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While Global Data on Open Access Show Consistency Across Databases, Significant Cross-Country Differences Remain

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NASA's Hyperwall at the U.S. Exhibition Stand at GEO-X, Group on Earth Observations Summit, Geneva, Switzerland, January 14, 2014 | © Courtesy of United States Mission Geneva/Eric Bridiers/Flickr.

In their recent working paper, published at ArXiv on March 16, 2018, Alberto Martín-Martín et al. have found that effective Open Access to articles indexed by Google Scholar can reach more than 54% with important variation in findings for different access formats, subject areas and geographic areas.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


In their pre-print paper yet awaiting peer review results, even through its initial version is already available via the repository, Alberto Martín-Martín, Rodrigo Costas, Thed van Leeuwen, and Emilio Delgado López-Cózar have found that, if scholars have a ResearchGate account, they can enjoy free access to 40.6% of articles that show up in Google Scholar searches. Thus, ResearchGate contributes significantly to the accessibility of scientific findings, since scholarly papers available immediately upon publication from publishers in one of Open Access formats, such as Gold or hybrid Open Access, only account for 23.1% of all indexed articles, whereas Green Open Access, involving paywall-based or otherwise restricted access for between 1 and 2 years, covers the access terms of solely 17.6% of publications.

In other words, as this study indicates, the contribution of ResearchGate to article accessibility over and above what can be reached via Open Access options varies from 31.5% to 37%, even though the percentage of articles freely accessible via ResearchGate from Google Scholar stood at 31.2% in 2014. In other words, it can be inferred that in recent years scientist have increased both their usage of ResearchGate and their adoption of Open Access, even though differences remain. This is supported by the findings of Alberto Martín-Martín et al. which show that at present ResearchGate is a social network for scientists with the largest number of freely accessible documents stored at its servers estimated to amount to 738,574. For only 32.7% of these documents ResearchGate acts as an exclusive provider of free access.

This indicates that ResearchGate is not in competition with Open Access, but is likely to complement its different models. Moreover, as this study shows, globally, the adoption of Open or free Access, across its formats, continues to be uneven in various academic fields, while ranging from 14.2% of all Google Scholar articles for literature to 93.6% for multidisciplinary research areas. Recent numbers also point to higher rates of adoption of Open and gratis Access for natural and exact sciences, which range from 46.3% to 87.6% of Google Scholar papers, than in other academic areas. Country-level disparities have also been found to exist for articles available from publishers via either Open Access or free access. In 2014, researchers in England, Sweden, Brazil and Scotland have published more than 35% their articles in Open or free Access available from publishers. By contrast, for articles published in 2014, Open Access repositories have provided access to more than 15% of documents in Belgium, England, France, United States and Scotland.

However, if free access options are taken into account for document availability data from 2014, in addition to what is available via Open Access formats, Switzerland, Netherlands and Brazil emerge as global leaders of Open and free Access with the document availability of 70.5%, 70.8% and 71.6% respectively. Therefore, this study indicates that free access options, such as ResearchGate, for downloading scholarly documents and articles both complement Open Access options and compete with them, especially as concerns Open Access repositories.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: NASA’s Hyperwall at the U.S. Exhibition Stand at GEO-X, Group on Earth Observations Summit, Geneva, Switzerland, January 14, 2014 | © Courtesy of United States Mission Geneva/Eric Bridiers/Flickr.

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