Should open access lead to closed research? The trends towards paying to perform research

Abstract:  Open  Access  (OA)  emerged  as  an  important  transition  in  scholarly  publishing  worldwide during the past two decades. So far, this transition is increasingly based on article processing charges (APC), which create a new paywall on the researchers’ side. Publishing is part of the research  process  and  thereby  necessary  to  perform  research.  This  study  analyses  the  global trends towards paying to perform research by combing observed trends in publishing from 2015 to 2020 with an APC price list. APC expenses have sharply increased among six countries with different  OA  policies:  the  USA,  China,  the  UK,  France,  the  Netherlands,  and  Norway.  The estimated global revenues from APC among major publishers now exceed 2 billion US dollars annually. Mergers and takeovers show that the industry is moving towards APC-based OA as the more profitable business  model.  Research publishing will be closed  to  those who cannot make an institution or project money payment. Our results lead to a discussion of whether APC is the best way to promote OA.

Boycott heralds Chinese publishing shake-up | May 3, 2022 | Times Higher Education (THE)

“China’s top research organisation has suspended its use of the country’s largest academic database, causing some scholars to question whether its stranglehold on the sector might be loosened. Several research institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have pulled out of its subscription to the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) due to mounting subscription fees, local news outlet Caixin reported. According to reports, CAS made the decision over mounting costs. In 2021, CAS paid ¥10 million (£1.2 million) to access the database, with a similar amount expected for 2022. Academics said the reasoning behind the move – long-simmering frustrations over fees – was understandable enough. But they wondered what its knock-on effects could be in a market largely controlled by a single, powerful player. Roughly 90 per cent of China’s journal articles are listed on CNKI, according to estimates.  Futao Huang, a professor at the Research Institute for Higher Education at Hiroshima University, suggested that CNKI’s monopoly was under threat. While he said it was “extremely difficult” to predict what could happen, a reduced role for CNKI “might open up the market to new players”, including open access platforms, which allow readers to access papers for free….

Fei Shu, a senior researcher in the Chinese Academy of Science and Education Evaluation at Hangzhou Dianzi University, argued that “oligopoly” was a more fitting term for the country’s research database market, but he was also sceptical that a move away from its biggest player would result in a proliferation of openly accessible journal articles. “In my perspective, some other research institutions will follow the CAS and stop [their] subscription if they cannot get a deal with CNKI,” similar to when Western sectors boycotted Elsevier in the past, he said. “However, it has little to do with open access. In China, due to [its] censorship, OA is not favoured and promoted by the government. I don’t believe that this situation will change in a short term.””

China overtakes the US in terms of research quality, finds study – Physics World

“The quality of China’s scientific research output exceeded that of the US in 2019. That is according to a new analysis by researchers in the US, which also found that China had already overtaken the European Union in terms of research quality by 2015.  

China’s total research output has grown rapidly in recent years, but there has been a widespread belief that the “quality” – judged by the number of citations papers receive – is not as high as other countries. A common measure of a nation’s research quality is the percentage of its papers appearing in the top 1% of the most-cited papers globally. Since citation practices vary widely across disciplines, researchers typically weight the citation data of papers according to their fields, before comparing countries’ scientific output. When comparing field-weighted citation data, the US has a higher percentage of research in the top 1% worldwide than China does….”

Transformative Agreement signed between the Microbiology Society and Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences | Microbiology Society

“The Microbiology Society and Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMCAS) are pleased to announce their transformative agreement starting in 2022. The Publish and Read model will allow researchers at affiliated institutions to publish an unlimited number of Open Access (OA) articles in hybrid and fully OA titles, as well as have full reading access to the Society’s journal portfolio….”

Sci-Hub downloads show countries where pirate paper site is most used

“Download figures for Sci-Hub, the popular but controversial website that hosts pirated copies of scientific papers, reveal where people are using the site most. The statistics show that users accessing Sci-Hub from China are by far the most active — and that with more than 25 million downloads, usage in China outstrips the rest of the top ten countries combined (see ‘Global resource’).

Perhaps surprisingly, the figures also show that the United States, in second place, has about one-third as many downloads, at 9.3 million. “There is a widespread opinion that Sci-Hub is of no use in the United States, because universities have money to pay for subscriptions, but that is not true,” says Alexandra Elbakyan, the site’s founder.

The statistics are updated daily and show the number of downloads from each country over the past month — but they are not normalized for the size of the research population….”

International Tensions and “Science Nationalism” in a Networked World: Strategies and Implications

“The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Executive Roundtable that took place as part of the CNI Fall 2020 Virtual Membership Meeting examined the collision between developing international tensions and science nationalism on one side, and trends towards global, network-based collaboration and scholarly communication, particularly as driven by the adoption of open science practices, on the other….

