Article: The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review

Citation: Tennant, J.P., Waldner, F., Jacques, D.C., Masuzzo, P., Collister, L., & Hartgerink, C.H.J. (June 2016) The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review [version 2]. F1000Research, 5:632. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.8460.2

The authors of this recent piece of research aim to look at the impacts of Open Access (OA) on academia, economics, and society.

Their findings in each area are summarized in the tables below:

Impacts of OA on Academia

Impact Comments
“association with a higher documented impact of scholarly articles, as a result of availability and re-use” (p. 6) OA articles are consistently cited in higher numbers and more quickly than non-OA articles, but research varies widely on how big the difference is (pp. 7-9). The impact here does seem to trickle down to non-scholarly use of articles, judging from alt-metrics (p. 9)
“non-restrictively allowing researchers to use automated tools to mine the scholarly literature” (p. 6) In contrast to traditional publishing, which usually requires authors to cede copyright, the tendency of OA journals to request non-exclusive rights makes data- and text-mining easier (p. 10); thus, OA articles are more “legally safe” for this kind of research (p. 10).

Economic Impact

Impact Comments
Impact on Publishers OA undeniably means that publishers need to recoup costs in other ways (p. 12). Many publishers have moved towards a “pay-to-publish” model, but these can increase barriers to participation for those without funds (p. 13). Other models with potential include shifting payments to libraries, a one-time-only author fee, and library-based publishers (p. 13).
Impact on Non-Publishers OA models that charge authors to submit or publish have had an effect on research funding, and licensing and IP rights have also become problematic where state funds are in play (p. 14).

Societal Impact

Impact Comments
On “other domains in society” Access to knowledge is a human rights issue, and OA supports this by reducing barriers to access (p. 15).
In Developing Countries Although the removal of paywalls can greatly benefit developing countries, pay-to-publish models run the risk of limiting support for OA in developing countries by locking authors out of the publication system (p. 16).

In addition to explorations in these specific areas, the article contains a broad overview of the OA movement and its history, and boatloads of data. Altogether, it serves as a useful springboard to consider some of the issues at the heart of OA: access, free information, and equity.