Open access in ethics research: an analysis of open access availability and author self-archiving behaviour in light of journal copyright restrictions
Mikael Laakso 0 1
Andrea Polonioli 0 1
0 Department of Philosophy, University of Birmingham , 3 Elms Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT , UK
1 Information Systems Science, Department of Management and Organisation, Hanken School of Economics , Arkadiankatu 22, 00100 Helsinki , Finland
The current state of open access to journal publications within research areas belonging to the humanities has received relatively little research attention. This study provides a detailed mapping of the bibliometric state of open access to journal publications among ethicists, taking into account not only open access publishing in journals directly, but also where and in what form ethicists make their journal articles available elsewhere on the web. As part of the study 297 ethicists affiliated with top-ranking philosophy departments were identified and their journal publication information for the years 2010-2015 were recorded (1682 unique articles). The journal articles were then queried for through Google Scholar in order to establish open access status (web locations, document versions) of each publication record. Publication records belonging to the 20 most frequently used journal outlets (subset of 597 unique articles) were put under closer inspection with regards to alignment with publisher copyright restrictions as well as measuring unused potential to share articles. The results show that slightly over half of recent journal publications are available to read for free. PhilPapers and academic social networks (Academia.edu and ResearchGate) were found to be key platforms for research dissemination in ethics research. The representation of institutional repositories as providers of access was found to be weak, receiving the second lowest frequency rating among the eight discrete web location categories. Further, the study reveals that ethicists are at the same time prone to copyright infringement and undersharing their scholarly work.
The debate around open access is an important and complex one. Academic research
outputs have traditionally been subjected to subscription-access and a paywall, but over the
past three decades the situation has started to change. Recent estimates suggest that more
than half of recently published journal articles are now freely available online (Piwowar
et al. 2018). The change towards openness has been more rapidly evolving in some
research disciplines compared to others
(Archambault et al. 2014; Crawford 2017;
Piwowar et al. 2018)
, depending on e.g. the availability of funding to support payment of author
processing charges, availability of well-established open access journals, or repositories for
authors to share their manuscripts on. An established way to distinguish between the main
channels of open access provision is by separating open access provided directly by
journals (gold open access), and open access provided by authors via self-archiving (green
open access). However, whilst this fairly crude division has merit in simplicity, the
underlying supporting mechanisms and circumstances for how and in what form an article
has been made available remains hidden behind the category label. In order to obtain
usable knowledge about the mechanisms enabling open access, on any level of analysis,
there is a need to look beyond the surface level.
The complexity of the debate around open access also stems from the presence of
clashing stakeholder interests, where the vision for the path forward is not uniform and key
actors have their own considerations and arguments for how the future of scholarly
publishing should be shaped. The case for open access is sometimes based on pragmatic
grounds and pointing to the increased citations that research outputs being made freely
available through the web have been found to receive
(Tang et al. 2017; Sotudeh et al.
2015; Fukuzawa 2017)
, though some have also argued that the positive effect on citations
does not occur in all fields (Wray 2016). However, there is also an evident ethical
dimension in this debate
(Piccininni 1997; van Krevelen 2005; Troll Covey 2009a)
general assumption is that academics want to have their work read, and universities are
paying them to write it and to provide the bulk of the expertise-requiring work for journals.
And yet universities have traditionally payed again to get access to that work, and potential
readers who are outside the universities are denied access to it. It should come as no
surprise that this looks to many an unsustainable and unfair process. At the same time,
whilst many academics have seen open access publishing to be a viable solution to the
unfairness and unsustainability of the current situation
(Bacevic and Muellerleile 2017)
others have warned that the case for open access has also opened the door to research and
publication practices of lower standard (Beall 2012).
The goal of this study is to comprehensively examine the actual open access availability
of journal articles compared to journal copyright policies and restrictions by considering a
specific research community, namely ethics research. Previous research exploring open
access in relation to copyright compliancy has included approaches such as looking at the
total article output published by a small number of journals within a specific discipline
(Laakso and Lindman 2016), sampling random articles available through academic social
networks (ASNs) such as ResearchGate (Jamali 2017), and analyzing the output produced
by the faculty of a specific institution
(Troll Covey 2009b)
. In this study, we want to assess
the current status of open access within the community of ethicists and their academic
production in terms of articles in scholarly journals.
We first aim at clarifying the extent, and the ways, through which ethicists share their
scholarly material online, focusing specifically on the following set of questions:
To what degree are ethicists’ journal publications freely available online?
How common is it for journal publications to be open access through journal websites
within the field of ethics?
Which websites and platforms do ethicists use when self-archiving?
What versions of the journal publications do ethicists use when self-archiving?
Are popular ethics journals clear with regard to their self-archiving policies?
As the second aim, we will carefully examine the two important aspects of (1) copyright
infringement and (2) undersharing. These can be operationalised, respectively, as making
copies of an article freely available online when this is not allowed by journals and
publishers’ policies, and failing to make copies of an article freely available online when
this is allowed by journals and publishers’ policies. More in detail, our study seeks to
provide data to answer the following questions:
Comparing policies to web observations, are ethicists prone to copyright infringement?
