The Oxford University Press began its experiments 3 years ago to "support which model, open access or an evolving subscription model, will result in the most cost effective dissemination of research results to the research community and beyond." In July, the press publicly released the 120-page report "Assessing the Impact of Open Access: Preliminary Findings from the Oxford Journals," which describes three different journal studies.
"We hope that making this data available will stimulate others to share their experiences of open access [(OA)] in order to foster a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of open access and subscription-based business models," according to Martin Richardson, managing director of Oxford Journals. Indeed, Oxford Journals should be commended for sharing this data and encouraging a more open and public discussion of these issues.
NAR Author and Reader
The first preliminary report, which was written by senior editor Clair Saxby of Oxford Journals, examines Nucleic Acids Research (NAR), a molecular biology journal owned and published by Oxford. NAR was one of the first established journals to move to a full OA model. The survey was sent through the NAR online submission and peer-review system to more than 13,000 potential respondents. A total of 1,114 responses were received (a 9-percent response rate). Of this group, 283 (25 percent) of the respondents had published at least one paper in NAR during 2005.
Among the findings, 88 percent of this subset agreed or strongly agreed that "the principle of free access for all is important," and 80 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they "perceive the readership of an open access journal to be larger than a subscription-access journal." However, according to the report, OA is only part of NAR's appeal. The majority noted that it offers "rapid publication, an attractive impart factor, high quality peer reviews, and a well respected editorial team."
From the NAR reader's perspective, 83 percent stated that prior to the journal's move to hill OA, NAR content was available to them online. In accessing usage statistics, the majority (45 percent) chose the PDF version of the abstracts as their first choice, and 69 per cent stated that they never downloaded the HTML version.
The next study was called "Evaluation of Open Access Journal Experiment: Stage 2 Report," which was co-produced by the LISU Research & consultancy for performance management and Loughborough University for the Oxford University Press. The goal of this research is to compare usage and citation patterns for three well-established journals that have implemented different OA models. The journals are NAR, Journal of Experimental Botany (JXB), and Bioinformatics.
JXB uses the optional OA model where authors can elect to make their articles available immediately with the publication fee typically paid by a research grant or parent institution. One of the suggested findings from this study is that the "presence of open access articles in a journal not only increases interest in those issues containing open access articles, but may also increase interest in other volumes." OA articles were also used more than subscription-based articles during the first 3 months, however, the rate diminishes over time. …