Tuesday 26 November 2013

A World of Open Access

I've recently been appointed as one of the Editors-in-Chief (with Alex Singleton) of a new Taylor and Francis/Regional Studies Association open access journal. For the two years prior to the launch of Regional Studies, Regional Science I was also heavily involved in the research and development of the journal. As we're about to start publishing papers, I thought I'd blog on the topic of open access more generally and include some interesting data from the Directory of Open Access Journals, the most authoritative source of open access information on the web. Those with an interest in open access will of course know all about DOAJ and the fact that there are now nearly 10,000 open access journals in the world. 9,990 to be exact (as of 26 November 2013).

However, few people have looked closely at the data on open access; probably because most people are still in debate about the merits and pitfalls of open access itself. The simple fact is that open access publishing is having a major impact on academia and the biggest journal in the world (by volume of papers) is now PLoS ONE, an open access title, as documented by several commentators including Heather Morrison at the University of Ottawa. Now for some data and charts...

The United States has over 1,200 open access journals and seven countries account for more than 50% of all open access journals. Journals come from a total of 124 nations (click charts to enlarge):

by country - full size chart

Open access publishing is currently in a major phase of expansion, but it's not new - for example, 22 new titles were launched in 1985. The peak year to date has been 2011 with 1,099 titles being launched:

by year started - full size chart

The vast majority of open access titles do not charge a publication fee (66%) but a substantial minority do (26%), including many of the best known titles:

by publication fee - full size chart

Your knowledge of, and exposure to, open access will vary greatly by discipline. There are over 500 open access titles in Medicine and more than 160 in Political Science but only 3 in Geology (according to DOAJ):

by discipline - full size chart

The majority of open access titles publish only in English (5,538 or 55%), with the next closest language of publication being Spanish (621 or 6%):

by language - full size chart

The data these charts are based on can be downloaded directly in CSV format from the DOAJ FAQ page. Just scroll down and look for the section entitled "How can I get journal metadata from DOAJ?".

There's a lot of activity in the field of open access but it is highly unequal in terms of its geographic, disciplinary and linguistic distribution. In the subject fields of Regional Studies and Regional Science (the subject areas for our new title) the open access landscape is considerably less crowded - particularly in relation to titles supported by major international learned societies and multinational publishing houses. Given this situation, we expect that Regional Studies, Regional Science (already known more commonly as RSRS) will play an important role in helping improve access to knowledge in regional research across a wide range of disciplines, with a focus on geography, planning and economics.

Look out for our first articles in December, by Andrew Beer (Adelaide, Australia) and Terry Clower (North Texas, United States), Sarah Ayres (Bristol, UK), John Gibney (Birmingham, UK) and Markku Sotarauta (Tampere, Finland).