Do ethicists undershare their research outputs?
What is the current role of institutional repositories in facilitating authors’
What is the current role of ASNs for sharing research publications among ethicists?
The paper is structured as follows. In ‘‘Literature review’’ section we provide a brief
literature review separated into two components: the first part concerning open access and
copyright compliance in the context of scholarly journals, and the second part focusing on
open access in the context of philosophy and ethics research specifically. ‘‘Methods’’
section details the methodology used in this study and ‘‘Results’’ section is dedicated to
presenting the results. ‘‘Discussion’’ section offers a discussion and answers the questions
listed above in light of the results obtained. ‘‘Conclusions’’ section summarizes the main
conclusions of the study.
Previous research on open access and copyright compliance
Studies addressing the degree to which scientific literature is available open access across
the sciences have suggested that around half of all recently published articles in scholarly
journals are freely available in some form on the open web
(Archambault et al. 2014;
Piwowar et al. 2018)
. While this figure is a substantial increase compared to the situation
around eight years ago which pinned the share of freely accessible content at 20%
et al. 2010)
, a considerable share of accessible content is currently being provided through
mechanisms which are less than ideal from the perspective of persistent access.
Undermining the possibility to reliably maintain or sustainably increase the current level of open
access going forward is that a large share of what is currently available on the open web on
other locations than journal websites is infringing on journal publisher copyrights as will
be evidenced by the previous research reviewed in this section. In such cases the authors
(or someone else) has made an article freely available somewhere on the web under
circumstances not permitted by the journal that has published the original article.
It is not that scholarly journals would be restrictive in permitting self-archiving to a
lesser extent than what is currently provided, quite the contrary in fact, it is that freely
distributed copies are not made available in line with instructions given by publishers
regarding conditions such as allowed article version, embargo period, and on what type of
web location distribution is allowed. In a study of the 100 largest journal publishers
indexed in Scopus, Laakso (2014) found that publishers are relatively liberal in permitting
distribution of accepted manuscripts (81% of all articles permitted) while distribution of
the publisher version (the final copyedited version of record) is considerably more
restricted (11% of all articles permitted). Publisher policies for self-archiving also change
over time, and can be modified towards more permissive or restrictive at the whim of the
publisher to apply to future articles published in the journal. In a longitudinal study of 107
publishers listed on the SHERPA/RoMEO publisher policy database, Gadd and Troll
found that while publishers have in theory become more permissive over
time during the 12-year observation span by allowing some sort of self-archiving, they
have simultaneously been increasing the specific conditions for when, where and how
selfarchiving may be performed by authors. The authors could also observe a relationship
between publishers making self-archiving conditions more specific in conjunction with
journals introducing optional paid open access options, commonly referred to as hybrid
open access (Laakso and Bj o¨rk 2016).
An increasingly important element to consider in the context of open access and
copyright infringement are ASNs such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu, as such
services have so far not strictly enforced copyright compliance for content uploaded and made
publicly available. Jamali and Nabavi (2015) recently studied the extent to which open
access to journal articles is available through Google Scholar for articles across all major
research disciplines and ResearchGate came out as the top source for providing full-text
articles. The dominance of ResearchGate as a major source for providing full-text access
through Google Scholar has been echoed by Laakso and Lindman (2016) and Laakso et al.
(2017), highlighting that most of the content on the service is provided as the publisher’s
version. Jamali (2017) has further investigated the extent to which ResearchGate members
as authors of journal articles comply with publishers’ copyright policies when they upload
versions of their articles to the service and found that about half (51%) of the
useruploaded articles that were not published as open access in a journal violated publisher
copyright agreements. Legal action against ResearchGate has recently been threatened by
major journal publishers
so the long-term future of the service is still
While there is valid reason for concern for the persistence of current levels of access to
journal articles on the open web, there would not be a decrease in the degree of access if
sharing was instead made within the limitations set by publisher policies, on the contrary,
there is a lot of unused potential in providing access through compliant self-archiving.
Laakso (2014) and Troll Covey (2009b) have pointed to a large gap between the potential
for self-archiving permitted by publisher policies and the actual self-archiving practice by
found that whilst most academics support the principle of making
knowledge freely available to everyone, the use of open access publishing is still limited
and related to the authors’ awareness of open access policy and open access repositories,
their attitudes towards the importance of open access publishing and related citation
advantage. Lovett et al. (2017) has argued that ASNs should not be seen as a threat to open
access: authors who posted articles to ResearchGate were actually more likely to have
complied with open access policy, and vice versa. The complementarity of ASNs is an
aspect our study will also explore.