There is a very broad-based effort to restructure the terms of open access (OA) publishing across the globe through so-called “transformative agreements” and efforts such as the European Union-based Plan S, which stipulates (among other things) that scientific publications resulting from publicly funded research be published in OA journals or platforms. Currently there’s a rough and still tentative alignment between the US and Europe on this effort; in particular, there is some ambiguity about the extent of support by US federal funders, as distinct from research universities (who have a wide range of views), for the Plan S style approach. Given the scale of publishing by Chinese researchers, it seems likely that unless China supports this restructuring effort, the economics globally will be at best problematic. While a few years ago some Chinese scholarly organizations seem to have expressed conceptual support for both this kind of OA and related initiatives about open research data, it’s unclear where this commitment now stands, or how it may relate to other emerging Chinese scholarly publishing strategies….

Some recent policy announcements seem to suggest that China is de-emphasizing the importance of publishing in very high prestige Western journals; interestingly, this is being cast as consistent with the efforts of Western and global open science advocates to focus assessments of scholarly impact on quality rather than quantity, and to de-emphasize measures such as the impact factor of the journals that results are published in. Note that to the extent that China is, or may be, investing in a national publishing infrastructure, this implies shifting investment away from contributions that might support a global restructuring of the Western scholarly publishing system (discussed above) towards new OA models. …”

Tracing the footsteps of open research data in China

Abstract:  While the scientific research value, economic value and social value ofresearch data have become increasingly apparent, the significance of openresearch data has reached a consensus. This article gives an introductionto open research data policies and measures in China, and reports on thestatus of constructing necessary infrastructure, specifically open datarepositories. We compare open data repositories in China and Westerncountries in terms of scale, subject distribution, data policies, service andcontent operations. In addition, this article summarizes methods and moti-vations for data sharing among researchers in China. Finally, the paper dis-cusses the characteristics, potential problems and challenges of China’sopen research data practices. We conclude with some suggestions for thefuture development of open research data in China from data policy, infra-structure construction, compliance with international standards andnorms, credibility and influence improvement, incentives for data sharingand encouraging data sharing research practices.

China releases over 7.43 mln pieces of biological resource data

“The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has officially published a catalog of biological resources, with more than 7.43 million pieces of biological resource data released.

The catalog collects biological resource data from 72 resource libraries in 40 research institutes of the CAS, which includes biological specimens, plant resources, genetic resources, animal experiment resources, and biodiversity monitoring network resources.

All the resource data are available to the public on network portals, the CAS said….”

Measuring the Degrees of Openness of Educational Journals in China with the Open Access Spectrum (OAS) Evaluation Tool

Abstract:  At present, the information dissemination and acquisition behavior of scholarly journals have undergone great changes. Electronic resources have become an important information source, and the subjects of network information release have become increasingly large, and instant access to information has become the mainstream trend. In order to promote the dissemination and exchange of academic information in the era of big data, and promote free and convenient access to scientific research results, more and more journals in China have joined the ranks of “open access”. This paper aims to reveal the openness of educational journals in China, so that readers, researchers, research institutions and publishers can better understand the status quo of open access of Chinese journals. This study will adopt the OAS tool proposed by SPARC, select 284 educational journals collected by CNKI as the research samples, and combine the actual situation in China, make appropriate improvements to the open evaluation tool, and use the improved evaluation tool and evaluation system to evaluate the openness of Chinese educational journals.


An analysis of research output in open access journals in BRICS countries: a bibliometric study | Emerald Insight

Abstract:  Purpose

This paper aims to investigate the current status of research output published in open access (OA) journals from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) countries from 2010 to 2019 and compare their performances in terms of OA research output.


Papers contributed by the researchers of BRICS countries were searched using an advanced search option in the Web of Science core collection database. The retrieved results were restricted to the “journal articles” published in the “English language” during the time period of 2010 to 2019. After that, the selected papers were again refined by using the “open access” section to identify the research output of BRICS countries published in OA journals.


Total 2,219,943 papers were published from BRICS countries, out of which 402,199 articles were published in OA journals and South Africa has published the highest number of research output in OA journals (31%). Although, there has been a constant increasing growth of research output published in OA journals in BRICS countries from 13,300 papers in 2010 to 82,310 articles in 2019. Engineering and Technology have published the maximum number of papers in OA journals. Researchers of BRICS countries mostly contributed their OA research output in journals published from the USA and Scientific Reports (UK) is identified as one of the leading OA journals. Additionally, among all the BRICS countries, China is found as the promising leader in terms of OA journals publications, the maximum share i.e. 71.25 per cent of total 402,199 OA journal publications have been produced by the highest number 137 (23.41%) of institutions of China and Chinese Academy of Sciences (China) is leading institution with 39,036 papers published in OA journals.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited to BRICS countries, but it offers theoretical implications for extending its scope to different countries. This study may be used for raising awareness of OA among researchers of BRICS countries and encouraging them to contribute their research work in OA journals. The findings of this study are useful and meaningful in understanding the comparative status of research across countries, disciplines, journals and institutions.


This is the first study in BRICS countries focusing on the research output published in OA journals.

