A research conducted by Springer Nature reveals that publishing academic books on open access platforms have many benefits. This report, according to Springer Nature, is the first of its kind to make a comparative analysis of open access and non-open access academic books. The study highlights the benefits open access books has provided to authors, publishers, funders and to a society at large.
The research used three metrics to measure the impact of open access academic books: downloads, citations and online mentions. In addition to these quantitative measures, Springer Nature also investigated the motivations and experiences with open access of researchers in a qualitative manner, by interviewing researchers and funders.
Results of the quantitative research
Most importantly, this study finds that:
- open access books are downloaded seven times more
- over the past four years the number of citations that open access books received is 50% higher
- open access books are mentioned online 10 times more
Results of the qualitative research
The interviews with funders show that the open access requirements put in place by funders are ethically motivated. Funders find it primarily important that the results from the research they funded disseminates to a large audience and is without access barriers.
The interviews with the researchers, on the other hand, shows that open access publishing was not solely ethically motivated. Researchers care most about visibility of their research output. They desire that their work gets disseminated to the widest possible audience and that this work gets cited more.
However, the researchers that were interviewed are not convinced about the benefits of open access to achieve wider dissemination and more citations. Although the interviewed acknowledged the quantitative results of the study, they pointed out that the causality is not proven. Other reason for the increased downloads and citations of open access scholarly work were suggested, such as authors reputation and the topic of the books that are open access.
Isn’t this skeptical attitude of these researchers slightly ironic? Indeed, this study doesn’t prove causality. But knowing that 1) open access removes an access barrier, 2) open access books are downloaded and used more, can we really not infer (1+1=2) that open access is increasing visibility? Are we not ‘scientific’ enough if we believe this inference? Or are researchers perhaps too skeptical stressing the lack of evidence for causality?