While the impact of scientific outputs can be perceived and quantitatively studied
through various metrics that have been developed and adopted over time, such as e.g.
citations and social media activity, standardised metrics relating to openness have yet to
become established and standardised. Based on a review of studies measuring open access
prevalence, Nichols and Twidale (2017) present several suggestions for how the openness
metrics for authors could be designed in order to take into account author-level factors such
as unused self-archiving potential for publications, self-archiving in breach of publisher
policies, and the long-term archival capability of platforms used for self-archiving. While
standards such as OAI-PMH and DOI with related metadata from Crossref are making the
type of data required for calculating these types of metrics increasingly readily-accessible,
publisher policies are yet to be available in a comprehensive and reliable machine-readable
Detached from the dissemination behaviour of individual authors is the comprehensive
pirate access to content offered by the Sci-Hub website, which retrieves copies of articles
from behind paywalls and distributes them for free. Sci-Hub hosts more than 50 million
research articles (Machin-Mastromatteo et al. 2016). Notably, Himmelstein et al. (2017)
argue that the subscription-based model is becoming unsustainable because almost the
entirety of scholarly research is now freely available thanks to Sci-Hub, but recent
literature has addressed limitations and problems of the Sci-Hub initiative as well
2017; Priego 2016)
. Due to the illegal nature of the service, and lack of external indexation
of content found in Sci-Hub (e.g. Google Scholar), this study as well as most other studies
focusing on open access more broadly does not include measurement of content available
through this service.
Open access in the context of philosophy and ethics research
Whilst some claim that in the humanities journal articles are not a key medium of academic
communication as monographs represent the most significant scholarly vehicle (Eve
2014),1 our study assumes and corroborates the view that journals articles constitute, at
least for some areas in the humanities, a fundamental type of research output. Shedding
light on features of this population and differences with other fields is of great interest.
The general consensus among studies on the share of open access journal articles within
the humanities has been that this research area has some of the lowest share of content
available open access independent of measurement method used. In a report for the
Archambault et al. (2014)
studied the availability of journal articles
indexed in Scopus concerning publication years 2011–2013. The total share of content
available open access with custom web harvester was used to determine the shares of
articles with freely accessible versions on the web was 53.7%, while journals articles
within philosophy and theology was measured a share of only 34.7% which was the 5th
lowest of the 22 discipline categories. In a study of journals included in the Web of
Bosman and Kramer (2018)
found that the share of content freely available
through the oaDOI API for all research areas combined was 20.3% for content published in
2010 and 25.5% for content published in 2015, while the respective figures for philosophy
journals was 6.5 and 10.7%. A report by
documents a study of
1 ‘‘Journal articles tend to be primary literature in the sciences and secondary literature in the humanities’’
(Paul Eve 2014, X).
journals included in the Web of Science with a similar custom harvester to the one utilized
Archambault et al. (2014)
. For articles with the publication year of 2014 the overall open
access share was 55% while the category of journals belonging to arts and humanities was
found to have an open access share of only 24%. Since the methods utilized to study these
shares are heterogeneous and the coverage bias of the two indexes with regards to the
humanities research area in general, and its open access journals more specifically, these
findings can only be used in a limited capacity.
Philosophers have expressed growing interest in the free online availability of scholarly
material. Among the flagship open access initiatives within philosophy features also the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(Allen et al. 2002; plato.stanford.edu 2017)
publishes and regularly updates entries on key topics and which are authored by eminent
scholars in the field. Moreover, preprint archives offered by PhilSci Archive or PhilPapers
have also played an important role in facilitating the sharing of scholarly information and
promoting green open access in the field. But philosophers’ interest in open access has also
been reflected in the recent launch of successful open access journals. In particular, Ergo
and Philosophers’ Imprint, which are ranked amongst the twenty best general philosophy
journals based on a poll by Leiter Reports, are both open access journals
(leiterreports.typepad.com 2015). Among specialist philosophy journals there have been important open
access initiatives, including the launch of the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy,
THEORIA, and Philosophy, Theory and Practice in Biology. The growth of open access
journals in philosophy is evident when considering the number of outlets listed in the
philosophy section of the Directory of Open Access Journals list of open access journals
(doaj.org 2017), although the assessment of the quality of such journals is hindered by the
lack of accepted quantitative approaches to quality analysis in the field
Notably, a distinctive feature of open access journals in philosophy is that they typically
avoid charging authors with any processing fees. As reported in Neuman and Laakso’s
(2017) recent case study evaluating open access publishing models for a society journal
within philosophy, the introduction of fees in the field would likely require pedagogical
measures to convince authors that this is a promising publishing model, in addition to
creating mechanisms for authors to obtain funding to cover such costs.
Ethicists’ behaviour has recently been explored empirically by a number of studies
Schwitzgebel and Rust 2016 for a review)
, which have overall suggested that ethicists do
not behave significantly differently from non-ethicist academics when considering a
number of seemingly morally relevant issues. Since the open access debate is also resting
on ethical premises, it is especially interesting to shed light on ethicists’ behaviour in the
context of scholarly information sharing.
