Conversion to open access sees upsurge in usage

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Non-profit science publisher Annual Reviews has  converted the first 15 journal volumes of the year to open access (OA), resulting in substantial increases in downloads of articles in the first month.

Through the innovative OA model called Subscribe to Open (S2O), developed by Annual Reviews, existing institutional customers continue to subscribe to the journals. With sufficient support, every new volume is immediately converted to OA under a Creative Commons license and is available for everyone to read and re-use. In addition, all articles from the previous nine volumes are also accessible to all. If support is insufficient, the paywall is retained.

Richard Gallagher, President and Editor-in-Chief of Annual Reviews, said: “As soon as the paywall is removed, article access doubled or tripled and continues to rise, with usage not just from subscribers but from local governments and businesses, foundations, professionals and interested members of society. The increase of usage in low- or middle-income countries (LMIC) is especially notable.”

This breakthrough comes in the “Federal Year of Open Science” in the United States, which recognises the benefits of open science for a number of U.S. strategic interests and delivers evidence-based results for the American people. These same benefits apply to other parts of the world and crucially to addressing the global challenges confronting everyone.

Janet Coffey, Program Director of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which provided grant support to introduce S2O, said: “This approach presents academic societies and other small publishers who are encountering difficulties in converting to open access with a practical new option that is compatible with their values and their budgets.” Unlike other OA models, there are no fees for authors to publish in journals supported by S2O. This means that researchers in relatively poorly funded areas of research, such as the social sciences, and researchers in LMIC have the same opportunity to publish OA as their colleagues from better-funded disciplines or institutions.

Margaret Levi, Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University and Co-Editor of the Annual Review of Political Science, said: “Opening up the knowledge generated by social sciences researchers is of immediate practical application in creating and implementing solutions to our most pressing challenges, be it health and education equity, inclusive economic growth, or the commitment to democracy. This is the promise of S2O.”

The model makes use of existing scholarly publishing processes and infrastructures and follows new principles on pricing transparency. It is being adopted by other publishers with the support of the S2O Community of Practice, a diverse group of librarians, researchers, publishers, and funders working together to advance the model. In 2023, including Annual Reviews, 15 publishers will publish 151 journals using S2O, establishing it as a viable approach to OA alongside Article Processing Charges and Read and Publish agreements.

Virginia Steel, long-time OA advocate, librarian and former chair of the SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) Steering Committee, said “A model like S2O is something that librarians have been asking for, for many years. That’s why libraries are stepping forward to support S2O as it aligns with their institutional values. It is inspiring them.”

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