As Springer Nature’s recent analysis of hybrid journals has shown, not all routes to open access (OA) are equal. Not only do Gold OA articles achieve greater reach and impact than non-OA articles, but the advantage is also clear for Gold OA compared to subscription articles with earlier versions available. This blog post highlights some of the key findings from Springer Nature’s recent white paper, Going for Gold: Exploring the Reach and Impact of Gold Open Access Articles in Hybrid Journals, to help researchers make informed decisions about the OA route they take.
Open access (OA) is a key part of the move towards a more open and robust research; it is the centre around which other aspects of open research revolve. The question is no longer should articles be OA, but rather what is the best way to transition to OA? Researchers (as producers of research) generally want their work to be as widely read as possible, and have as great an impact on other people’s research as possible. Achieving this is inevitably tied to meeting researchers’ (as readers of research) access preferences, and as has been previously shown their preference is for the version of record (VOR). Going for Gold now quantifies the extent of this preference by comparing Gold OA articles to subscription articles with earlier versions available in the same set of journals.
In 2021 Springer Nature commissioned an analysis of 60,567 articles from 1,262 of its hybrid journals. These are subscription journals where the VOR of an article may be made freely available on the publisher’s web site, typically through either an article processing charge (APC) or a Transformative Agreement. Hybrid journals enabled the comparison of similar articles, with the primary difference being the OA status. 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 (Web of Science citations) and reach (downloads from Springer Nature servers and attention reflected in the Altmetric Attention Score).
Similar findings were also seen at a discipline level 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 6.60 times as high a score as non-OA articles.
These findings have important implications for researchers, as they provide clear evidence of the Gold OA advantage for both impact and reach when compared with non-OA articles and subscription articles with earlier versions available. All OA is not equal, and preprints and accepted manuscripts in institutional and subject repositories are less likely to achieve the same impact as those same articles published as Gold OA. For research to maximise its reach and impact researchers need to ask their libraries about the Gold OA funding and open access agreements they have in place.