Benefits of open research

Publishing open access offers a number of benefits

  • Increased citation and usage: Studies have shown that open access articles are viewed and cited more often than articles behind a paywall.
  • Greater public engagement: Content is available to those who can't access subscription content.
  • Increased interdisciplinary conversation: Open access journals that cross multiple disciplines help researchers connect more easily and providing greater visibility of their research. 
  • Wider collaboration: Open access publications and data enable researchers to carry out collaborative research on a global scale.
  • Faster impact: With permissive licences like CC BY, researchers are empowered to build on existing research quickly.
  • Compliance with open access mandates: Open access journals and books comply with major funding policies internationally.


Open research is free to read, copy, reuse and distribute. Studies have shown that open access content attracts more attention than non-open access content.

Increased citation and usage

A number of research papers have shown that open access articles are viewed more often than articles that are only available to subscribers, and are cited more often.

Open access articles in hybrid journals attract more downloads, citations, and attention compared to those published behind a paywall. Our white paper, Assessing the open access effect for hybrid journals, examines the relationship between open access (OA) and impact, demonstrating the wider value hybrid journals bring to researchers, funders, institutions, and society more broadly.

study carried out by the Research Information Network looking at articles published in Nature Communications found that the open access articles were viewed three times more often than non-open access content.

The Wellcome Trust also reported that open access articles they have funded were downloaded 89% more when compared with access-controlled content.

Greater public engagement

Open research means access to content is not limited to those with journal subscriptions. Many groups that miss out on subscription content - including researchers at institutions with limited access or funds, individual researchers not affiliated with an institution and the general public - find open access content not only available but valuable.

The impact of making research papers freely accessible from the moment of publication can be astonishing, particularly for research in which there is a strong public interest. For example, a Scientific Reports paper exploring the biological impact of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the pale grass blue butterfly was accessed over a quarter of a million times during the first month after publication.

To further public engagement, each article published by a Nature Partner Journal includes a plain English overview of the article’s key findings. Presented in a brief, digestible format, this allows researchers in other fields and the interested public to engage with research.

Patient outcomes

Patient involvement in research is now a well-accepted concept with a key emphasis in the community on how we can improve our methods and evidence base. Open access has enabled those outside of research to benefit from new findings. BMC journal Research Involvement and Engagement recently co-published Guidance for Reporting Involvement of Patients and Public (GRIPP2) as a key way for for researchers and patient to understand how they should report involvement and engagement in research papers.

In 2017, BMC announced the introduction of Registered Reports in BMC Medicine. BMC Medicine publishes research articles and reviews in all areas of research and practice in medicine and global health. By pre-registering the rationale and proposed methodology behind a research study, research becomes more transparent and reproducible, and can have a direct, positive impact on patients and communities.

Policy impact

Over 38,000 Springer Nature open access articles have been cited in global policy documents by institutes including the United Nations, WHO, the IMF and the World Bank.

Make new discoveries

Open research accelerates the pace of scientific enquiry.

Faster impact

By opening up research with permissive licences like CC BY, researchers are empowered to build on existing research quickly. A study of articles published in PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences between June 8, 2004, and December 20, 2004 supported the view that open access accelerates the process by which researchers built upon existing research, showing that open access articles are cited earlier and are, on average, cited more often than non-open access articles.

Wider collaboration

Open access publications and data enable researchers to carry out collaborative research on a global scale, with the Human Genome Project often cited as an example of the ability of open access to transform publications and data “into a much more powerful resource for research, education and innovation” (OASPA). This international, collaborative research project was enabled by the use of open data, with all the sequence data made openly available for other researchers to reuse.

Increased interdisciplinary conversation

Interdisciplinary publications foster greater dialogue across discipline boundaries, and often find novel approaches to traditional problems. Open access journals that cross multiple disciplines, such as the BMC-series journals and Scientific Reports, are helping researchers connect more easily by providing greater visibility of their research. Open research also means that researchers can discover relevant research and data outside their main field via search engines, repositories, social media and a variety of other channels. 

Comply with funder mandates

Many funders, institutions and governments around the world require open access.

Meet policy requirements

Increasingly, the funders of scholarly research (funding bodies or institutions) are requiring their grant holders to make publications related to their research available to the public, free and without restrictions on re-use. Our open access journals and books comply with major funding policies internationally.

Share and link research data

Openly sharing your research data ensures a greater level of reproducibility in science – something that is vital to the integrity of the scientific record. But it also provides you with additional, individual benefits.

Greater opportunity for collaboration

When data is openly shared it enables greater collaboration between researchers and also creates new research opportunities, as exemplified in the case of the studyforrest project in which a single dataset has generated multiple studies from different labs and resulted in 19 different publications so far.

Increase in citations

Studies have shown that published papers which have their underlying data openly available and directly linked to them have a higher level of citation than those that don’t.

Find out more about the benefits of openly sharing data.