More than half of all peer-reviewed research articles published from 2007 to 2012 are now free to download somewhere on the Internet, according to a report produced for the European Commission, published today. That is a step up from the situation last year, when only one year – 2011 – reached the 50% free mark. But the report also underlines how availability dips in the most recent year, because many papers are only made free after a delay.
“A substantial part of the material openly available is relatively old, or as some would say, outdated,” writes Science-Metrix, a consultancy in Montreal, Canada, who conducted the study, one of a series of reports on open access policies and open data.
The study (which has not been formally peer-reviewed) forms part of the European Commission’s efforts to track the evolution of open access. Science-Metrix uses automated software to search online for hundreds of thousands of papers from the Scopus database.
The company finds that the proportion of new papers published directly in open-access journals reached almost 13% in 2012. The bulk of the Internet’s free papers are available through other means – made open by publishers after a delay, or by authors archiving their manuscripts online. But their proportion of the total seems to have stuck at around 40% for the past few years. That apparent lack of impetus is partly because of a ‘backfilling’ effect, whereby the past is made to look more open as authors upload versions of older paywalled papers into online repositories, the report says.
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