In studying copyright infringement and depositing behaviour, this study offers a
methodological contribution by combining and refining methods used from previous
studies within the general topic area. As evidenced by the reviewed literature, previous
research on these issues has primarily focused on populations of journals and their outputs,
or exploring open access behaviour among authors affiliated with a single institution, or
users of a specific ASN, whereas in this study the focus is on a broad population of
researchers and building up the bibliometric data based on the publication records of
individuals. To identify a group of ethicists we resorted to the Philosophical Gourmet
Report 2014–2015 (philosophicalgourmet.com 2017), which is a poll-based ranking of
philosophy graduate programs based on the perceived quality of their faculty. Whilst not
necessarily uncontroversial (Bruya 2015), it is a very widely used guide. Departments are
ranked based on specialties, and the 41 best departments for the subject Ethics have been
considered. For our purposes, the particular internal order of the ranking was not important
since we included all 41 departments. For each department, we classed as ethicists those
researchers who listed ethics or moral philosophy as one of their areas of research on their
faculty website, or in lack thereof, their personal website or similar information source.
The final list included 375 ethicists, which was reduced to 297 after only considering
currently affiliated ethicists that had published at least one journal article during
2010–2015. Their original research from 2010 and 2015 outputs were manually recorded
by consulting institutional webpages, personal websites, PhilPapers profiles, and profiles
on Google Scholar. Rather than sticking to only one source of information the goal was to
flexibly retrieve a curated and recently updated list of publication records for each
identified author. A major benefit of this approach is independence from any particular
indexing service like Scopus or Web of Science since such services are selective in their
coverage of journals. 1718 journal article records were identified of which 1682 were
unique, i.e. not co-authored with other authors included in the analysis.
We then proceeded to manually query Google Scholar with the title of each identified
journal article, specifically looking for freely accessible full-text versions of the article.
This was done off-campus, without access to paid journal content. Further, we used a
dedicated web browser installation for conducting the search without logging into any
ASNs or Google services which could influence what results are visible when conducting
queries. For each journal article we recorded data for up to eight freely available copies in
order to paint an as comprehensive picture of the availability as possible, to our knowledge
this is the widest spread included in any study so far. The limitation of eight separate
observations rather than including even more was a trade-off between practicality and
methodological strength, as can be seen from the results later on it is rare that an article is
represented even in four separate web location categories. In addition to copying the URL
we also categorized the web location and document version according to a standardized
schema (Table 1) that is an evolution of the schema used in Laakso and Lindman (2016) as
well as tailoring it for the unique mechanisms discovered during the data collection of the
dataset for this particular study.
It is important to note that our estimate of the free availability of article copies is likely
to be quite conservative. More precisely, we relied on Google Scholar as the sole search
engine and focused on available copies detected by it. In recent years the controversial and
illegally-provided Sci-Hub service has allowed retrieval of free copies of articles from
behind paywalls. In addition to not being indexed in Google Scholar, availability of articles
on Sci-Hub was not considered due to such access not being enabled by the authors of the
articles themselves, and that the systematic access that Sci-Hub provides is illegal and
likely to be temporary.
After collecting all the access data concerning the identified articles we then retrieved
the journal policies for the 20 most popular journals in the sample by visiting the journal
websites and coding the terms according to a common framework where combinations of
web locations and document versions are allowed/prohibited or status remained unclear.
Journal policies tend to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial repositories.
Notably, most repositories are non-commercial but it is useful to note that it might be hard
for authors to ensure they comply with this aspect: information not always transparent and
status of repository might change.
The article manuscript as submitted or prior to submission to the journal, prior to
The authors’ article manuscript as accepted for publication, after peer review but
prior to the final copy-editing and layout of the journal
Version of record, publisher’s version, published journal article
Journal website, publisher website, or other primary channel through which the
journal’s contents is made systematically and comprehensively available
(usually for sale if not published open access). Examples include ScienceDirect
for Elsevier journals and SpringerLink for Springer journals. Philosophy
Documentation Center and JSTOR are also examples of services classified here
Digital archives hosted by universities or research organisations that store content
produced by affiliated authors systematically and persistently Although authors
are the key contributors of content, professional librarians are usually involved
in the quality assurance process, checking metadata and permissibility of upload
as well as ensuring the long-term preservation of the content. Examples include
arizona.openrepository.com and repository.library.georgetown.edu
Open archives aimed at facilitating long-term storage and distribution of
documents within specific scientific disciplines. Example repositories include
PhilPapers and PubMed Central
Web services where researchers can create personal profiles in order to
communicate, collaborate and share content with each other. Some content
might be restricted to members-only but a lot of uploaded content is also
available to be indexed in web search engines and accessible by anyone on the
open web. Prominent examples include Academia.edu and ResearchGate
Websites which content are controlled by the author
Web services that mirror and cache document files made available elsewhere. Do
not require or even enable manual deposit of content. Examples include Senantic
Scholar and CiteSeerX
Read-only access to the final published version through the web browser at
JSTOR.org, PDF download not possible
Any website that does not fall into any above category
There are two central methodological limitations to this study which are shared with
most previous studies exploring self-archiving policy-alignment across articles published
during multiple years. The first limitation is the lack of accounting for changes in publisher
policies over time. The second limitation is that information about when a document had
been uploaded was not considered due to lack of this information on many web locations.
