Open Access Week

October 23 - 29, 2023 | Everywhere

Open with purpose – empowering functioning democracies through expert knowledge

Nonprofit publisher Annual Reviews (where I work) has developed a new business model for open access, called Subscribe to Open (S2O). Today, we announce the successful completion of the S2O pilot program, in which 5 Annual Reviews journals have converted their 2020 volumes to open access.

My previous blog posts for OA week have charted the development of nonprofit Annual Reviews from a toll access publisher of 51 review journals to an organization that is focused on increasing the public benefit that can be derived from its treasure trove of expert knowledge, painstakingly built over nearly 90 years.

In 2017, I covered the launch of Knowable Magazine published under a CC BY-ND License. In 2018 I outlined the early development of the pilot S2O program. In 2019, I was able to share the details of how S2O could work if current institutional subscribers got behind it (spoiler: they did).

This year, I am able to report that the librarian community came through for S2O. We finished our first cycle of journal conversions today, 20 October 2020. You can find our Press Release here.

How did this happen? Librarians committed to their subscriptions and, in doing so, to Open Access. With their support in the form of subscription renewals, we were able to convert the 2020 volumes (and make the back volumes free to read) for the following journals:

  • Annual Review of Political Science 
  • Annual Review of Public Health 
  • Annual Review of Cancer Biology 
  • Annual Review of Environment and Resources
  • Annual Review of Nuclear and Particle Science

What happened to usage when we did this? Not surprisingly, usage increased dramatically, but the audience also broadened, not just geographically, with more low and middle-income countries, but also in terms of the range of people who could now read the articles. We saw increased readership in banks, offices of education, defense, treasury, patent and trademark, airlines, rural health clinics, and prisons.

What else became easier? Open content travels further, especially if you give it a helping hand. This year, Annual Reviews hired a Wikipedian-In-Residence to increase the citations to our reviews in the Encyclopedia. By focusing on adding relevant articles from our S2O journals, we were able to offer interested users a deep dive into reviews that were previously closed to them.

Finally, other publishers, funders, subscription agents, and librarians have also joined the effort to encourage adoption of the Subscribe to Open model. Together they have formed the Subscribe to Open Community of Practice. This site lists all their current members, more are always welcome. 

If you believe, as we do, that the theme of this year’s Open Access Week, “open with purpose”, means empowering functioning democracies by enabling citizens to gain access to, and a working understanding of, research, then 2020, by every objective measure a terrible year, is not entirely lost.  

We wish everyone a virtual and safe OA Week 2020.

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