A 2018 review estimated that only 28% of all scholarly publications are open access. But the pandemic has heightened the need for full and immediate open access to research and has thrown into sharp relief the barriers that paywalls present to free and unfettered access to knowledge.
The transitional Wiley agreement is the most extensive UK open access agreement to date and is showing an encouraging appetite for open access publishing. We will be publishing further detail and supporting data on the Wiley read and publish agreement in the next week.
In the meantime, we wanted to share our thoughts and talk more about the decision to put in place controls on articles being published OA from mid-October and our plans for 2021.
The agreement has delivered what it set out to do; rapidly increasing the volume of OA from the UK, reducing expenditure and funding this transition using money previously spent on subscriptions. As of 31 August, 5,164 articles have been published or accepted as open access - an 82% increase on articles published OA in 2019 and a 91% increase over 2018.
Just 3% of eligible authors opted out of open access, resulting in a 97% uptake so far, which was higher than anticipated and higher than we have seen in other transitional agreements. We also saw a sharp increase in publishing over lockdown; in April and May an average of 770 articles were published each month, over double the average number of articles (300) published in other months. When looking at publishing in our other read and publish agreements, including Springer, Sage and IOP publishing increased, but not at this level.
One of the challenges of the agreement is that it does not automatically cover 100% of UK output. Working with institutions and Wiley, we put safeguards in place to ensure that institutions could control spend but still comply with UK research funder policies.
One of these safeguards is to ensure that research funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) and the Wellcome Trust can be published open access. This will begin in mid-October and will use the remaining OA fund. We do not anticipate needing to make further restrictions before the end of the year - there is in excess of £2.3m in the fund alongside institutional credits. Jisc and Wiley will continue to monitor the fund very closely and unspent funds will be carried over to 2021.
In January 2021, the OA fund will reset, and the discounted fee will continue to apply to all OA publishing. Although the OA fund will increase by 2% in 2021, we want the fund to go further and cover all research and review articles. The reason for this is threefold, we want to minimise administration for universities, simplify author communications and maximise the value researchers and universities derive from the agreement.
In 2021 the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) journals will be added to the Wiley read and publish agreement on a fully open access basis.
Whilst this will expand publication choices, remove the requirement to subscribe to IET journals and enable greater publishing, it will affect how much publishing can be delivered from the existing funds. For the IET titles and other journals that migrate into these agreements we would like to explore how we can reinvest existing subscription spend to support OA publishing in fully open access journals.
We are undertaking modelling for 2021 which we will share with our strategic groups, funders and library directors to gain agreement for the publishing parameters for the Wiley agreement ahead of 2021 so we can convert even more of UK research to open access so it can be read, used and reused without barriers.
Lessons and achievements from the first nine months of the Wiley agreement will be put into practice in our other agreements and negotiations so the sector can rapidly increase the volume of UK research as open access and increase the routes that authors can share their research.