In the following paragraph we describe how these limitations influence the study and
interpretations of its results.
Publisher policies were accessed and recorded during the summer of 2017 and those
policies were used to analyse the compliance of articles published in the timespan of
2010–2015. As described earlier in the literature review, the most notable study on changes
in publisher policies over time is Gadd and
, which found that publishers had
often become more specific in listing conditions for self-archiving during the 12-year
observation period. So it is likely that at least some of the journals in this study have
modified their policies since 2010, however, what alleviates this limitation slightly is that
publisher policies are in general retrospectively applicable (i.e. in lack of an archived
version of a potential copyright agreement authors can consult and act based on the current
policy for self-archiving older articles published in the journal) which means that current
versions of policies are most likely what would be practically used for self-archiving said
articles today. However, the topic of policies changing over time is a very unexplored area
both in research and in practice leaving open questions due to the lack of general
guidelines on how changes should affect self-archiving of older material. With regards to the
lack of information about when a document had been uploaded the conscious choice was to
limit the most recent year observed to 2015, i.e. allowing at the minimum of around two
years for eventual embargoes to expire.
General access metrics
This section presents the results obtained from analysis of the collected web observations
for the 1682 unique journal articles authored by the 297 ethicists included in the study.
The annual publication output (2010–2015) is presented in Table 2 together with the
annual share of publications to which it was possible to retrieve at least one copy for free.
The annual volume of journal articles ranged between 250 and 305 and the share of articles
available for free between 52 and 61%. These high-level results demonstrate no consistent
tendency for either more recent or older articles being available more frequently. In total, a
free copy could be retrieved for 948 of the 1682 articles, producing a total share of open
access to be 56%.
The high-level results found in Table 2 only paint a simple outline for the complexity
found within the dataset. Since we collected web observations for up to 8 copies of freely
available versions per article the variation in observed web location types and document
versions within the 948 articles to which a copy could be found varied greatly.
In order to summarise the collected data as comprehensively as possible Table 3
provides a breakdown of every recorded observation per web location category subdivided by
document version found for all of the 948 articles to which between one and eight free
copy observations were made. The three most frequent providers of access to free copies in
descending order was ASN, subject repositories, personal webpages. In all three of these
categories the most frequent document version was the publisher’s version.
Each unique article represented by a maximum of 8 observations with unique version-location combinations
Articles for where the only version for a free copy was Year of original publication
Continuing on the thread of exploring ways through which unique access to content is
being provided, similarly to how unique web location categories were dealt with Table 5
provides a breakdown of which articles only have a single document version made
available. A clear majority of the 774 articles with only one document version available
were publisher versions, 500 or 64.6%. This result has implications for volatility of access,
as a very small minority of publishers allow distribution of the publisher version.
While the institutional level is not a primary focus in this study, a high-level comparison
grouped by institution can help in discovering access patterns that relate to institutional
environments, and particularly the degree of use that the institutional repository has.
Table 6 provides a list of institutional affiliations included in the study, sorted by the total
number of ethicists identified from each institution in descending order. The higher on the
list the higher the usefulness and reliability of drawing conclusions based on the obtained
numbers due to inclusion of more ethicists and articles for conducting the calculations.
What is apparent is that UK-based institutions have a higher share of copies available
through institutional repositories, something which likely stems from the strong open
access policies that been implemented within the country. The relationship between ASNs
and institutional repositories is interesting to look at from this perspective as authors
affiliated with UK-based institutions are also the among the ones with the highest
proportion of copies available through ASNs.
The publication activity among the ethicists included in the study varied a lot in terms of
volume (1 article at the minimum, 92 at the maximum). To convey the spread Table 7
provides a categorization of ethicists based on their publication activity during the time
period of 2010–2015, placing them into one of four categories. Most ethicists published
between 1 and 3 articles (120), followed by the category of 4–6 articles (92), the 7–9 article
category (53), and finally the category of authors with more ten or more articles published.
The category comparison consistently suggests that higher publication activity is related to
higher proportion of open access. The share of articles not having any article available
open access also drops as more publications are produced, from 44% in the 1–3 article
category to the 0% in the over 10 publications category.
Through our data collection we recorded 234 unique articles being available directly
through publisher websites. In order to provide a better understanding for the exact open
access mechanism through which these articles were made available through we returned
to the collected URLs and manually classified these observations into more granular
categories. In cases where an individual article was available through multiple web locations
classified under the ‘publisher website’ category the open access mechanism was derived
from the information related to the copy available through the primary journal website.
