It Isn’t ‘Open’ If You Can’t Find It: New Open Access Discovery Tools

OA has done much to solve the problem of access to the literature; however, articles are not really “open” if they cannot be found. This session, sponsored by Clarivate Analytics, addressed the problem of OA in discovery. Recently developed tools are showing promise in closing the gap between readers and open content.

Jason Priem, co-founder of impactstory,  began by defining the various types of OA:

  • Green OA: articles are archived by the author in a repository.
  • Gold OA: articles for which a author processing charge (APC) has been paid by the author or the author’s institution. Many of these articles are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
  • Hybrid OA: articles published in a subscription journal in which some of the contents are open. Elsevier is the largest publisher of OA articles.
  • Bronze OA: articles that are open on a publisher’s web page, but do not have an OA license, so they are open at the publisher’s pleasure. There are more bronze OA articles than the number of all the other types combined.

Around half of the literature is available to read free online, and soon, OA will be the rule. This graph shows the growth of the various types of OA.

OA Growth


We may reach 100% OA by 2024.That’s the good news, but can people find this OA content? Currently, they find articles by searching on a subject.  But searching for OA  broken. Subject-oriented repositories such as arXiv exist, but many people do not know about them.

We get OA  into the research workflow by

  1. Collecting all the OA info,
  2. Making it easy to build on, and
  3. Engaging with partners.

Recently developed tools for aiding OA discovery include oaDOI, Unpaywall, and SFX.

oaDOIi is an aggregated open comprehensive database of OA options for every DOI-assigned publication. It contains 90 million articles, of which 18 million have links to the full text., and it includes both bronze and hybrid OA articles.

Unpaywall is a browser extension to help people find legal OA copies of scholarship. One simply clicks on an icon and gets a copy of the the legal open version. It is being used by over 100,000 active users in over 100 countries.

SFX is a link resolver that is integrated with the discovery systems of over 700 libraries and receives over 1 million uses per day.

These tools can be integrated into the Academic Search platform of the Web of Science (WoS), as described by Michael Habib, Head, Product Strategy, Researcher Experience, Clarivate. WoS has 32,840 journals, 18,245 in its core collection. A new collection, the Emerging Sources Citation Index, (ESCI)has over 5,000 journals. A partial solution to the OA discovery problem occurred in 2014 with the advent of the oaDOI. But it was missing the hybrid OA articles. Clarivate gave a grant to Impactstory to improve oaDOI. The goal was to increase recall of Hybrid Gold OA articles. 47% of the articles people try to read with Unpaywall are OA. Version control of Green OA articles was added for peer reviewed only articles, a published version, or those with an accepted manuscript. This will show people where the source of the OA version is (publisher, repository, etc.) and will allow users to filter based on version. Users will be able to access WoS features to find all OA publications from an organization, funding agencies acknowledged, etc.

Don HawkinsDon Hawkins
Charleston Conference Blogger and Against The Grain Columnist

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