While many aspects of our lives and activities have slowed down during the COVID pandemic, this has not been the case with open access! The OA initiatives tracked through this series continue to show strong growth on an annual and quarterly basis. Important milestones are being reached, and others will be coming soon.
The Directory of Open Access Journals now lists over 15,000 fully open access, peer reviewed journals, having added 379 journals (> 4 per day) in the past quarter, and now provides searching for over 5 million articles at the article level.
A PubMed search for “cancer” limited to literature from the past 5 years now links to full-text for over 50% of the articles.
Anyone worried about running out of cultural materials during the pandemic will be relieved to note that the Internet Archive has exceeded a milestone of 6 million movies in addition to over 27 million texts (plus audio, concerts, TV, collections, webpages, and software).
Analysis of quarterly and annual growth for 39 indicators from 10 services reflecting open access publishing and archiving (Internet Archive, Bielefeld Academic Search Engine, Directory of Open Access Books, bioRxiv, PubMedCentral, PubMed, SCOAP3, Directory of Open Access Journals, RePEC and arXiv) demonstrates ongoing robust growth beyond the baseline growth of scholarly journals and articles of 3 – 3.5 per year. Growth rates for these indicators ranged from 4% – 100% (doubling). 26 indicators had a growth rate of over 10%, 15 had a growth rate of over 20%, and 6 had a growth rate of over 40%. The full list can be found in this table.
Thank you to everyone in the open access movement for continuing the hard work that makes this growth possible.
Quelques articles seront familiers aux lecteurs de Soutenir les savoirs communs, le travail de l’équipe; d’autres sont nouveau recherche fait par Tanoh. La vidéo Qu’est-ce que la revue Afroscopie?, un entretien avec Benoit Awazi, est éclairante pour quiconque s’intéresse à la recherche en Afrique francophone.
Merci et félicitations à notre Tanoh Laurent Kakou, candidat au doctorat en communication (et diplômé d’ÉSIS), qui a réussi son examen de synthèse cet été! Meilleurs voeux à Tanoh et sa recherche.
Some articles will be familiar to readers of Sustaining the knowledge commons, as the work of the team; others are new research projects by Tanoh. The video Qu’est-ce que la revue Afroscopie?, an interview with Benoit Awazi, is enlightening for anyone who is interested in research in francophone Africa.
Thank you and congratulations to our Tanoh Laurent Kakou, a doctoral candidate in communication (and graduate of ÉSIS) on passing his comprehensive exam this summer! Best wishes to Tanoh and his research.
Update July 15: a 10-minute YouTube video overview of this work by Dr. Rahman & I can be viewed here.
The context of this paper is an analysis of three emerging models for developing a global knowledge commons. The concept of a ‘global knowledge commons’ builds on the vision of the original Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002) for the potential of combining academic tradition and the internet to remove various access barriers to the scholarly literature, thus laying the foundation for an unprecedented public good, uniting humanity in a common quest for knowledge. The global knowledge commons is a universal sharing of the knowledge of humankind, free for all to access (recognizing reasons for limiting sharing in some circumstances such as to protect individual privacy), and free for everyone qualified to contribute to. The three models are Plan S / cOAlition S, an EU-led initiative to transition all of scholarly publishing to an open access model on a short timeline; the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS), a recent initiative that builds on Ostrom’s study of the commons; and PubMedCentral (PMC) International, building on the preservation and access to the medical research literature provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to support other national repositories of funded research and exchange of materials between regions. The research will involve analysis of official policy and background briefing documents on the three initiatives and relevant historical projects, such as the Research Council U.K.’s block grants for article processing charges, the EU-led OA2020 initiative, Europe PMC and the short-lived PMC-Canada. Theoretical analysis will draw on Ostrom’s work on the commons, theories of development, under-development, epistemic / knowledge inequity and the concepts of Chan and colleagues (2011) on the importance of moving beyond north-to-south access to knowledge (charity model) to include south-to-south and south-to-north (equity model). This model analysis contributes to build a comparative view of transcontinental efforts for a global knowledge commons building with shared values of open access, sharing and collaboration, in contrast to the growing trend of commodification of scholarly knowledge evident in both traditional subscriptions / purchase-based scholarly publishing and in commercial open access publishing. We anticipate that our findings will indicate that a digital world of inclusiveness and reciprocity is possible, but cannot be taken for granted, and policy support is crucial. Global communication and information policy have much to contribute towards the development of a sustainable global knowledge commons.
