The case for open access (OA) has been made, but debate continues about the role of Green and Gold OA in the transition to full OA. As Springer Nature’s recently commissioned analysis of hybrid journals has shown, the choice of Green or Gold OA is not without consequences to the impact of research, and this blog post summarizes the key findings of the report for the library community. The original white paper, Going for Gold: Exploring the Reach and Impact of Gold Open Access Articles in Hybrid Journals, is available here.
Libraries support researchers through the intricacies of today’s publishing ecosystem, ensuring that researchers understand the differences between publishing models, the institutional agreements that have been made, and a funder’s publication policies. But while some funder policies continue to place Green OA and Gold OA on an equal footing, the choice of OA route can have very different outcomes in the reach and impact of research.
Researchers already recognize the difference between the two routes, with a recent survey finding 83% preferred to read and cite the version of record (VOR). Now Going for Gold allows us to put a figure on the size of this difference, with an analysis of 60,567 articles from 1,262 of Springer Nature’s hybrid journals.
Hybrid journals enable the comparison of different OA routes within the same set of journals, and using OA status data from Dimensions, the hybrid articles were classified into three groups:
The three sets of articles were analysed in terms of their impact and reach. Impact was measured through Web of Science citations. Reach was measured with the number of downloads from the Springer Nature servers according to COUNTER standards and the attention reflected in the Altmetric score. Three negative binomial regression models were built to take account of some of the different features that could influence the impact and reach, and make predictions about the expected number of citations, number of downloads, and the Altmetric score. These took into consideration factors at the document, author and journal level:
The results found that not only do Gold OA articles have greater impact and reach than non-OA articles, but they also have greater impact compared to subscription articles with earlier versions available:
Similar findings were also seen in each of the six disciplines that were analysed. Although there were differences by subject area, Gold OA articles outperformed both non-OA articles and subscription articles with earlier versions available for reach and impact in nearly every discipline. Life Sciences was the subject area with the greatest citation and download advantage for Gold OA articles, with 2.32 times as many citations as non-OA articles, and 6.13 times as many downloads. Mathematics had the greatest Altmetric score advantage, with Gold OA articles having 6.60 times as high a score as non-OA articles.
Publishing articles as Gold OA has clear benefits for the researcher, the institution, and the speed of transition to full OA. Researchers will benefit from the increased impact of their work, institutions will benefit from the way impact is increasingly incorporated in university league tables, and the transition to open access will be facilitated by providing the VOR that most people want.
As libraries continue to support researchers in the publishing process, we would encourage them to ensure that researchers have all the information to make the right decisions and, along with research funders, provide more support for Gold OA.