The table contains the total number of ethicists identified per institution, the total number of articles
published by these during the 2010–2015 timespan, as well as a high-level comparison of access footprints
at the institutional level
higher relative representation of article versions other than the publisher version (46%
nonpublisher versions), while ResearchGate has a notably different version distribution (29%
Continuing with the focus on ASNs, Table 10 provides further insight into the
exclusivity and overlap in providing access to individual articles between Academia.edu and
ResearchGate. This perspective suggests that Academia.edu provides access to almost
three times as many articles as ResearchGate (15.4% Academia.edu vs. 5.6%
ResearchGate). Something rarely explored at this level of detail is the overlap between access
provided through the two services, which we here got a figure of 3.9% of all articles in the
The web location category we labelled as ‘aggregators’ were web locations where
access to copies is provided through a secondary mechanism where content is
automatically cached and mirrored after first being available out in the open somewhere
else. They provide little insight into author behaviour, since individual action is not
needed, however, they play a substantial part in contributing towards availability resilience
should the original copy be removed. Table 11 shows a breakdown of the observations
made within this category: Semantic Scholar (170 copies), CiteSeerX (47 copies), and
Core (27 copies). Table 4 showed earlier that locations belonging to this category provided
unique access to 8 articles so while redundancy is high there is a handful of articles which
have been mirrored by these services before being removed from their original location.
Table 12 provides a closer look at the breakdown of copies found in subject
repositories, where PhilPapers constitutes 43% of all observations in this category (159 copies).
Second, third, and fourth of the list are subject repositories belonging to the
PubMedCentral network which have a focus on biomedical and life sciences content (168
copies in total spread out on the US, European and Canadian platforms).
Regarding copies found within the web location category of ‘other website’ no
individual domain registered reached even 10 observations, as such no detailed analysis of
these domains is provided.
The first part of the results section was dedicated to providing a comprehensive picture of
access to all of the articles included in the population. The remainder of the results section
is dedicated to investing the degree to which copies are aligned to the distribution
instructions set out by journals as part of the self-archiving instructions provided to
authors. The 1682 journal articles of the sample were published by a total of 481 different
journals. Since detailed information about journal self-archiving policies need to be
collected and coded on a per-journal basis the compliancy analysis is limited to articles
belonging to the twenty most frequent journal outlets in the dataset. The policies were
collected during the summer of 2017 and compliance of articles published during
2010–2015 interpreted through that information. Please see the methodology section for
more discussion about the potential implications of this methodological limitation.
Table 13 provides an overview of which journals are included together with the article
count for each journal which spans from 100 articles for Philosophical Studies to 14 for
The total number of articles included in the compliance analysis was 597, and
concerning authors it included 217 of the 297 ethicists included in the full population. Since
the focus of this analysis was on studying author behaviour when it comes to access
provision in light of journal policies, observations belonging to copies found directly on
publisher websites, through aggregators, and as JSTOR read-only copies are not included
since they are not reliant on journal self-archiving policies and provide little opportunity
for authors to influence their availability. Of the 597 articles included in the analysis our
data collection had retrieved at least one copy for 293 the articles with the previously
mentioned limitations in place. Document versions where the exact version status could not
be established were compared to the publisher s policy for allowing dissemination of
As with the overview of the complete dataset previously, giving one single exhaustive
table or visualisation of the contents is not possible without losing important information
on the way due to the way that observations overlap. Starting with an overview of the
policy alignment over all observations Table 14 gives insight into the policy status of
copies found at the five web location categories included in the analysis. Of all the 487
copies observed, 258 were non-compliant, 166 compliant, and 63 had an unclear status
where the combination of web location category and document version was not prohibited
nor permitted explicitly in the publisher policy. Most of the non-compliancy is due to use
of the publisher version across all location categories, and with few journals allowing
copies to be distributed on commercial platforms (i.e. ASNs) in any form.
Table 14 does not shed light on overlap, where multiple combinations of
versionlocation copies could be observed per original article in the sample, and is thus of little aid
for understanding policy-alignment at a deeper level. Figure 2 aids to remedy this by
showing the complete per-article policy distribution of the population of 597 articles
included in the compliance analysis. Of the 293 articles for which at least one copy could
be found, the journal policy status of 211 articles belonged to just one policy category, the
copies retrieved for the 82 remaining articles produced mixes of aligned, infringing, and
unclear policy status.
Conclusions regarding the aspect of undersharing, i.e. the degree to which research that
could but is not made open access, can be grounded by observing Fig. 2 in conjunction
with the journal policies. All but one of the twenty journals included in the compliance
analysis explicitly allow self-archiving of the accepted version on institutional and subject
repositories, and that journal merely leaves those locations unclear while explicitly
allowing self-archiving on a personal webpage. As such the theoretical maximum that
could be made available within reasonable effort on the author side is 100%. The current
utilization of policy-compliant self-archiving is 22.1%, while disregarding the aspect of
policy-alignment the utilization is 49.1%.
The final component introduced as part of the compliancy analysis is the perspective
author publication activity in relation to policy alignment. Table 15 provides similar
publication activity categories to those found within the full overview of the dataset
(Table 7), however, now the scope is limited to articles published in the 20 journals which
were part of the compliancy analysis. From the comparison between the categories it is
possible to discern that it is more common for authors to have at least one policy-infringing
Table 14 Overview of all copies
found and their policy
compliancy related to the 597 articles
included in the compliancy
copy of one of their articles available than what the proportion is for authors that have at
least one policy-aligned copy available at least one article, and this relationship was found
across all publication activity categories.
