Not all routes to open access are equal: The increasing case for Gold

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Librarians
By: Guest contributor, Wed Nov 24 2021
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Author: Guest contributor

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.

Analysis of 60,567 articles from 1,262 hybrid journals

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:

  • Gold OA – Immediate access on publication to the final published VOR for all.
  • Subscription VOR with earlier version available (EarlyV) - A self-archived copy of an earlier article version (such as a Green OA accepted manuscript or preprint) is available in a publicly accessible institutional or subject repository.
  • Non-OA – All other subscription articles, including those shared only on an academic social network or illegally elsewhere.

Measuring the impact, reach and attention

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:

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  • Open access status
  • Journal Impact Factor
  • Discipline of the Journal
  • Times Higher Education Institutional Ranking
  • Country of the Institution
  • Funder acknowledgement as a binary feature (i.e. there either was or wasn’t a funder associated with the article). 

Gold OA articles have greater impact and reach

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:

  • Gold OA articles have the greatest impact with 1.64 times as many citations as non-OA articles. Subscription articles with earlier versions available only achieved 1.07 times as many citations as non-OA articles.
  • Gold OA articles have the greatest reach with 6.02 time as many downloads as non-OA articles. Subscription articles with earlier versions available only achieved 1.09 times as many downloads as non-OA articles (although this does not include downloads on institutional and subject repositories).
  • Gold OA articles have the greatest attention with 4.91 times as high an Altmetric score as non-OA access articles. Subscription articles with earlier versions available only had 2.10 times as high an Altmetric score as non-OA articles.

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.

Gold OA benefits for the researcher and institution
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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.

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Author: Guest contributor

Guest Contributors for THE LINK include Springer Nature staff and authors, industry experts, society partners, and many others. If you are interested in being a Guest Contributor, please contact us via email: thelink@springernature.com.