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Open Access: it’s about more than just journal articles

For Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities respectively over 40% and over 60% of output consists of not being regular journal articles. Solely looking at journal articles ignores a significant share of their contribution to research and society. This is an important finding of a research into publication cultures commissioned by VSNU and carried out by Utrecht University Library. The study provides detailed insight into university output beyond just journal articles. For all four main fields reported on, the use of publication types other than journal articles is indeed substantial (the lowest percentage in life sciences and medicine is still about 15%). Not only books and book chapters, but also book reviews, conference papers, reports, case notes (in law) and all kinds of web publications are also significant parts of university output. 

The study also covers the possibilities to assess open access levels of these other output types. Analyzing all these publication forms and especially determining to what extent they are open access is currently not easy. Even combining some of the largest citation databases (Web of Science, Scopus and Dimensions) leaves out a lot of non-article content and in some fields even journal articles are only partly covered. 

The VSNU negotiates, as of 2014, on behalf of the universities and medical centres in The Netherlands, with the large publishing houses about open access of their own journal publications and reading access for the rest. Negotiating is one of the five pillars of the roadmap open access 2018-2020. To reach 100% open access it is necessary to look beyond journal articles, as this study shows. In 2019 the VSNU will explore the possibilities to reach 100% open access for books as well as for journal articles in the Dutch language.   

The study including underlying data, is available via the open platform Zenodo. Next to the afore-mentioned findings, the study contains recommendations to get a more accurate and nuanced insight into open access developments. 


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Ruben Puylaert


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