307 SpringerOpen titles for which we have data on journals that were fully open at some point from 2010 to the present were studied, with a primary focus on pricing and status changes from 2019 – 2020 and a secondary focus on longitudinal status changes. Of the 307 titles, 226 are active, fully open access and are still published by SpringerOpen, 40 have ceased publication, 19 were transferred to another publisher, and 18 journals that were formerly open access are now hybrid. 6 of these journals transitioned from free to hybrid in the past year. An additional 2 journals were not found. An additional 2 journals were not found. Of the 226 active journals published by SpringerOpen, 51% charge APCs. The average APC is 1,233 EUR, an increase of 3% over the 2019 average. 46.5% of the 101 journals for which we have 2019 and 2020 data did not change in price; 13.9% decreased in price; and 39.6% increased in price. The extent of change in price was substantial, ranging from a 50% price drop to a 94% price increase.
Open access commercial publishing pioneer BMC is now wholly owned by a private company with a portfolio including lines of business that derive revenue from journal subscriptions, book sales, and textbook sales and rentals
Two former BMC fully OA journals, listed in DOAJ from 2014 – 2018 as having CC-BY licenses, are now hybrid and listed on the Springer website and have disappeared from the BMC website
67% of BMC journals with APCs in 2019 and 2020 increased in price and 11% decreased in price.
Journals with price increases had a higher average APC in 2019, i.e. more expensive journals appear to be more likely to increase in price
Founded in 2000, BioMedCentral (BMC) was one of the first commercial (OA) publishers and a pioneer of the article processing charges (APC) business model. BMC was acquired by Springer in 2008. In 2015, Springer was acquired by the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group in 2015 and became part of SpringerNature. In other words, BMC began as an OA publisher and is now one of the imprints or business lines of a company whose other lines of business include sales of journal subscriptions and scholarly books and textbook sales and rentals. Of the 328 journals actively published by BMC in 2020, 91% charge APCs. The average APC was 2,271 USD, an increase of 3% over 2019. An overall small increase in average APC masks substantial changes at the individual journal level. As first noted by Wheatley (2016), BMC price changes from one year to the next are a mix of increases, decreases, and retention of the same price. In 2020, 67% of the 287 journals for which we have pricing in USD for both 2019 and 2020 increased in price; 11% decreased in price, and 22% did not change price. It appears that it is the more expensive journals that are more likely to increase in price. The average 2019 price of the journals that increased in 2020 was 2,307 USD, 18% higher than the 2019 average of 1,948 USD for journals that decreased in price. 173 journals increased in price by 4% or more, well above the inflation rate. 39 journals increased in price by 10% or more; 13 journals increased in price by 20% or more. Also in 2020, there are 11 new journals, 11 journals ceased publication, 5 titles were transferred to other publishers, 2 journals changed from no publication fee to having an APC, and 3 journals dropped their APCs. Two journals formerly published fully OA by BMC are no longer listed on the BMC website, but are now listed as hybrid on the Springer website. This is a small portion of the total but is worth noting as the opposite direction of the transformative (from subscriptions to OA) officially embraced by SpringerNature.
Frontier’s comment regarding their pricing transparency below is helpful. It is important for those who support gold OA publishing to understand the cost implications of their demands and expectations. Frontiers states: “As Frontiers’ sole source of income, APCs allow us to subsidize new journals and communities with less research funding, to reinvest in our publishing platform, and to offer a fee support program. More than a third of all articles published in 2017/18 received full or partial waivers as a result of this approach, which we fully intend to continue to offer in the years ahead.” An average APC of $2,170 USD could support hosting a whole journal in North America and could be enough to fund a year or partial year of a highly paid researchers’ salary, in less affluent countries. If granting agencies were to directly subsidize local publishing in both more and less affluent countries, this would probably cost less and do more (by supporting local development) than expecting publishers like Frontiers to subsidize APCs.
