Only Two Out of Five Articles by New Zealand Researchers Are Free-to-Access: A Multiple API Study of Access, Citations, Cost of Article Processing Charges (APC), and the Potential to Increase the Proportion of Open Access
We studied journal articles published by researchers at all eight New Zealand universities in 2017 to determine how many were freely accessible on the web. We wrote software code to harvest data from multiple sources, code that we now share to enable others to reproduce our work on their own sample set. In May 2019, we ran our code to determine which of the 2017 articles were open at that time and by what method; where those articles would have incurred an Article Processing Charge (APC) we calculated the cost if those charges had been paid. Where articles were not freely available we determined whether the policies of publishers in each case would have allowed deposit in a non-commercial repository (Green open access). We also examined citation rates for different types of access. We found that, of our 2017 sample set, about two out of every five articles were freely accessible without payment or subscription (41%). Where research was explicitly said to be funded by New Zealand’s major research funding agencies, the proportion was slightly higher at 45%. Where open articles would have incurred an APC we estimated an average cost per article of USD1,682 (for publications where all articles require an APC, that is, Gold open access) and USD2,558 (where APC payment is optional, Hybrid open access) at a total estimated cost of USD1.45m. Of the paid options, Gold is by far more common for New Zealand researchers (82% Gold, 18% Hybrid). In terms of citations, our analysis aligned with previous studies that suggest a correlation between publications being freely accessible and, on balance, slightly higher rates of citation. This is not seen across all types of open access, however, with Diamond OA achieving the lowest rates. Where articles were not freely accessible we found that a very large majority of them (88% or 3089 publications) could have been legally deposited in an institutional repository. Similarly, only in a very small number of cases had a version deposited in the repository of a New Zealand university made the difference between the publication being freely accessible or not (125 publications). Given that most New Zealand researchers support research being open, there is clearly a large gap between belief and practice in New Zealand’s research ecosystem.