A study published in BMC Medicine this week reports that open-access journal articles are gaining shares of all scholarly publishing at a clip of about 1 percent per year, making up around 17 percent of the 1.7 million articles published in 2011.
The study, conducted by researchers at Finland's Hanken School of Economics, found that biomedicine is the fastest growing OA discipline, with 16-fold growth between 2000 and 2011. The 120,900 OA biomedicine articles published in 2011 comprised around 36 percent of total OA output for the year.
One interesting finding is that the "early years" of OA publishing — between 2000 and 2005 — "were largely driven by scientific societies, professional associations, universities and their departments as well as individual scientists," while "the most dramatic development since 2005 is the rapid increase in articles published by commercial publishers, jumping from 13,400 articles in 2005 to 119,900 in 2011, resulting in commercial publishers currently being the most common publisher of OA articles."
The authors note that "as in many other markets where the Internet has thoroughly rewritten the rules of the game, an interesting question is if new entrants, like Public Library of Science and BioMed Central, will take over the market or if the old established actors, commercial and society publishers with subscription-based revenue models, will be able to adapt their business models and regain the ground they have so far lost."
They conclude that the question of "whether OA is a viable alternative to the traditional subscription model for scholarly journal publishing" is no longer valid. Rather, "the question is rather when OA publishing will become the mainstream model."
Stephen Curry at The Guardian's Occam's Corner blog says the study's findings prove that "the academic publishing game has changed irrevocably" and point toward a "future in which there is a much freer access to research results, both for researchers, businesses and the public."
The only question now, he says, "is what can we do with it?"
In related news, Oct. 22-28 is Open Access Week, so check out related events here or follow the discussion on Twitter.