Springer Open: ceased, now hybrid, OA identification challenges

Abstract

SpringerNature, owner of Nature Publishing Group, Springer Open, and BioMedCentral, is the world’s largest fully open access journal publisher as measured by number of journals. The purpose of this post is to underscore what appears to be a significant open access attrition rate at SpringerOpen (16% OA attrition in the past few years) and raise questions about challenges to finding and identifying these journals as open access. Ceased journals that were always open access are listed on the SpringerLink (mostly subscriptions) site, not the SpringerOpen website. Subscriptions articles are clearly marked as such; the OA status of an article is not stated on the journal home page. Information provided by a library about License Terms may not mention or resemble a CC license.

Update July 23: the following analysis missed two ceased journals, Asia Pacific Journal on Computational Engineering and China Journal of Economic Research. Unlike the other titles, China Journal of Economic Research is not listed on SpringerLink, although a journal home page can be found through a Google Search. No content is available online and the journal’s default license while publishing is not clear. Adding this title makes a small difference to the numbers and percentages. These titles are not included in the working dataset but will be included in the main file.

Details

We have been tracking 258 Springer Open titles up to 2018 (excluding journals new in 2019 and journals now listed under BioMedCentral). Of these, 33 (13%) have ceased publication and 7 (3%) are now hybrid journals, combining subscriptions and optional open access (Open Choice) articles. Together, these two categories add up to a combined OA attrition rate of 16%.

Finding the titles and/or identifying the open access status of journals and articles could be challenging. For example, 38 of the 40 journals are listed on the main SpringerLink site; none are listed on the Springer Open site. The SpringerLink site includes thousands of journals (a SpringerLink search for “journal” yields over 3,500 results), almost all of which are subscriptions based.

For example, if you click on the link to now ceased Earth Perspectives from the SpringerLink website, while as pictured on the bottom right hand side there is a link to the open access collection there is no prominent mention of the open access status of this journal. Earth_Perspectives_1

Clicking on the latest volume, as shown, brings up a list of articles in the volume, with no indication at this stage that the articles are open access. Earth_Perspectives_2.

Once you get to the actual article, the open access status is stated clearly at the top and the copyright link goes to the CC-BY license (all ceased titles were licensed CC-BY).

18 of the 32 ceased titles were listed in DOAJ in 2018; only 2 are listed in DOAJ as of Jan. 31, 2019.

Journals ceased by year
2015 1
2016 6
2017 10
2018 8
2019 1
not stated 7
Grand Total 33

As illustrated by the table above, most of these journals ceased quite recently. Authors who selected a journal for publication in 2017 or 2018 because it was on the Springer Open website and/or in DOAJ might be surprised to know that their journal has been de-listed by these sites, perhaps shortly after their article was published.

When I look up the titles through the University of Ottawa library’s A to Z journal list, the journals are identified as open or free access, however the link to the License Terms of Use, while they indicate broad use, are very different from CC-BY. For example, the answer to the question: “Can I post a copy in a course management system?” is: “The licensee and authorized users may incorporate parts of the licensed materials in Virtual Campus.” There is no indication of the CC license. As an aside, this is not meant as a critique; identifying an entire journal as under one CC license might solve some problems, but would likely create others.

Some examples of problems arising from identifying CC licensing at a journal level

  • third party content is generally under a different license than an article or journal
  • different articles and different types of content may have different licenses
  • the journal may have changed its default license over time; in the case of journals that began publishing before CC licenses became available, this is almost always the case

6 of the 7 journals that are now hybrid are clearly hybrid, mixing open access and subscriptions content. In the list of articles in a particular volume, subscription articles are clearly marked with a lock, and lead to information that an article can be purchased for $39.95, rented through DeepDyve, or subscribed to. There is no open access note or symbol for open access content, although on the bottom right hand of the screen there is a link to an open access collection search, and items are marked as open access once the reader gets to the article level.

Following are lists of the ceased and hybrid publications, remember if you would like to look them up, use SpringerLink site, not the Springer Open site:

Ceased

Applied Informatics
Asian Journal of Gambling Issues and Public Health
Asia Pacific Journal on Computational Engineering
Brazilian Journal of Science and Technology
China Journal of Economic Research
Computational Cognitive Science
Decision Analytics
Earth Perspectives — Transdisciplinarity Enabled
Earthquake Science
EURASIP Journal on Embedded Systems
Fields Mathematics Education Journal
In Silico Cell and Tissue Science
Infrastructure Complexity
International Journal of Dharma Studies
Journal of Chinese Management
Journal of Chinese Studies
Journal of Computational Surgery
Journal of Frugal Innovation
Journal of Solid State Lighting
Journal of Trust Management
Journal of Uncertainty Analysis and Applications
Lingua Sinica
Mathematics-in-Industry Case Studies
Multilingual Education
mUX: The Journal of Mobile User Experience
Psychology of Well-Being
Robotics and Biomimetics
SpringerPlus
Sustainable Chemical Processes
Technology, Innovation and Education
Textiles and Clothing Sustainability
The Journal of Global Positioning Systems
Zoological Studies

Now hybrid

Fire Science Reviews (technically open access predecessor to hybrid Fire Technology)
In Silico Pharmacology
Integrating Materials and Manufacturing Innovation
Maritime Studies
Research in the Mathematical Sciences
Science China Life Sciences
Journal of Remanufacturing

Full but messy, working, undocumented data is available for download here:

Springer_ceased_2019

Springer_now_hybrid_2019

This is only one aspect of the Springer Open 2019 analysis.

For earlier posts on Springer, see https://sustainingknowledgecommons.org/?s=springer&submit=Search