World Journal Clout Index (WJCI)

“he World Journal Clout Index (WJCI) Report (2020 STM) is the research result of the “Research on the Comprehensive Evaluation Method of World Science & Technology Journal Impact” commissioned by the China Association for Science and Technology. This project aims to establish a new journal evaluation system and explore a global-oriented journal impact evaluation method on scientific, comprehensive and reasonable basis, with a view to contributing Chinese wisdom and Chinese solutions in the field of academic evaluation and promoting the fair evaluation and equal use of sci-tech journals worldwide.

The WJCI Report (2020 STM) determines the proportion of source journals in each country/region from four dimensions: R&D input, output of research papers, number of researchers, and the scale and level of journals. This report selects about 15,000 high-level journals representative of the region, discipline and industry as source journals from 63,000 or more active sci-tech academic journals worldwide. On the basis of thorough research on the journal classification systems of different citation databases, our research group creates a novel journal classification system that contains 5 Level-1 categories, 45 Level-2 categories and 279 Level-3 categories. This novel system comprehensively covers all sci-tech fields and reflects the development of emerging and cross-disciplinary disciplines, following the general outline of the Classification and Code Disciplines of the People’s Republic of China , with reference to the Chinese Library Classification and Disciplinary Classification for Degree Granting and Talent Training, etc. The project has also established the World Citation Database 2019, under the support of CrossRef and Digital Science, for calculating indexes and obtained the downloads on CNKI, Wanfang and Altmetric. Furthermore, a new journal impact evaluation index that integrates citation and web usage—World Journal Clout Index (WJCI) is formulated….”

Simba Information: Scientific & Technical Publishing Grew During Pandemic

“The report Global Scientific & Technical Publishing 2021-2025 found that total sales increased 0.4% to $10.5 billion in 2020. However, currency exchange fluctuations deflated growth. Simba Information estimates growth without the currency impact at 2.8%.

“The findings stand in stark contrast to forecasts of doom and gloom related to COVID-19’s impact and the move to open access,” said Dan Strempel, senior analyst of professional publishing at Simba Information. “Print books continue to fall, but that spending is migrating to e-books and other types of online content, databases and tools. Research spending and output, in terms of journal articles, both continued to grow.”

The number of articles published with funding from 33 key research organizations tracked by Simba Information grew 10.7% to 525,042 articles in 2020, according to information in the Crossref database.

The National Natural Science Foundation of China is the leading funder, backing 268,588 articles in 2020—a 9.2% increase from 245,966 in 2019. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is the No. 2 funder of articles with 71,951 in 2020, an 8% increase. The European Commission has a strong hold on the No. 3 position in the index, growing the number of articles funded by 18.6% as the Plan S open access mandate builds momentum. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and Japan’s Science and Technology Agency both showed growth in articles funded in excess of 20% in 2020.

There have been more reports of university libraries canceling their journal subscription packages in 2020 and 2021, but most are still subscribing to individual journals based on usage/importance to the researchers and faculty. As individual institutions choose to purchase subscriptions a la carte, their total spend with the large commercial publishers is reduced, but the market leaders are replacing it with the growth of revenue from open access fees. Others are signing transformative agreements, which support the growth of open access.

Pure open access publishers MDPI, PLOS and eLife were also found to be publishing significant numbers of articles backed by the world largest research funding bodies. The European Commission funded 6,304 articles published by MDPI, 13.3% of all articles funded by the EC in 2020. MDPI also has a strong link to the National Research Foundation of Korea, which funded 2,829 articles published by MDPI in 2020 — 12.3% of all the articles funded by the foundation. PLOS and eLife are strongly linked to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, publishing 1,125 and 944 articles respectively in 2020 that were financially backed by that agency….”

IOP Publishing and Songshan Lake Materials Laboratory launch open access journal – Materials Futures | Mirage News

IOP Publishing and the Songshan Lake Materials Laboratory (SLAB), in affiliation with the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Science, are launching a new open access journal covering all areas of basic and applied materials science and technology.

How open access can support Humanities book authors: Interview with Manuel Peréz García | For Researchers | Springer Nature

“Prof. Manuel Peréz García is a tenured Associate Professor at the Department of History, School of Humanities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. He has published two open access books within the Palgrave Macmillan book series Palgrave Studies in Comparative Global History, for which he is editor-in-chief, called Global History and New Polycentric Approaches and Global History with Chinese Characteristics. In this interview, he talks about why open access is important not only for research in global history but also for society, authors and funders….”

China ‘pursuing national open science strategy’ | Research Information

“China is working on a master plan for the internationalisation of its domestic journals and plans to pursue an open science strategy at a national level.

That was one of the main messages of a session at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Society of Scholarly Publishing (SSP) held last week, and hosted by Cactus Communications (Cactus), a technology company accelerating scientific advancement….

During an interview with Christine Hu, general manager of Greater China for Cactus, Dr. Lyu stated: ‘China has always focused on the global progress of Open Science and has actively participated in it. The Excellence Action Plan, led by CAST, has an OA (open access) ratio of 81 per cent for new journals, which shows that Chinese STM journals are becoming an important force in the open access landscape….”