Researchers have now published over one million gold open access articles with Springer Nature. One million articles that can achieve greater reach and impact than ever before. It is an achievement that has been over two decades in the making, and has resulted in over 2.6 billion downloads.
Springer Nature has become the first publisher to reach the milestone of one million gold open access (OA) articles with the help of 2.5 million researchers from every discipline, throughout the world. While OA is a more established practice in some areas than others, with Medicine accounting for nearly half the articles (44%) and Europe publishing the most OA content (40%), OA is growing amongst all disciplines and everywhere. Social Sciences and the Humanities has doubled their OA share between 2015 and 2020, and is now one of the faster growing OA areas.
The benefits of OA are widely acknowledged, and today’s OA discussions are more likely to be about how OA is best achieved rather than whether it should be achieved. That wasn’t always the case however, and reaching those one million OA articles has required many discussions, innovations and eventual agreements. There was a lot of scepticism originally about OA, particularly about its sustainability and whether the level of quality could be maintained. Reaching one million gold OA articles shows how many of those arguments have been won, while recent research has shown gold OA articles to achieve greater reach and impact than both non-OA articles and subscription articles where an earlier version has been self-archived.
Springer Nature has pioneered many different avenues to OA since BMC was founded as the first commercial OA publisher in 1998. This has helped to ensure that OA is as accessible and equitable as possible.
Springer was the first publisher to offer OA options on subscription journals in 2004, and in 2021 Springer Nature launched OA options for its highly selective titles including Nature. Fully OA journals were launched at Nature Publishing Group in 2005, and SpringerOpen launched as a fully OA portfolio of journals in 2010. Scientific Reports, now one of the largest OA journals, launched in 2011, and Nature Communications flipped to being fully OA in 2014.
Since Springer signed its first transformative agreement (TA) with the Netherlands in 2015, allowing participating institutions to combine journal subscriptions with OA publication charges, TAs have been signed with many other countries, and Springer Nature signed the world’s largest national OA agreement with Projekt DEAL in Germany in 2020. Also in 2020 Springer Nature committed to the majority of its owned journals becoming Transformative Journals from 2021.
Those one million gold OA articles have been downloaded 2.6 billion times since 2016, in virtually every country in the world, and even Antarctica. The top 100 hundred articles have been downloaded over 43 million times, and the most popular article over 1.67 million times. Such usage would be inconceivable without OA, but this is still only the first step. 34% of all articles published by Springer Nature were published as gold OA in 2020, which still leaves 66% that weren’t.
Springer Nature is committed and invested in an open research future, and there is still much work to be done in both increasing the proportion of research that is gold OA (the version of record that researchers want access to) and helping researchers to build upon that work. There has always been a lot of excitement around OA, the excitement of being part of something that you know will change the publishing industry, and the next exciting opportunity is linking all of the aspects of open research together, and speeding up the process of scientific discovery.
Springer Nature continues to pioneer OA, pushing forward OA options and agreements, championing gold OA as the most sustainable route, being an active part of the debate about the best route to scientific discovery, progress, and achieving those sustainable research goals.