Open access potential and uptake in the context of Plan S – a partial gap analysis

Today we released the report Open access potential and uptake in the context of Plan S – a partial gap analysis, which aims to provide cOAlition S with initial quantitative and descriptive data on the availability and usage of various open access options in different fields and subdisciplines, and, as far as possible, their compliance with Plan S requirements. This work was commissioned on behalf of cOAlition S by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), a member of cOAlition S.

The reports builds on the work described in two of our 2018 posts: Towards a Plan S gap analysis? (1) Open access potential across disciplines and Towards a Plan S gap analysis? (2) Gold open access journals in WoS and DOAJ. The new report extends the methodology and range of data used, including more information on hybrid and green OA from Crossref, SHERPA/RoMEO, and Unpaywall directly Also, it provides more detail, with narrative sketches of publication cultures in 30 fields. In the appendix of the report, some other aspects of the open access landscape are addressed, such as journal size distribution and publisher types.

Uptake and potential of open access types in four main fields

Main results
Within the limitations of our approach using Web of Science (see below), the results show that in all main fields, including arts & humanities, over 75% of journals in our analysis do allow gold open access publishing. This currently consists predominantly of hybrid journals, which authors can only use in a Plan S compliant publishing route when the journal is part of a transformative arrangement or when authors also immediately share their article as green OA. The most striking result is the very large number of closed publications in hybrid journals, also given the fact that most of these journals do allow green open access.

Regarding licenses we find that a sizeable proportion (52%) of full gold OA journals already allow Plan S compliant licenses as well as copyright retention and importantly, that these journals are responsible for a large majority (78%) of articles published in full OA journals by cOAlition S fundees. Results on the green route to open access show that almost all hybrid journals and about half of the closed journals in our analysis do allow green OA archiving. In physical sciences & technology and life sciences & medicine, a 12 month embargo is most prevalent, with longer embargoes more common in social sciences and especially arts & humanities. At the same time, there are examples of journals with a 0 month embargo in all fields, and especially in social sciences these have a considerable share.

Overall, one could say that while there currently is limited compliance with the various Plan S requirements, there is huge variety among fields and at the same time also a lot of potential and opportunity.

Limitations of using Web of Science
We acknowledge the limitations of the report caused by using Web of Science as the sole source to identify cOAlition S-funded research output. The choice to use Web of Science relates to availability of funder information and field labels, that are essential in this analysis. However, apart from not being an open data source, relying on Web of Science inevitably introduces bias in disciplinary, geographical and language coverage, as well as in coverage of newer OA publication venues and many diamond OA venues. In this light, this report should be seen as a partial gap analysis only. In the appendix of the report, we provide an overview of characteristics of a number of other databases that influence their potential usage in analyses of OA options at funder or institutional level, as well as their coverage of social sciences and humanities specifically.

Feedback and next steps
The narrative sketches of a number of subdisciplines provided in the report are largely informed by the quantitative results of the report. It would be interesting to learn to what extent and how they reflect the image that researchers in these fields have of the availability and usage of open access options in their field, and how these are influenced by the publication culture in that field.

The report is intended as a first step: an exploration in methodology as much as in results. Subsequent interpretation (e.g. on fields where funder investment/action is needed) and decisions on next steps (e.g. on more complete and longitudinal monitoring of Plan S-compliant venues) is intentionally left to cOAlition S.

We want to thank our colleagues at Utrecht University Library for their contributions to this work. Any mistakes and omissions remain our responsibility.

The data underlying the report are shared at:

See also: press release by cOAlition S on the report.