It has come to my attention that this post happens to coincide with negotiations on a national agreement between Frontiers and Germany in the context of PlanS / cOAlition S. Details about the agreement can be found:
A third of the journals published by Frontiers in 2019 and 2020 (20 / 61 journals) have increased in price by 18% or more (up to 55%). This is quite a contrast with the .4% Swiss inflation rate for 2019 according to Worlddata.info ; 18% is 45 times the inflation rate. This is an even more marked contrast with the current and anticipated economic impact of COVID; according to Le News, “A team of economic experts working for the Swiss government forecasts a 6.7% fall in GDP”. (Frontiers’ headquarters is in Switzerland).
This is similar to our 2019 finding that 40% of Frontier’s journals had increased in price by 18% or more (Pashaei & Morrison, 2019) and our 2018 finding that 40% of Frontier journals had increased in price by 18% – 31% (Morrison, 2018).
The price increases are on top of already high prices. For example, Frontiers in Earth Science increased from 1,900 USD to 2,950 USD, a 55% price increase. Frontiers in Oncology increased from 2,490 to 2,950 USD, an 18% price increase.
This illustrates an inelastic market. Payers of these fees are largely government research funders, either directly or indirectly through university libraries or researchers’ own funds. The payers are experiencing a major downturn and significant challenges such as lab closures, working from home in lockdown conditions, and additional costs to accommodate public health measures, while Frontiers clearly expects ever-increasing revenue and profit.
Following is a list of Frontier journals with price increases. All pricing is in USD.
Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), initiated in 1999 by Tsinghua University and Tsinghua Tongfang Co., Ltd., is both the largest institutional repository in China and a near-monopoly provider of for-pay academic databases with a higher profit margin than Elsevier or Wiley, among other services. With promotion and support from the government, CNKI keeps developing its track towards open access . CNKI offers free access to millions of documents ranging from dissertations and academic articles to popular and party journals. The COAA, Chinese Open Access Aggregator, launched in 2019, makes available more than 10,000 open access journals, although foreign scholars may find it difficult to benefit from this due to the language. CNKI has played an important role in making works on COVID-19 freely available, as well as in expanding access to subscribers at home during lock-down.
CNKI stands for Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure, it was initiated by Tsinghua University and Tsinghua Tongfang Co., Ltd. and was founded in June 1999. According to Tongfang ’s annual report, the company officially opened the world ’s largest Chinese knowledge portal ‘CNKI (cnki.net) database’ in 2004, informally known as ‘Zhiwang’. CNKI is currently China’s largest integrator of academic electronic resources, including more than 95% of officially published Chinese academic resources.
At the end of 2017, CNKI had more than 20,000 institutional users, more than 20 million individual registered users, full-text downloads amounted to 2 billion pages per year and more than 150,000 online users. The market share of CNKI in Chinese undergraduate colleges is 100%. 
As most students know, the best way to access databases outside school is VPN. However, in some inconvenient situations like during the COVID-19 lockdown time in China, you cannot use VPN in some places. Some major Chinese database vendors provided recent limited-time free services. According to the Central China Normal University Library announcement, during the COVID-19 epidemic period (the service period is tentatively from February 1 to March 3, 2020), CNKI provides 4 free services including CNKI database literature acquisition, research learning, and collaborative scientific research services (CNKI OKMS platform). (English translation by the author) At the same time, the school’s students are offered a new online entrance to access CNKI database.
For Chinese readers, CNKI developed a special database online platform to release and promote the latest COVID-19 related study results. You can notice the platform name in red font on the homepage. The platform includes 2,256 journals in total, including 23 non-Chinese journals.