This concludes the presentation of results. In the following section we will provide
further interpretation of the results both in terms of potential implications as well as
describe how they relate to previous work within this are of research.
In order to determine the level to which the previously stated research questions could be
answered based on the data and its analysis, the questions are dealt with individually.
The first question was: To what degree are ethicists’ journal publications freely
available online? The short and simple answer is that slightly over half (56%) of recent
journal publications are available to read for free, with Table 2 containing the main data.
As was demonstrated through review of results, this is a figure that hides a lot of
complexity regarding how access is distributed among authors, journals, various web locations,
with 10 or
Moving towards the compliancy aspect of the study, the fifth question was: Are popular
ethics journals clear with regard to their self-archiving policies? The answer is yes for the
most part though there is some room for improvement. This aspect was explored by
collecting and manually coding the allowed and prohibited web location/document version
categories as per the categorizations utilized in this study. A study conducted over 10 years
ago on journals within Library and Information Science by
that publisher policies for self-archiving were sometimes not publicly available on journal
websites or ambiguous in their formulation. While the situation has improved since then
with most journals having information on display the policies can still leave room for
interpretation. While all 20 journals included in this part of the study provided clear
instructions regarding distribution of accepted manuscripts on institutional and subject
repositories, five journals did not have a clear policy regarding ASNs, and one journal
failed to give a clear policy regarding dissemination on personal webpages. With regards to
preprints five journals had unclear status for some web locations, and all non-open access
journals were very clear in prohibiting distribution of the publisher’s version unless
specifically paid for through hybrid open access.
The sixth question was: Comparing policies to web observations, are ethicists prone to
copyright infringement? Here the answer is yes based on interpretation through the
publisher policies collected in 2017, however, there is no reason to believe that ethicists would
be more or less prone to making content available through infringing web locations and
document versions. Table 14 and Fig. 2 provide more detail on the policy distribution of
articles included in the policy analysis, and whichever way one looks at the data the
majority of copies made available are not provided in compliancy with the journal
The seventh question was: Do ethicists undershare their research outputs? The answer
is yes, and particularly when considering the current proportion of policy-compliant
sharing. Based on the publisher policies the theoretical maximum that could be made
available with reasonable effort on the author side is 100%. The current utilization of
policy-compliant self-archiving is 22.1%, while disregarding the aspect of
policy-alignment the utilization is 49.1%.
The eighth question: What is the current role of institutional repositories in facilitating
authors self-archiving? Since many institutions were only represented by a few ethicists it
is impossible to draw reliable conclusions comparing the institutions to each other,
however, the overall position of institutional repositories in relation to other web locations is
weak. As Table 4 demonstrates institutional repositories provided unique access only to 38
articles, which was the second lowest rating for any web location category only beating out
aggregators which per definition should not provide any unique access. As such the current
role of institutional repositories outside of the United Kingdom seems to be relatively weak
and often used in tandem with other channels of distribution.
The ninth and last question: What is the current role of ASNs and subject repositories in
facilitating authors’ self-archiving? ASNs are a dominant presence and a very popular
venue through which ethicists provide free access to their research. Since alignment with
publisher policies has not been rigorously enforced on such platforms as of yet a large
share of content available through Academia.edu and ResearchGate are infringing on such
policies. Overall this is nothing new, the rise in popularity of ASNs for disseminating
fulltext copies of research has been highlighted through multiple previous studies. PhilPapers
was clearly the most popular subject repository, and there is reason to believe that the
popularity will increase in the future. In October 2017, i.e. after the data collection for this
study had been completed, PhilPapers announced the rebranding and relaunch of
PhilArchive, a sister website focusing on the repository functions of PhilPapers, in an effort
to make more authors aware of the possibility to disseminate their works through the
. As of the 7th of December PhilArchive hosts over 28 000
open access works. Ethicists conduct multi-disciplinary research and publish their research
across a broad spectrum of journals. The 1682 journal articles were spread across 431
different journals, a large part of which disciplinary focus is not dedicated to philosophy or
ethics. This is also seen in the prevalence of content in PubMed Central subject repositories
which took up all following three spots in the most popular subject repository listing after
We encourage future research mapping and assessing access and policy alignment of
web distribution to utilize methodologies that capture the complex and overlapping nature
of access provision. In order for studies in this area to improve in accuracy, reliability, and
replicability there would be great benefit in having longitudinal datasets of publisher
policies to utilize. Studies inquiring into aspects of open access need to carefully weigh the
benefits and drawbacks of different sampling strategies against each other. The approach
can be author-centric like this study, or it can be journal-based, depending on the fit with
the posed research questions. If the goal is to draw conclusions at both the author and
journal level the sample of included articles needs to be sufficiently large as well as the
level of detail for the observations needs to be high and inclusive of overlapping ways of
Acknowledgements Andrea Polonioli acknowledges the support of the European Research Council under
the ERC Consolidator Grant Agreement No. 616358 for a project called Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of
Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts (PERFECT). The authors are very grateful for the help of the
editor and reviewers in shaping the final version of the article.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution,
and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the
source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Allen , C. , Nodelman , U. , & Zalta , E. N. ( 2002 ). The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy: A developed dynamic reference work . Metaphilosophy , 33 ( 1 &2), 210 - 228 . https://doi.org/10.1111/ 1467 - 9973 . 00225 .
