What role will open access (OA) journals play as science publishing increasingly moves to the internet and involves a more diverse array of participants? In a recent short article in Science, Evans and Reimer tried to answer this using citation rates from 8253 journals and examine trends in citation rate shifts. They found that researchers from wealthier countries were not likely to shift to citing OA journals while researchers from poorer countries did. The authors conclude that the overall shift to citing OA journals has been rather modest, but these journals have increased inclusion for researchers at institutions in poorer countries that cannot afford commercial subscriptions. However, there is an unfortunate flip side to the OA model -paying to publish. Most OA journals recoup the lack of subscription earnings by placing the financial onus on to the publishing scientists. This means that while researchers from poorer countries can now read and cite current articles in OA journals, they still are limited from publishing in them. True, most OA journals allow for deferring costs for researchers lacking funds, there is usually a cap to the frequency in which this can be done.
J. A. Evans, J. Reimer (2009). Open Access and Global Participation in Science Science, 323 (5917), 1025-1025 DOI: 10.1126/science.1154562