At the same time, CNKI announced that there is free access given by the CNKI OKMS platform, helping uninterrupted research team communication during the special times. The “OKMS Huizhi” is an Office Software for Collaborative Research.
Ms. Dai also stresses that the “OKMS Huizhi” platform was launched in May 2019, and it is now free because of the COVID-19 epidemic situation so that everyone can research from home. Before June 1, the “OKMS Huizhi” platform will be open for free. (English translation by the author) 
Besides the limited free access due to the COVID-19 pandemic period, CNKI started to open a variety of continuous services, for example, full-text open access to some Chinese published literature.
The target of this service is the whole country of China, which started in November 2015. The types of documents served include academic journals, conference papers, doctoral dissertations, master’s theses, and newspapers.
The free service scope of 2020 is all documents published by CNKI in 2011 and before, including 40.89 million articles published in 11,402 journals from 1911 to 2011, accounting for about 59.8% of all documents. These include academic journals; culture, art, and other popular journals; party construction, political newspapers, and other party and government journals; higher education, vocational education, and other educational journals; economic information journals. From 2000-2011 CNKI published 188,000 doctoral dissertations, 1.51 million ancillary papers, 4.17 million conference papers, accounting for 45.6%, 38.1%, and 67.4% respectively, as well as, 18.15 million articles from more than 400 newspapers from 2001 to 2019, totaling 64,908 million articles. (English translation by the author) 
For Chinese authors, there is a free service that started in September 2019, aiming at the authors who have Chinese publications collected in CNKI database. On this online free author service platform, authors can download own published documents for free, manage academic achievements, obtain academic evaluation reports, track academic frontier developments, and achieve online journal submission. For English readers, CNKI keeps updating its oversea website. At the time this blog post is written, the open-access (OA) online-first publishing of COVID-19 platform is officially online to serve [http://new.oversea.cnki.net/index/] which includes 2,288 China journals and 25 foreign journals.
What is more, CNKI Open Access Aggregator (COAA) is introduced to foreign scholars. CNKI Open Access Aggregator, COAA in short, was launched in 2019 and currently has more than 10,000 open access journals covering all fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and humanities.
According to the COAA platform introduction on their webpage, it will continue to expand the coverage of open resources from now on, increase open access books, papers, conference papers, etc., to provide users with a large number of open access resources. The journal covers 100 countries and regions on five continents, covering 100 disciplines and covering 70 languages. (English translation by the author)  Unfortunately, the homepage and all the instructions are in Chinese. The language barrier could be a difficulty for non-Chinese scholars.
Besides all the effort CNKI has made to develop open-access (OA), there are many challenges it is facing. One survey of Chinese readers conducted by Wen revealed the fact that 94.5 percent of the respondents were ignorant of the existence of OA journals. As we mentioned before, the market share of CNKI in Chinese undergraduate colleges is 100% which keeps CNKI the Chinese world of academic publishing in a monopolistic stranglehold. According to Wang Yiwei’s article on July 24, 2019, CNKI has posted an average annual profit margin of nearly 60%in the past decade which almost doubled the figure of Wiley .
At the end of 2018, the Taiyuan University of Technology, a university located in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, put a notice regarding the suspension of access to “CNKI” in 2019 on their school website and the next day the school library published that the budget for the usage contract with CNKI was 588,000 yuan (about $85,500). 
The cancellation due to high fees happens around the world. For example, SUNY (State University of New York System) subscribed to approximately 250 titles in Elsevier instead of the whole database in 2020 and this approach will save SUNY institutions $7 million annually. 
CNKI, which has been developed with the strong support of the government, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and other departments, could assume more social responsibilities through open-access (OA) instead of taking advantage of its leading enterprises to gain more economic benefits. As the quick development of online services is being promoted by the national government during the COVID-19 pandemic period, it is believed that open-access (OA) is to become the future of academic library exchanges in China.
 Zhong, Jing, and Shuyong Jiang. 2016. “Institutional Repositories in Chinese Open Access Development: Status, Progress, and Challenges.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 42 (6): 739–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2016.06.015.
