More on compliance with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy

In a blog post entitled “Journals compliant with Wellcome mandate” (UK PubMed Central Blog, June 1, 2009), Robert Kiley noted data indicating that (for Trust-funded research papers published between October of 2007 and August of 2008) potential compliance was about 95%, but actual compliance hovered around 35%. The data were taken from slide 14/21 of a presentation that’s available via another blog post, “Funder mandates” (UK PubMed Central Blog, May 29, 2009). The potential compliance estimate of 95% is based on the percentage of journals used by Wellcome-funded authors that have a “Wellcome compliant” publishing option. The Wellcome Trust’s OA policy is available at: “Position statement in support of open and unrestricted access to published research” (last updated February 2008).

An estimate of somewhat more recent compliance can be obtained via PubMed. As noted in a NLM Technical Bulletin from the National Library of Medicine, dated May 12, 2006, the search term “wellcome trust [gr]” can be used to retrieve citations (created since June 2, 2005) indicating Wellcome Trust support.

When this search was done (on June 8), but limited to articles published in the last 1 year, the proportion of articles for which the free full text was available was: 1527/4223 = 36%. When the same search was done for articles published in the last 180 days, the proportion with free full text was: 594/2088 = 28%. So, the proportion of articles with publicly-accessible full text, published between 6 months and one year ago, can be estimated to be: (1527 – 594)/(4223 – 2088) = 933/2135, or 43.7%.

Recent compliance with the Wellcome mandate appears to be approaching 44%. Might the difference between the earlier figure of about 35% and the estimate of close to 44% be explained by articles that are publicly accessible, but not via PMC/UKPMC? Examination of a sample of 100 articles published between 6 months and a year ago (and cited by PubMed) indicated that, for about 6% of these articles, the full text was publicly-accessible only via the journal site, not via PMC. (Usually, the full text was publicly-accessible via both PMC and the journal site).

If the estimate is correct that compliance with the Wellcome mandate (Trust-funded research articles must be available through PMC/UKPMC within 6 months after publication) appears to be about (44% – 6%) = 38%, then recent compliance is  close to the estimate of about 35% (see above), and still well below the estimated potential compliance figure of about 95%.

Added June 18, 2009: More extensive sampling has indicated that, for Trust-funded articles published between 6 months and a year ago (and cited by PubMed), the percentage for which the full text is publicly-accessible only via the journal site, and not via PMC, may be higher than 6%, and may be as high as 10%.

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1 Comment »

  1. Jim Till said

    For an update, see: Analysis of where Wellcome-funded authors publish: 2009 data by Robert Kiley, UK PubMed Central Blog, July 01, 2010. Excerpt: “An analysis of publication data for 2009 identifies a total 5263 Wellcome-attributed articles in PubMed, of which 2313 are freely available in UKPMC. This indicates an overall open access compliance figure of around 44%.”

    Today (July 05, 2010) I used the search term “wellcome trust [gr]” in PubMed, with the “Publication Date” range specified to be from 2009/01/01 to 2009/12/31. I found a total of 5469 Wellcome-attributed articles, of which 2663 (48.7) were in the PubMed Central (PMC) subset, and also had links to “free full text”. Of the 5469 Wellcome-attributed articles, 2989 (54.7%) had links to “free full text” (whether or not they were in the PMC subset).

    These results provide support for a previous estimate that about 6% of Wellcome-attributed articles are freely accessible by a route other than PMC, and indicate that the overall free access rate for Wellcome-attributed articles may be as much as 10% greater than the overall open access compliance figure (of around 44%) for Wellcome-attributed articles available via the UKPMC subset.

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