The Open Access Race: Springer Nature Announces One Million Articles

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Saying 34 percent of all its articles and 16 percent of its primary research is published under open access, Springer Nature proclaims leadership in the field.

At the London campus of Springer Nature. Image: Springer Nature Group

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Citing 16.69 Percent for Springer, 12.94 Percent for Elsevier
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the heated bid for perceived market heft in open access is waged with gusto by many scholarly publishers, big and small, with Elsevier as the counterpart-apparent to Springer Nature at scale.

Holtzbrinck’s Springer Nature has just announced this morning (December 2) its publication of at least one million gold open-access primary research and review articles. The articles being referenced here are “made up of original papers and review papers that were published immediately [as] fully open-access” starting in 2005.

According to the company’s media messaging, this means that 25 percent of all articles Springer Nature has published since 2005 are gold open access. In 2020, Springer’s announcement says, such open-access articles accounted for 34 percent of all articles published by Springer Nature.

Springer Nature says it has published 16 percent of all open-access primary research. The company says this is “29-percent more than any other publisher,” where “content” is defined as primary research articles in Web of Science journals from 2005 forward. Publishing Perspectives, of course, does not have independent verification of these assertions. The company adds that the 29-percent figure “refers to the difference between the publisher with the next biggest share of the whole market,” which it says is Elsevier, at 12.94 percent, “and Springer Nature’s share,” at 16.69 percent.

Based on unique research IDs “sourced from Dimensions.ai,” the company says that “nearly 2.5 million authors across all academic disciplines” and from many parts of the world have been “supported in making their research open-access, benefiting from the increased impact, usage, and reach publishing that open-access provides.” The rationale for that statement can be found on this page of Springer Nature’s site.

In addition, the company lays out some observations of Springer Nature’s  articles, and we quote:

  • “The research has collectively been downloaded 2.6 billion times since 2016
  • “The articles have been downloaded in virtually every country in the world, even in Antarctica
  • “Nearly half the articles [44 percent] are in medicine
  • “In comparison, medicine accounts for 20 percent of non-open-access content,” as calculated using publication numbers from 2005 to 2021
  • “Social sciences and humanities doubled their open-access share between 2015 and 2020–while absolute numbers are low, these disciplines are seeing bigger growth than other disciplines
  • “Europe publishes the most open-access content” at 40 percent, as seen in Springer Nature’s articles between 2019 and 2021, “while Asia is the biggest user of content (34 percent) of article downloads” between 2019 and 2021 of content published since 2005
  • “Content related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals makes up a greater proportion, 67 percent, of open-access content than it does of non-open-access content.” Based on Dimensions.ai on SDG classifications, Springer Nature also says that SDG research published as open access “is also downloaded and cited more than non-SDG content published open access.”
Peeters: ‘We Believe in Its Importance’

In a prepared statement on today’s war whoop, Springer Nature CEO Frank Vrancken Peeters is quoted, saying, “Twenty years ago, open-access publishing was in its infancy.

“Even so, we put transitioning to an open-access future at the heart of what we do because we believe in its importance in driving discovery and improving access to knowledge and learning.”

Peeters goes on today to say, “Our mission does not stop here. We need to build on this and move faster towards not just an open-access future but an open science future where all outputs of research are immediately accessible.

“The prize waiting for us is a faster and more effective research system, delivering benefits like vaccines and solutions to global challenges such as climate change for the whole world.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on academic and scholarly publishing is here, more from us on open access is here, more on Springer Nature is here, and more on Elsevier is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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