new study funded by the European Commission confirms the global shift towards Open Access (OA), or making research findings available free of charge. The research suggests that Open Access is reaching the tipping point, with around 50% of scientific papers published in 2011 now available for free. This is about twice the level estimated in previous studies.

The study “Proportion of Open Access Peer-Reviewed Papers at the European and World Levels—2004-2011” estimates that more than 40% of scientific peer reviewed articles published worldwide between 2004 and 2011 are now available online in OA form.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, says: “These findings underline that open access is here to stay. Putting research results in the public sphere makes science better and strengthens our knowledge-based economy."

The study was undertaken by Science-Metrix, a research evaluation consultancy, and looked at the availability of scholarly publications in 22 fields of knowledge in the European Research Area, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and the United States. In several countries and disciplines more than 50% of papers are now available for free.

Free availability of the majority of articles has been reached in the fields of general science and technology, biomedical research, biology and mathematics and statistics. The fields where OA availability is most limited are the social sciences and humanities and applied sciences, engineering and technology.

Two other reports examining Open Access policies and the issue of Open Access to data have also been released this month by the EC.

A recent European Commission Communication (IP/12/790) identified Open Access as a core means to improve knowledge circulation and thus innovation in Europe. Therefore, OA will be mandatory for all scientific publications produced with funding from Horizon 2020, the EU's Research & Innovation funding programme for 2014-2020.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn stresses that the European Commission is promoting OA in Europe, including for the results of its own research funding: "The European taxpayer should not have to pay twice for publicly funded research. That is why we have made Open Access to publications the default setting for Horizon 2020."