In:  Other, Research  

The Results Are In of our Open Access Survey

Hearing from you on your open access experiences

A few weeks ago, we sent out a survey to hear about your experiences with Open Access. In this survey we asked questions like, do you believe the scholarly community could do research more effectively if all scientific communication were freely available under an open access license? and, would you prefer if peer reviews were made open? We’re happy to present the results today which coincides nicely with the final day of Open Access Week 2021.  

Before we get into the results, I will preface that this survey was fairly informal and was generated purely from the curiosity of the team at ScienceOpen. In this context, our definition of open access is kept pretty general and just concerns whether a work is legally, freely accessible to all with an internet connection. Now let’s get into the survey results! 

Who were the respondents?

This survey was kept anonymous, but we did ask a couple questions to get an idea of who took the survey. We see that those who completed our survey were mainly scholars (60%) and librarians (17%), but also publishers, editors, and people of other occupations. We also had respondents from all over the world; Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Africa were all represented.  

General Questions 

There were three parts to this survey. In the first part, we asked some general questions on the topic of open access. Here is what we found: 

  • 83% of the respondents agree that the scholarly community could perform research more effectively if all scientific communication were made freely available under an open access license.  
  • 95% of respondents have had the experience of being unable to access a research article they needed due to paywalls.  
  • 83% have downloaded an open access book for their research. 
  • Half of the respondents admitted to at least once illegally downloading a research paper that they couldn’t access because it was behind a paywall.  

Also, interestingly about one-fifth of respondents said that the COVID-19 pandemic changed their view of open access research. One responder commented particularly that they felt this when the libraries were closed. If you would be curious to hear more on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected open access, check out our panel discussion for Berlin Science Week next Monday which will be livestreamed here.  

Experience Publishing OA Articles  

Moving on to the next section, we asked about people’s experiences publishing their own research. 60% of respondents said they have published an OA article, mostly under a CC-BY license. And of those that have published an OA article, less than half had to pay an article processing charge (APC).  

We also asked whether a responder’s Library or Institution subscribes to a Read-and-Publish or Publish-and-Read arrangement with a publisher. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, this Scholarly Kitchen blogpost by Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe gives a good definition of these arrangements in the context of “Transformative Agreements”. In short, though, these arrangements somehow combine subscription and publishing costs into one contract between libraries and publishers. About half of respondents said yes, that their library or institution subscribes to one of these arrangements with a publisher. We then had a follow-up question, where we asked if these arrangements encouraged authors to publish in the journals that were covered by these arrangements. More people said that it did not contribute to their decision of where to publish, but still about 25% said it did encourage them to publish with journals involved in such agreements.  

In the survey, we posed the following scenario, “If the price of APCs and the reputation of the journal were not factors in the decision, would you rather publish your paper in an OA or subscription-based journal?” No one chose a subscription-based journal over an open access journal. We next asked respondents what they thought a reasonable APC for an OA research article is. The results can be seen in the figure below:

Since we did not have an option for no APC in our question, about one-fifth of respondents skipped the question and noted in the comments section that they completely oppose APCs

Last in this section, we asked about how authors make their work more accessible. Researchers most often noted that they have posted their manuscript as a preprint, posted to their institutional repository, and uploaded their published PDF to ResearchGate or  

Experience Publishing OA Books  

We asked participants a few questions specifically regarding scholarly book publishing. First question was what they thought a reasonable book processing charge is for an open access book. The majority of respondents answered below 2500 EUR, several said between 2500-4000, and one person said between 10,000-15,000 EUR. We then asked if they had personally published a book open access. Interestingly, of the respondents who had, 80% did not pay any book processing charge (BPC).  

Open Peer Review 

Our final section of questions was about peer review. We asked questions around open peer review, like if they had written an open peer review before and if they preferred open peer review to traditional closed, blind peer review. A solid majority (57%) of respondents said that they would prefer if peer reviews were made open, that is, so that the reviewer and what they wrote were visible to the public. About one third of respondents have written an open peer review themselves before. And of those that had, most had written more than five. We then asked whether those that had not written an open peer review before if they would be open to in the future, and 90% said yes. Lastly, over half of the respondents think that an open peer review should receive a DOI and be a part of a researcher’s work portfolio.  

Closing Remarks 

Many thanks to all those that took our survey! We understand that this was a small glimpse into publishing open access, and that there are of course other important factors that we did not cover in this survey. If you are a researcher who is interested in writing open peer reviews, here’s a reminder that if you register on ScienceOpen and have a qualifying number of publications registered with an ORCID, you can write post publication peer reviews on any article or book that has a DOI. ScienceOpen is also dedicated to working with publishers of all sizes to come up with affordable, technical and promotional solutions in the realm of open access hosting and open peer review. If you would like to learn more about how we can support publishers, take a look at our services here.  

We hope you found these results interesting, we certainly did. Enjoy your weekend and cheers to another Open Access Week! 

5 thoughts on “The Results Are In of our Open Access Survey”

  1. Can you share your source data? I am curious how many of the respondents were faculty researchers, vs. “scholars and librarians” which is perhaps too broad a category. I am interested in tracking faculty sentiment (specifically) on this topic.

    1. Hi Zach, thanks for your interest in the survey! As I prefaced we kept this survey fairly informal and did not differentiate further than the title of “Scholars.” Participants could choose between publisher, editor, scholar, librarian or other and 60% listed “Scholar”. Next time we conduct a survey, we will ask respondents to specify further.

  2. Without sample size information it is impossible to evaluate the reliability of these patterns, no matter how “informal” the poll. Such a deliberate withholding of that information seems to me a shocking failure in an Openness forum.

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