Archambault E. , Amyot D. , & Deschamps , P. , et al. ( 2014 ). Proportion of open access papers published in peer-reviewed journals at the European and world levels-1996-2013 . Produced for the European Commission DG Research & Innovation . http://science-metrix.com/en/publications/reports/proportionof-open -access-papers-published-in-peer-reviewed-journals-at-the.
Bacevic , J. , & Muellerleile , C. ( 2017 ). The moral economy of open access . European Journal of Social Theory , 28 ( 2017 ), 136843101771736 . https://doi.org/10.1177/1368431017717368.
Bjo ¨rk, B.-C., Welling , P. , Laakso , M. , Majlender , P. , Hedlund , T. , & Gudnason , G. ( 2010 ). Open access to the scientific journal literature: Situation 2009 . PLoS One , 5 ( 6 ), e11273 . https://doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pone. 0011273 .
Borrego , A ´ . ( 2017 ). Institutional repositories versus ResearchGate: The depositing habits of Spanish researchers . Learned Publishing , 30 , 185 - 192 . https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1099.
Bosman , J. , & Kramer , B. ( 2018 ). Open access levels: a quantitative exploration using Web of Science and oaDOI data . PeerJ Preprints , 6 , e3520v1. https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.3520v1.
Chawla , D. ( 2017 ). Publishers take ResearchGate to court, alleging massive copyright infringement . Science News . https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaq1560.
Coleman , A. ( 2007 ). Self-archiving and the copyright transfer agreements of ISI-ranked library and information science journals . Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology , 58 ( 2 ), 286 - 296 .
Covey , D. T. ( 2009a ). The ethics of open access to research: A call for civil disobedience and moral courage . Progressive Librarian , ( 33 ), 26 - 42 . http://www.progressivelibrariansguild.org/PL/PL33/026. pdf.
Covey , D. T. ( 2009b ). Self-archiving journal articles: A case study of faculty practice and missed opportunity . Portal: Libraries and the Academy , 9 ( 2 ), 223 - 251 . https://doi.org/10.1353/pla.0.0042 Crawford, W. ( 2017 ). GOAJ2: Gold Open Access Journals 2011 -2016 . Cites & Insights Books . Livermore, California (p. 188 ) https://waltcrawford.name/goaj2.pdf.
doaj.org. ( 2017 ). Directory of open access journals . Search criteria: Journals within '' Philosophy (General)''. https://doaj.org/. Retrieved 21st of December 2017 .
plato.stanford.edu ( 2017 ) Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy-Why philosophy needs a dynamic encyclopedia of philosophy . https://plato.stanford.edu/pubs/why.html. Accessed 7th December 2017 .
Polonioli , A. ( 2016 ). Metrics, flawed indicators, and the case of philosophy journals . Scientometrics , 108 ( 2 ), 987 - 994 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-016-1941-2.
Priego , E. ( 2016 ). Signal, not solution: Notes on why sci-hub is not opening access . The Winnower , 4 , e145624 .49417. https://doi.org/10.15200/winn.145624.49417.
Schwitzgebel , E. , & Rust , J. ( 2016 ). The behavior of ethicists . In J. Sytsma & W. Buckwalter (Eds.), A companion to experimental philosophy (pp. 225 - 233 ). Wiley-Blackwell.
Science-Metrix ( 2018 ). Analytical support for bibliometrics indicators-Open access availability of scientific publications . Retrieved 21st of January 2018 , from http://www.science-metrix.com/en/ publications/reports#/en/oa-report.
Sotudeh , H. , Ghasempour , Z. , & Yaghtin , M. ( 2015 ). The citation advantage of author-pays model: The case of Springer and Elsevier OA journals . Scientometrics , 104 ( 2 ), 581 - 608 . https://doi.org/10.1007/ s11192-015-1607-5.
Tang , M. , Bever , J. D. , & Yu , F.-H. ( 2017 ). Open access increases citations of papers in ecology . Ecosphere , 8 ( 7 ), e01887 . https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2. 1887 .
van Krevelen , L. ( 2005 ). Truth and heresy: The ethics of publishing in the 21st century . Publishing Research Quarterly , 20 ( 4 ), 35 - 40 .
Wray , K. B. ( 2016 ). No new evidence for a citation benefit for Author-Pay Open Access Publications in the social sciences and humanities . Scientometrics , 106 ( 3 ), 1031 - 1035 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192- 016-1833-5.
Zhu , Y. ( 2017 ). Who support open access publishing? Gender, discipline, seniority and other factors associated with academics' OA practice . Scientometrics , 111 ( 2 ), 557 - 579 . https://doi.org/10.1007/ s11192-017-2316-z.