What is Open Access?

Open Access is an online based publishing output for academic and scientific research. Access to its content is completely free: this not only means free of charge, but also publicly available to anybody in the world as long as an internet connection is available.

Current Business Models for the Research

The most common business model is the subscription-based, being also the only one available until the coming of the digital era. Very similar to the way we subscribe to traditional magazines, an individual or an organization (usually a university) can buy full access to a scientific journal. Publishing houses profit from their journals sales and pay their employees to review and evaluate the work submitted by authors; in case this is accepted, it is usually published for free.

Open Access is a very recently born publishing output; for this reason it hasn't reached a competitive level yet, but its influence is increasing quickly. It mainly splits into two different business models.

Despite the fast increase of Open Access publications, the mismatch against subscriptions is still huge.


The customer pays a subscription price to have periodic access to the products (generally magazines, newspapers and websites) or services.

Life and Death of Open Access

Born Dead 1999 2004 2009 2014

Spreading Knowledge?

Journal effectiveness in generating knowledge is mostly measured by means of a rank: processing values such as number of articles and number of cites through an algorithm, the journal degree of impact is quantified. Journal ranks are the best way for an author to evaluate if an open access publication is a convenient approach for spreading its research.

The visualization below show the relation between apc costs and Impact Factor, or apc costs and Article Influence. However they show that there isn't a linear correlation between amount paid and ranking.

Impact Factor (IF):

the IF of an academic journal is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to recent published journal.

The Rank of Power

As we can clearly see from the graph, United States, United Kingdom and Germany have the highest average SJR score. It is also clear that the SJR value is not strictly correlated to the amount of editors per Country. In fact, just a few editors have the highest average SJR score and the more important journals.

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR):

is a measure of scholarly journals that accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals where such citations come from.

Power Ranker

Is it just a matter of algorithm? If we start seeing the picture as a whole, we can easily notice that Open Access ranked journals are representing just the 2,5% of the overall ranked journals in the past decade. Is there some stopping point in the process of publishing an Open Access journal preventing it from acquiring a rank? And how are the top 5 journals capable of reaching their score?

Article Processing Charge (APC):

is the publication fee which is sometimes charged to authors in order to publish an article in an academic journal.

Peer Review:

is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the producers of the work.

Blind Peer Review:

(Single-Blind Peer Review) keeps the identity of the reviewer anonymous, but the author’s name and affiliation are on the paper.

Double-Blind Peer Review:

both the reviewer and the the author identities are concealed from the reviewers.

Open Peer Review:

open identity or attributed peer review, as opposed to anonymous peer review.

Editorial Review:

tends to focus on the technical aspects, like grammar, formatting, spelling, consistency, etc., of a work along with the writing craft of the author by an editing professional.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ):

website that lists the most important open access journals and reports their metadata.

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP):

is a measure of scholarly journals that accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals where such citations come from.

PubMed Central (PMC):

is a free digital repository that archives publicly accessible full-text scholarly articles that have been published within the biomedical and life sciences journal literature.

The Keepers:

are the participating archiving agencies acting as stewards of digital content. Each agencies run programme for the archiving of e-journals and is making metadata on the journals.


a major initiative to promote the visibility and dissemination of Ibero-American scientific journals.

Further Analysis

Applying the cluster analysis method to our data, we used SNIP, SJR, IPP and the amount of servers that index the OA journals as values.The results we obtained are uniformly distributed except 6 outlier (EMBO Molecular Medicine; PLoS Medicine; PLoS Pathogens; PLoS Biology; PLoS Genetics; Biology of Mood and Anxiety Disorders) that are acting in a different manner.

Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP):

imeasures contextual citation impact by weighting citations based on the total number of citations in a subject field.

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR):

is a measure of scholarly journals that accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals where such citations come from.

Impact per Publications (IPP):

measures the ratio of citations in a year (Y) to scholarly papers published in the three previous years (Y1, Y2, Y3).

Ultimately, we find out that Open Access is a rising phenomena, from 1999 the number of OA journals is greatly increased, even if there are less Open Access journals than journals with subscriptions.

Open Access can be free or can have a charge, but price does not influence the spread of articles. As a matter of fact, there are some journals that in front of a high charge have small influence and diffusion, and on the other hand there are journals with a great influence with free-charge or lower.


lOAd • Looking into Open Access Data is a project made for the Academic course: “Laboratorio di sintesi finale” of Politecnico di Milano, A.A. 2015/2016.


Paolo Ciuccarelli | Marco Fattore | Stefano Mandato | Michele Mauri | Salvatore Zingale

Teaching Assistant

Matteo Azzi | Angeles Briones | Daniele Ciminieri | Gabriele Colombo | Azzurra Pini


Mauro Abbattista

Piero Barbieri

Piero Barbieri

Maria Elena Besana

Maria Elena Besana

Chiara Cirella

Chiara Cirella

Manuel Impellizzeri

Manuel Impellizzeri

Andrea Lacavalla

Andrea Lacavalla