Open-Access in chemistry

Open Access (OA) in chemistry is still not as accepted and widespread as it is in physics or biology, for example. The reasons for this are certainly manifold, and they undoubtedly lie in the development of the chemistry community. However, a few members of the community have already put OA on their agenda and are actively engaged in promoting a broader implementation of the OA idea in chemistry. One of the main protagonists is Peter Murray-Rust from the University of Cambridge, who is active both in the area of OA and "Open Data" (in the sense of open access to research data).

By now, a number of publishers, who also play a leading role in chemistry publishing, publish pure OA journals or offer their authors the option of providing OA to individual articles in subscription-based journals against payment of a fee (hybrid model).

Open-Access journals

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) currently lists little more than 350 OA journals in chemistry - less than half as many as in the life sciences/biology.

In what follows, only a selection of chemistry journals with OA models will be presented in order to give a brief insight into the diversity of the models and of the various journals. What is striking is that, although only very few publishers offer OA journals, they include some large publishing houses that are definitely of relevance to chemistry. It seems as if the publishers are quite aware of how relevant the topic of OA can become in a scientific community. and as if they endeavouring to counter these activities with alternative publishing models. Moreover, the publishers' OA cost models appear to be attractive and lucrative business models.

  • One journal that has been freely accessible online since the early days of the OA movement is ARKIVOC (Archive for Organic Chemistry). The articles cover the area of organic chemistry, including sub-areas of bio-organic and organometallic chemistry. The journal is published by ARKAT USA and, according to the Journal Citation Reports (JCR), it has an impact factor of 1.048 (JCR 2017). Authors who submit manuscripts to ARKIVOC are not charged submission fees or article processing charges (APCs).
  • The Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry (BJOC) has been OA since 2005. Published by the Beilstein-Institut, it, too, covers the area of organic chemistry. Authors are not charged submission fees or APCs as the journal is completely funded by the Beilstein-Institut. All articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY). Copyright is not transferred to the publisher. Rather, authors grant the publisher and all third parties the right to use, reproduce, and distribute the work and to make derivative works. According to the JCR (2017), the impact factor is 2.330.
  • The OA journal Chemistry Centralhas been published since 2007. Its peer-reviewed articles cover almost the entire field of chemistry. All articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0). Costs are covered by charging authors an APC for every article accepted for publication. The APC amounts to $1150, $1800 or EUR1465. Chemistry Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media and currently has an impact factor of 2,284 (JCR 2017).
  • The OA catalysis journal,Catalysts, has been published since 2011. It covers the areas of physical and theoretical chemistry. The journal is published by the MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute), which is based in Basel, Switzerland. All articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0). Here, too, authors are charged an APC, which amounts to 1000 Swiss francs per published article. Every article undergoes peer review.
  • In January 2015, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) converted its journal Chemical Scienceto gold OA. First published in 2010, the journal has an impact factor of 9.063 (JCR 2017). The costs in the form of APCs range between 1000 and 2500 British pounds per article, depending on the article type (communication, technical notes, primary paper, or review). Articles published in 2015 and 2016 are free of charge for authors. (Publishers sometime use this method to create an incentive for authors to publish their articles in OA).
  • ChemistryOpen, which is hosted by Wiley, is a journal of the association of European chemical societies ChemPubSoc Europe. It has been a gold OA journal since 2012. APCs range from EUR2500 for articles to EUR500 for theses, with 20% discount for members. Articles in ChemistryOpen are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC) Licence. The latest impact factor is 2,801 (JCR 2017).
  • The journal ChemPlusChem, which is also published by ChemPubSoc Europe and hosted by Wiley, offers a hybrid OA model, onlineOpen. Here, APCs range from EUR3500 for review-type articles to EUR2500 for other contributions. Authors retain copyright in their works and have a choice of Creative Commons licences (CC BY-NC-ND, CC BY-NC, or CC BY if mandated by the funder). The latest impact factor is 3.206 (JSI 2017).

