Open access journals are vanishing from the web, Internet Archive stands ready to fill in the gaps

The advent of Open access journals was expected to revolutionize the academic journal publication sector. Various factors were driving the rise of open access journals, especially in the field of scientific studies. Some of the most common factors, such as time required to get published in conventional peer-reviewed journals or the high rate of rejections, were long-standing challenges for academicians, which Open access journals promised to resolve. Harnessing the benefits of digital communication technologies for faster discovery and dissemination of one’s content was another compelling attraction that these Journals offered. It must be noted that unlike subscription-based journals, Open access journals literally provided free access to anybody, thereby making the platforms more egalitarian.

However, despite these positives, there has been a considerable reduction in open access journals that has warranted special attention from the academic circle. Some of the top findings of disappearing Open access Journals are:

One of the key factors for the longevity of any such services is the funding that goes behind it. Subscription-based journals have a revenue model for sustenance. The digital formats for such journals utilize services like JSTOR or other such aggregators for global subscription bases that help these services survive. Open access journals rely heavily on grants or other forms of external funding to survive. Those backed by well-established Trusts or funding agencies have a higher chance of surviving in the long run, while those who fail to develop a steady stream of funding eventually have to shut down.

A major shortcoming in the case of Open access journals is the lack of archiving. According to Internet Archive, a not for profit organization dedicated to providing free content to users, 18 percent of all open access articles since 1945 (that amount to over three million articles), are not independently archived by any third-party preservation organization, other than the publishers themselves. Archiving is an integral part of academic articles and is critical for its discoverability in the long run.

This problem is further accentuated by the fact that many of these platforms have stringent anti-crawling measures and many small publishers do not use simple/common mechanisms like OAI-PMH and the ‘citation_pdf_url’ HTML meta tag to identify full-text content. This makes it difficult for third part discovery platforms to integrate these contents in their archives.

Another major concern is the challenges with Gold open access journal contents, in which the authors have to bear the costs of publication. In contrast, authors often prefer Green Open access or Hybrid Open access models where the publication cost is often partially mitigated for the authors. This affects the quality of content on different Open access platforms and thereby their attractiveness and longevity.

However, this is not to say that Open access journals are altogether dying off. There are still numerous journals experimenting with newer models. Often, the advent of a new and more popular one triggers the demise of an extant platform over time loses credence.