be unrelated to the habit of archiving work in green open access repositories, according to data from our research. There is no evidence that researchers who publish in gold open access are more likely to publish green and the other way round. So it is not legitimate to talk about open access as one homogeneous phenomenon, at least while discussing our research output.

Therefore I would like to focus this post on gold open access in the case of academic articles, and determine what factors make researchers more likely to publish in this model.

The core and the peripheries

What may be surprising to you is that geographical location is the factor that differentiates researchers the most in this case. According to our research, authors from less wealthy countries are more likely to publish in gold open access than those from rich countries. And this factor has a stronger influence than any other analysed.

I have decided to split our respondents into two groups: those originating from countries where GDP per capita is equal or lower than 20,000 USD, and those from states where this amount is higher. The border value was chosen because of two main reasons: first of all it is quite close to the median for our sample, so it splits the sample into two quite even groups, and second of all because it seems to be the borderline between the core countries and the peripheries of the current scientific environment.

Countries with GDP per capita at least equal to 20,000 USD (the core countries) in our sample include USA, 15 Western European countries that belonged to European Union before the year 2004, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Bellow this line are Eastern and South-Eastern European countries, Argentina, Mexico, Republic of South Africa, Iraq and India (the peripheries). Data about GDP per capita was taken from the World Bank’s dataset for the year 2014.

Our sample by the GDP per capita in country of residence. Red line is the sample median, blue line is 20 000 USD.
Our sample by GDP per capita in country of residence. Red line is the sample median, blue line is
20,000 USD.

The peripheries publish more in open access

Authors originating from the two discussed groups of countries show different publishing behaviours. Those from peripheral countries tend to publish more often in gold open access and the difference is surprisingly big. 70,44% of authors from peripheral countries published a gold open access article in the last 3 years, which is true only for 43,17% of researchers based in core countries. The average researcher from the core countries published 22% of his work in gold open access (median), while it is as high as 50% for researchers from the peripheries. (For the whole sample the median is 33.33%, have a look here for more details).

The pursuit for “international recognition”

Surprised? Well, there might be at least two reasons for that. First of all, authors from peripheral countries may pay more attention to the benefits of openness, such as visibility. Their local toll access publications may offer fewer chances for them to be recognized in the core countries, which is not a problem for researchers who are already in the core.

Secondly, this might be because of the pressure to publish in “international journals”. In some research institutions in peripheral countries publishing in any English language journal that claims to have international range is much more awarded than publishing in a good regional journal. Established international journals are often extremely selective, and among those who are not, open access venues seem to be over-represented. Some of these open access journals are low quality, while a big number offers reliable peer review, but are still new and so do not have extremely high rejection rate targets, which are unnecessarily implemented by toll access, vogue journals.

Two factors mentioned above may lay behind the discussed pattern. Which of them is more important, or are they both false? This question will be answered with my next post, which will cover our results on factors of choosing a journal.

One may also guess that even if researchers from peripheral countries publish more in gold OA they tend to avoid journals that charge for publication. Well, maybe yes, but apparently slightly less than their more wealthy colleagues from the core states. Our research does not represent well the authors who pay APCs, which might be the result of their scarcity (probably big number of APCs comes from small group of authors, working in Life Sciences mostly). The median share of works that APC was paid for is 0 for both authors from the core and from the periphery. But 19,77% of researchers from peripheral countries paid at least one APC in last 3 years, while 15,18% researchers from core states did the same. The difference is small, so we can even say that there is no difference between researchers from more wealthy and less wealthy countries here, which is still surprising. The question that I will answer in later posts is what the average amount of APCs paid by these two groups is.

Humanities are not lagging behind (until it comes to paying)

When it comes to disciplinary differences, our sample consists of representatives from all major fields of academic research. They were categorised in four groups of disciplines (for categorisation see lines 65-69 in the code.) 20.3% of all respondents came from the field of Arts and Humanities, 15,5% from the field of Medical and Life Sciences, 36,3% from Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering, 27,8% represent Social Sciences.

Average authors representing Science, Mathematics and Engineering published 25% of their recent works in gold open access. Surprisingly high median values were reached in the sample for Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences. However in the case of last two, high shares of gold open access works are more concentrated than for the others.

When we look at the data about researchers who published at least 1 gold open access paper in the last 3 years, we can see that the they are most frequently in Medical and Life Sciences (87,5%!). In Social Sciences there were less, because “only” 76,23% of them, and in Arts and Humanities 78%, while in Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering 70,3%.


However, when it comes to paying, the first ones are the last ones. Only 5,9% of researchers working in Arts and Humanities paid an APC in last 3 years. The same is true for 31,9% of those dealing with Medical and Life Sciences!


Do the beginners admire openness the most?

What are the other factors that influence the share of gold open access works in an individual research output? I have calculated a Spearman correlation of a share of gold open access papers with age, years after a doctorate, career level, total number of papers published by researchers in his/her career and number of papers published recently (last two in both absolute values and as a percentage of disciplinary mean). I found no proof for strong impact of any of these variables. However I realised that the career level influences publishing patterns, but in a non-linear way, so it cannot be observed by a simple calculation of the correlation.

133 of our respondents are students (6 of them are undergraduates), 205 declared to be Early Career Researchers, while 595 declared to be established in a research career. Others include 27 retired researchers. Among these groups the highest average share of research papers published in gold OA was reached by students (median of 50%!). The median share for ECR’s is 33.33%, and 30% for established researchers.


The share for students is similar for both the core and the peripheries. But while in peripheries ECRs are the group with the highest median of gold open access share in recent output (60%!), in the core countries they have the lowest median (12.5%).


Early Career Researchers are the group of research workers which are under the biggest pressure from the rules of academic promotion. Apparently in the core countries this pressure has the opposite effect than in the peripheries, at least in the case of gold open access publishing.

Some of the beginners love the open

Finally, I have decided to count together researchers that are not currently paid for their research work and those hired on temporary contracts. I have labelled this group, “precarious researchers”. They are opposed to “stable researchers”, those hired on permanent job contracts. I additionally divided each of these groups into beginners (students and ECRs) and established researchers, resulting in four categories: precarious beginners (240 respondents), precarious established researchers (225), stable beginners (94) and stable established (356).

Among these groups precarious beginners are those who publish the most frequently in gold open access, but only if they are based in peripheral countries! In the core countries precarious beginners are those least likely to publish gold open access articles.


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