A frequently voiced criticism of OA publishing relates to the high costs - mostly in the form of APCs - that are payable for article publication. However, author-side fees for OA articles can often be funded directly or reimbursed via so-called OA publication funds. (Further information on this can be found here: Concern is often expressed that OA articles do not undergo (adequate) peer review and that the quality of scientific findings suffers as a result. However, most OA journals, and especially those of the large publishers that are of relevance to chemistry, have already established very sound peer-review processes. In principle, therefore, there is no reason to assume that peer-review processes in OA journals are qualitatively worse than those in traditional closed-access journals.

Disciplinary repositories

An overview of relevant repositories can be found in the Directory of Open Access Repositories - OpenDOAR, the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), and the Open Access Repository Ranking (OARR).

Institutional repositories of interest to chemistry include, for example, the publication server of the Forschungszentrum Jülich, JUWEL, the publication database of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, and the publication server of the Helmholtz-Zentrum Rossendorf. It should be noted that institutional repositories contain only publications from the respective institutions and do not offer original versions of articles published in fee-based journals. However, preprint, postprint, or publisher's versions of published articles may possibly be self-archived in the institutional repository - a practice known as "the green road to OA".

Many publications that are also of relevance to chemistry can be found in the postprint archive PubMed Central, a full-text repository of biomedical and life sciences journal literature (incl. biochemistry and medical chemistry).

The Registry of Research Data Repositories is a first port of call when searching for a suitable research data repository. Additional information on the subject of OA to research data can be found in the Open Science section below (Ankerlink zum letzten Abschnitt).

Literature and data searches in chemistry

As a rule, information searches in chemistry are conducted via a small number of fee-based databases (CAS' SciFinder, Reaxys). Although many relevant articles can be found in these databases, most are published in fee-based journals. By contrast, the few freely accessible databases often provide access to only to a small number of OA articles. Nonetheless, it is worth transcending the boundaries of everyday searching.

Depending on the area of chemistry for which one is searching for literature, or on the type of documents sought, different starting points can be chosen.

If one is searching exclusively for patent documents, the database esp@cenet is a good place to start. A service of the European Patent Office, it contains patent documents and information dating back to 1920.

The free database PubChem, which is operated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), offers users an opportunity to search for chemical compounds, although its main focus is on the biological activities of small molecules. Besides text search, a structure search option is provided, which is a common approach in chemistry. The publications in which the compounds in question are cited or contained can then be displayed in the PubMed database. However, PubMed contains not only the OA articles from PubMed Central but also other, possibly fee-based, articles.

Key players

Developments in the area of OA in chemistry as a discipline have been hesitant. Because many scientists are still unsure how to handle OA publications, many publishers of relevance to chemistry possibly do not see the need to advance OA in this field. The Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (German Chemical Society, GDCh) published a position paper entitled "On the Future of Scientific Publishing" [see References] in December 2013. However, in this paper it initially recommends the "Green Open Access Model" to its members. Moreover, it lists criteria for keeping scientific publications at a qualitatively high level. Nonetheless, the GDCh welcomes "new approaches in the publishing sector, such as Open Access, when they are beneficial to science and based on a solid business model". [GDCh Newsletter - 12.12.2013]

Open Science

For the most part, the topic of Open Science - and its sub-topic "Open Data" in the sense of OA to research data - have not been addressed at all, or have hardly been addressed, in chemistry. As mentioned above, there are a few pioneers in this area. However, the topic has not yet attracted broad interest. Nonetheless, for quite some time now there have been a few small rays of hope in the area of crystallography. The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) and the Crystallography Open Database (COD) offer access to crystallographic data. They are already well-established in the community.

A few open databases for searching for, and comparing, spectral data, can be found in the area of NMR spectroscopy. They include, for example, the Spectral Database for Organic Compounds. However, these offerings are usually devoted to spectral images rather than to the actually recorded data points.

The DFG-funded project RADAR aims to develop and establish for the first time a data repository that will archive and make freely accessible data from the area of NMR spectroscopy and the imaging method 2D-DIGE. For chemistry, this repository can close a gap in the area of the publication of research data, even though RADAR itself aims to be an interdisciplinary data repository.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) provides the Learn Chemistry Wiki, a collaborative platform for sharing chemistry teaching materials (tutorials and experiments). Users can upload, and thereby share, their own material, or they can add to existing material. All material is deposited under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 Licence.