Published September 30, 2021 | Version 1.0
Project deliverable Open

ON-MERRIT D3.2 Cumulative Advantage in Open Science and RRI: A Large-Scale Quantitative Study


This document reports on the research activities conducted in “ON-MERRIT’s” Work Package 3 to identify, measure and assess  effects of cumulative advantage in Open Science and RRI with a clear focus on the creation of research outputs within academia. We conduct four original quantitative research studies addressing a range of pertinent research questions, including: Who produces and who consumes open access research literature? How is institutional performance related to the application of RRI policies and OA publishing? Does the uptake of OA publishing change existing hierarchies within academic publishing, and if so, in which ways across a subset of ON-MERRIT’s target UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - SDG 2 - Zero Hunger, SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being and SDG 13 - Climate Action? 

The first research study investigates levels of production and consumption of Open Access (OA) research literature globally,  measured as the proportion of citations to OA literature, and tests for correlations with gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at the country and continental level. We find moderate correlations between OA production and OA consumption. We find a stronger correlation for higher ranked institutions when using ranking data from the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings (WUR). We surprisingly find no correlation between OA production and consumption and GDP (per capita). 

The second research study investigates how performance or prestige, primarily at the institutional level, is related to the application of RRI and OA publishing. We observe that the most highly ranked institutions are both greater producers and greater consumers of OA. We find a strong overall correlation between public engagement with science, and RRI policies at the national level. A further interesting final finding is the lack of correlation between how a country performs in terms of gender equality policies and the balance in ratios of male / female researchers. This is particularly noticeable in the new EU13 countries. 

Following ON-MERRIT’s focus on three key UN SDGs (SDG Zero Hunger (SDG 2), SDG Health/Well-Being (SDG 3) and SDG Climate Action (SDG 13)), the third research study surveys the extent of growth and impact of this literature across the analysed SDGs, as well as its structure in terms of who contributes. We find the literature on SDGs to be increasing by 5-7% per year on average, with an increase in the share of female authorships (27-37% in 2019, depending on the SDG), and persistent institutional stratification. 

In the fourth study, we continue our investigation of literature related to UN SDGs, focusing on aspects of OA publishing. We analyse how the uptake of OA publishing differs according to dimensions such as gender, academic age, institutional prestige, and country income. We find that well-resourced actors publish more frequently OA in the SDG areas, as well as publishing in journals with on average higher APCs, which might worsen already existing structural hierarchies within academia. 

The four studies presented in this deliverable combine to highlight that it is the higher ranked, more prosperous and more prestigious institutions that appear best able to adopt, adapt to, and benefit from, the evolving landscape of Open Access publishing. These trends hold true over time, on the global level, and when broken down to individual continents and subject areas (SDGs). Persistent structural inequalities in contemporary academic publishing are not necessarily remedied by the Open Science movement, with 
specific trends such as APC-driven OA publishing potentially exacerbating dynamics of cumulative advantage. 
If research on key global issues is only driven by well-resourced actors, it risks being oblivious to challenges faced by societies and communities less embedded into the global production of knowledge. 



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ON-MERRIT – Observing and Negating Matthew Effects in Responsible Research and Innovation Transition 824612
European Commission