Thanks to a blog post from Bad Science, I ran across this paper that tries to estimate yearly volume in academic publishing. The paper was working to figure out how much of the yearly academic output is available in some form of open access, which I’ll touch on in a moment.
By their estimates, in 2006 1,346,000 papers were published in 23,750 peer-reviewed scientific journals. The paper reviews their methodology, which seems plausible and emphasizes that these figures can only be an estimate. Regardless, this volume should introduce a healthy bit of skepticism in the ability of anyone to effect a truly comprehensive peer review, literature review, or understand the state of scientific research beyond the narrowest of specialties.
As for the open access angle, the authors determined that – much like a similar paper I linked to earlier this year – approximately one-fifth of articles see some form of open access status in their lifetime. For gold status – open access on a publisher’s site – 4.6 percent of all papers are immediately available, and an additional 3.5 percent are made available after some kind of delay (usually a year). For green status – open access of some version of the paper on a site other than the publisher’s – 11.3 percent of all papers were so covered. In terms of numbers, that means approximately 261, 124 of the 1,346,000 papers mentioned at the beginning of this post are either available by open access now, or will be within the next year or so. That’s a lot, but it would be nice to see more.