What happens when a journal converts to Open Access? A bibliometric analysis

Abstract:  In recent years, increased stakeholder pressure to transition research to Open Access has led to many journals converting, or ‘flipping’, from a closed access (CA) to an open access (OA) publishing model. Changing the publishing model can influence the decision of authors to submit their papers to a journal, and increased article accessibility may influence citation behaviour. In this paper we aimed to understand how flipping a journal to an OA model influences the journal’s future publication volumes and citation impact. We analysed two independent sets of journals that had flipped to an OA model, one from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and one from the Open Access Directory (OAD), and compared their development with two respective control groups of similar journals. For bibliometric analyses, journals were matched to the Scopus database. We assessed changes in the number of articles published over time, as well as two citation metrics at the journal and article level: the normalised impact factor (IF) and the average relative citations (ARC), respectively. Our results show that overall, journals that flipped to an OA model increased their publication output compared to journals that remained closed. Mean normalised IF and ARC also generally increased following the flip to an OA model, at a greater rate than was observed in the control groups. However, the changes appear to vary largely by scientific discipline. Overall, these results indicate that flipping to an OA publishing model can bring positive changes to a journal.