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Paperity Hopes to Create a Comprehensive Index of Open Literature
Posted On November 25, 2014
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Paperity, “The first multidisciplinary aggregator of Open Access journals and papers,” launched on Oct. 8. The database currently includes more than 350,000 open access (OA) articles from 2,200-plus scholarly journals that are categorized as either gold (journals that are completely OA cover to cover) or hybrid (subscription journals with some OA articles). According to the blog post announcing Paperity’s launch, the organization’s goal is to aggregate 100% of OA literature in the next 3 years with the support of journal editors and publishers.

As defined by SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), OA is “the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.” The DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) shows that more than 10,000 journals meet some definition of OA. Just as definitions and criteria for OA vary, so do assessments of the real costs of this form of information dissemination.

“Paperity is the first service of this kind,” the blog post notes. “The most similar existing website, PubMed Central [PMC], aggregates open journals, too, but is limited to life sciences alone. Another related service, the Directory of Open Access Journals, does index articles from multiple periodicals and different disciplines, but does not provide aggregation, only pure indexing: it shows metadata of articles, but for fulltext access redirects to external sites. Moreover, both PMC and DOAJ impose harsh technical requirements on participating journals, which limits the scope of aggregation. Paperity adapts to whatever technology a given periodical employs.”

Paperity Partners With Publishers to Cover OA Across the Globe and Across Disciplines

“The full economy of OA,” Joseph Esposito notes in a post on The Scholarly Kitchen blog, “is still partly hidden. We can only count what we can see. I expect, though, that when all the numbers are ultimately revealed, we will find more hidden costs than hidden revenues. It also appears likely that what surplus or profit to be made from this form of publishing will fall to those who are already in the field or plan to enter it soon. OA, in other words, is beginning to mature and is thus subject to the same economic principles of any maturing business, including a tendency toward consolidation.”

In “Open Access Journal Publishing 2014–2017,” a recent report by Simba Information, researchers predict that OA journals will account for $440 million revenues by 2017—significant, but still only about 4% of the total marketplace. “The more important point to make, which cannot be stressed enough,” notes Esposito, “is that while traditional publishing continues to grow modestly, the OA portion of the market is growing much faster. Any publisher working in the research area would be remiss if they did not develop a strategy to tap into these growing sums.”

Despite the growing adoption of general discovery systems, finding journals—let alone OA journals in a general discovery environment—is fraught with serious uncertainties. There is no way to determine the comprehensiveness of a search, the quality of the results, or any sense of what might be missing due to a person’s search strategy.

“Today, scholars need broad access to literature, from many different fields, even from outside of their core research area,” Paperity’s About page notes. “Research has become interdisciplinary and the most ground-breaking discoveries tend to happen on the crossroads of different disciplines. Academic services need to catch up. Every tool that aims at facilitating access to literature must be multi-disciplinary if it wants to be really helpful. That is how Paperity works.” After the OA movement makes paywalls obsolete, Paperity aims to break down the walls that have “traditionally separated different disciplines and impeded communication between researchers of different specialties.”

At this point, the majority of the contents in Paperity are hybrid journal articles from SAGE Publications, Springer Science+Business Media, and Oxford University Press—many of which are also available through the DOAJ and the JURN directory. The value of the database will become apparent during the next 3 years as Paperity seeks to expand its relationships with both traditional publishers with hybrid articles and the increasing (though scattered) number of institutional repositories and university-based publishing enterprises, illustrated by the growing listings in the Library Publishing Directory. This dispersion creates major challenges for Paperity.

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Nancy K. Herther is a research consultant and writer who recently retired from a 30-year career in academic libraries.

Email Nancy K. Herther

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