 Wen (2008) citation: as cited in Hu (2012).Hu, Dehau. 2012. “The Availability of Open Access Journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences in China.” Journal of Information Science 38 (1): 64–75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165551511428919.
During the lockdown of the entire country, China is bravely fighting against COVID-19. Many database vendors, publishers, and Internet companies announced to offer free access to academic resources to help students and researchers get the resources they need from home. Most of the publishers offered free access to everyone for a limited time and to decide whether to extend the period or not depend on the COVID-19 situation while some publishers announced open access from the announcement date indefinitely. At the same time, they are using technology to provide a convenient communication platform for researchers and provide an effective channel for up-to-date publication of results and new ideas of COVID-19 for the public.
Here we use the open-access platform ‘Sciencepaper Online’ [http://www.paper.edu.cn/] as a case study. The review and release period of papers online related to COVID-19 has been significantly reduced to 3 working days and all documents have been open for free in full text indefinitely from the start of February. Meanwhile, it works with other publishers and opens a separate area for Novel coronavirus pneumonia (NCP), providing preprinted copies of relevant research results for free submission, publishing, browsing, downloading.
The outbreak of pandemic caused by COVID-19 has already affected people’s daily life worldwide. On January 27th, 2020, the Chinese Ministry of Education decided to delay the start of the spring semester in 2020. Due to the lockdown, all the universities and schools in China have closed. However, all the classes and teaching still need to continue at home. Classes from primary schools to Universities are all changed to online teaching. Limited resources and communication channels put great pressure on students, teachers, and researchers. According to the guidance and organization of the Ministry of education, lots of databases, publishers, and internet firms were offering free access to their website or launching a mobile application to giving academic resources for a limited time. However, open access has been going on in China for a long time. As a leading provider of open access in China, Sciencepaper Online is playing an important academic intermediary in this incident.
According to the Sciencepaper online website, Sciencepaper Online is an academic institutional repository established in 2003 initiated by the Ministry of Education and hosted by the Science and Technology Development Center of the Ministry of Education. This platform is dedicated to providing scientific researchers with rapid paper publication and free access services. It is the first online academic open-access (OA) journals platform in China and the leading international peer-reviewed platform for online preprinted papers. (English translation by the author)
Since its publication in August 2006, Sciencepaper Online opened its Weibo account to give more up-to-date information about the platform for more people in 2011. Weibo is a popular social media platform in China similar to Twitter. According to the ASKCI Consulting company report, Weibo has more than 330 million users by the end of 2018. In 2016, Sciencepaper Online launched a mobile application to help scholars have more flexible access to open access resources the platform offers. On March 27th, 2019, Sciencepaper Online formally signed ‘Expression of Interest in the Large-scale Implementation of Open Access to Scholarly Journals’ The signing of OA 2020 initiative is not only an affirmation of the open-access concept but also a mark that China Sciencepaper Online will contribute to the open-access of global academic scholarly journals.
