"The impact of open access materials is astonishing" - Open access publishing also increasingly popular

The University of Helsinki Annual Review 2019 was published recently. Helsinki University Library provided the publication analyses to the review. The most significant observation made based on the analyses was that scholars clearly benefited from citations brought about by open access publishing. The number of open access publications has also continued to grow from the previous year.

In brief – the year 2019 at the University in the light of publications  

In 2019 the University’s researchers and teachers produced a total of 10,708 publications, of which 7,852 were peer-reviewed scientific articles and books. There were 2,856 publications focused on public engagement. 

Researchers are increasingly using open access publishing

The number of open access publications has grown strongly from the previous year. Of the peer-reviewed scientific articles, 57% or 4,364 publications are openly available. In 2018 the corresponding number was 46% and in 2017, 36%. This shift to open access publishing has partly been supported by the University's open access publishing projects, such as the Helsinki University Library project to establish a service centre for open access publishing, which was carried out in 2017–2019.

"The impact of open access materials was astonishing "

Eva Isaksson, head of the metrics team, says that the development of available tools has made new ways of analysing information possible.

Currently, open access information has been taken into account in citation databases to such an extensive and reasonably reliable way that it is possible to analyse information related to the citation impact of University of Helsinki publications indexed in the databases.

The metrics team produces analyses for the University of Helsinki annual review on what the coverage of materials indexed in the Web of Science is (i.e., what share of each faculty’s publications is in WoS) and what their Category Normalized Citation Impact, CNCI is (impact in relation to the global average).  

This year a decision was made to separately review the impact of open access publications compared to material behind a paywall. The review included all peer-reviewed open access publications. Since bibliometrics accumulate information slowly, it was further decided to include publications from 2016–2019 in the review. It has often been pointed out that open access publications are cited more frequently. However, the review results were surprising also with regard to impact:

For the University as a whole, and many of the faculties, the impact of open access materials was downright astonishing when compared with restricted materials. Based on these results, it is pretty evident that researchers also clearly benefit from citations received through open access publishing, says Isaksson.

Impact numbers, faculties

UH open access impact figures

Is an important revolution under way? 

Today, in 2020, we are living in exceptional times. According to Isaksson, the current exceptional circumstances may prove to be a significant revolution in the publishing culture: 

It is clear that the exceptional circumstances present scholars with various challenges. During this time, the importance of open access publishing has clearly increased. Open access publishing, open data and open research collaboration are particularly important in a situation where researchers’ access to laboratories has been limited. Science is alive and well when ideas and research outcomes circulate freely.

Cooperation between the scientific community and the open sharing of research outputs has became critical. The importance of open science infrastructure, such as open access publishing channels and data repositories, is clear. At this point, it is anyhow too early to predict will this effect the  publishing culture in a larger scale. You can read more on this topic in the article: Open science during coronavirus outbreak. The theme will be discussed more deeply also on Think Open -blog during August.

The University of Helsinki Annual Review 2019 was published in May. Helsinki University Library and its TUHAT and metrics teams provided information and publication analyses to the review edited by Research Administration Services.