According to the Sciencepaper online webpage—introduction, the four main purposes of Sciencepaper Online are elaborating Academic Views, Exchanging Innovative Ideas, Protecting Intellectual Properties, and Fast Sharing Science Papers. After several years of development, it became a one-stop scientific research service platform with papers, journals, scholars, and communities as the four core sections, and rapid positioning of resources through disciplines, institutions, full-text search, and other methods. The submitted papers are reviewed and released on the site after 7 business days (start from the date of the last submission) if the paper is within the scope of Sciencepaper Online’s subject categories, in-line with the national laws/regulations and meeting our formatting requirements. No Service Fee Is Charged for releasing on this site. Today the website hosts 39 specialized fields according to the Classification and code of disciplines. According to standards press of China, Classification and code of disciplines specify the principles, basis, and coding methods of subject classification. The classification objects of this standard are disciplines, which are different from professions and industries. It also specifies that this standard cannot replace various viewpoints in literature, information, book classification, and academics. (English translation by the author) [http://openstd.samr.gov.cn/bzgk/gb/newGbInfo?hcno=4C13F521FD6ECB6E5EC026FCD779986E]
In the view of the difficulty in publishing papers in general, the communication among scholars of different languages is narrow, Sciencepaper Online creates a fast, convenient communication platform to promote the latest study results and communication between scholars without delay. After the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, the Sciencepaper Online platform promises to significantly shorten the review and publication time from 7 business days to 3 days for papers related to the COVID-19 epidemic for basic medicine, clinical medicine, biology, pharmacy, Chinese medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine, preventive medicine, hygiene, and other disciplines. Sciencepaper Online releases relevant research and shares the research results as quickly as possible. Together with other publishers, a special website releases to the public providing relevant study results about COVID-19 [http://cajn.cnki.net/gzbd/brief/Default.aspx]. The site offers three versions which are simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, and English. Considered some people may have no access to computers during the self-quarantine time, it launched the mobile application simultaneously. Meanwhile, as the first preprinted scientific paper and open access website in China, the platform has over 100,000 preprinted papers and a total of 1.2 million-plus scientific papers in the library. All documents are open for free in full text indefinitely from the start of February 2020.
It is a good strategy to open full-text access during the urgent worldwide pandemic time. However, open access (OA) as a long-time movement needs more detailed consideration. Although the site has both the Chinese and the English versions, the English version contains around 5,900 English papers (5,992 papers) which are quite small compared to the 1.2 million-plus scientific papers in the Chinese version. Another challenge is that much of China’s scientific output is still locked behind paywalls.
” The Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) funds about 70% of Chinese research articles published in international journals, but China has to buy these back with full and high prices,”
Zhang said at the Open Access 2020 conference (Harnack House, Berlin, 3–4 December 2018). It would take a lot of effort to deal with the copyright issues both nationally and internationally.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, more and more scientific research workers joined the epidemic prevention and control actions, with a rigorous academic attitude to study prevention and control strategies and measures, hoping to use the “Sciencepapers Online” platform for fast and free publication. Making the latest research results publicly available and sharing them with relevant people who are concerned about the epidemic nationwide and even worldwide. Through the efforts of each of us and each department, we will accelerate the study of effective methods to contain the epidemic, improve the knowledge level of virus awareness, reduce panic among the people and contribute meager to epidemic prevention and control.
As posted to the Global Open Access List, scholcomm and the radical open access list, following is a suggestion for how to identify articles on coronavirus that are not yet open access. The majority of these articles will be in journals that allow author self-archiving, and some may be published by authors covered by open access policies. Communication with authors and/or journals may be helpful to improve the percentage of open access.
A PubMed search for “coronavirus” limited to the past 10 years then limited again to free full-text yields results of 55% free full-text. With no date limit, it’s 46%.
This search will get at research on COVID and the next most relevant research, all the other coronaviruses (mers, sars, common cold), and will be helpful for researchers and medical practitioners anywhere.
China’s early release of the COVID genetic code and even traditional publishers scrambling to make COVID resources free is demonstrating that people get at least some of the points of open access and open research.
It would be interesting to compare publisher responses today with earlier epidemics. If I recall correctly, there is a significant change from responding to pressure to proactively making resources free without OA pressure.
This is progress. It’s not 100% OA but a lot more researchers and practitioners have free access to a lot more of our knowledge than was the case with the 2003 Sars epidemic.
Further pressure might be helpful. Identification and analysis of the 45% PubMed results that are coronavirus but not free full-text would identify suitable targets for gentle pressure. Some such articles may have been written by authors covered by an OA policy. Such a results list would likely yield journal lists and individual articles, many of which could be deposited in repositories thanks to the efforts of green OA advocates.
Librarians and others working from home can send e-mails to authors and it should be possible to add items to repositories remotely. Publishers who are green not gold should ideally work with PMC and can also send e-mails to authors reminding them of the green policy.
Although research on coronavirus is urgent, university researchers who are also teachers are likely swamped due to a sudden shift to online teaching this semester. For this group, it might make sense to time communication after the semester ends.