Recently produced science and knowledge should be accessible to all citizens equally, particularly when considering “Free Access” at the core of OA movement and related initiatives. In fact, OA publications should pose no barrier to a reader other than having access to the Internet (Forrester, 2015). OA does not mean just being free to download. According to Sahu (2005), OA means free availability on the public Internet, permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself. The only acceptable conditions that should be considered within the framework of OA is giving authors both control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited (Miguel et al., 2016).
Since 2002, the OA movement, especially with the introduction of gold, green, and hybrid roads (Rizor & Holley, 2014), has become a new trend in scholarly outputs. Some journals in different fields of study started shifting toward seeing OA as an advantage; nevertheless, the volume of OA documents available is still low. Many journals are displeased with this movement, to the extent that the percentage of OA documents in journals included in the Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus is barely 23% on the two gold and green roads (Björk, Laakso, Welling, & Paetau, 2014).
This study is dedicated to, first, find the volume of “open access” documents in the WoS categories in general and, second, investigate the directions and trends of OA within the study field of “communication.” “Communication” was selected as the specific category due to its rich and old history of intensive debates on the issue of “Open and Free Access,” which by default put “communication” scientific productions as top priority that “Must and Should” be OA.
The Debate Over “Free Access” in Communication
First, the “free flow of information” was the subject of intense debates at both national and international forums beginning in the early 1940s. In 1948, the United Nation General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Right, of which Article 19 explicitly recognized free expression as a fundamental human right. This right, among others, includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers (Cate, 1989). As it is also highlighted in First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, this Article not only recognizes the free flow of information, but goes further to guarantee reception of the information. The meaning of this extension is very significant to communication as a field (Cate, 1989). Second, in the early 1960s, UNESCO becomes the forum for debate on this issue. The MacBride Commission is one of the groups assigned the awesome task of studying the totality of this issue in modern societies (Raube-Wilson, 1986). It is worth highlighting that the McBride report addresses multiple matters, among them “democratization of communication,” insisting on removal of all communication obstacles. Although, due to consequence of the free flow of information, the world was divided both along an East-West and North-South axis, UNESCO managed to take initiatives that continue to characterize it today. Third, with the rise of Internet in the later decades of the last century, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) passed a resolution in 1998 proposing the idea of a World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), under the auspice of the United Nations. The WSIS was held in Geneva in 2003 (first phase) and in Tunis in 2005 (second phase), and presented the Geneva Declaration of Principles (ITU, 2003a), Geneva Plan of Action (ITU, 2003b), the Tunis Commitment (ITU, 2005b), and the Tunis Agenda (ITU, 2005a) for governance of the Internet and the flow of information and knowledge, respectively. The Geneva Declaration of Principles in 2003 is one of the major outcomes of the WSIS summit merit, with special attention on the provision of access to information and knowledge for the whole population (Weber, 2010).
Considering the above background and history, it was highly expected that “communication,” as a field and because of its nature, will lead the OA movement and related initiatives, particularly in the world of scientific productions. However, after more than eight decades of intense debates regarding “Free Access,” five decades indexing scientific journals (Garfield, 1964), and 15 years of OA Movement, it is of importance to evaluate the volume of OA in “communication” itself to find whether there is a “crisis” in access to the scientific publications (Miguel et al., 2016) in this field. In other words, in the context of realizing greater OA to communication scholarly literatures, how much progress has been achieved in the field of communication scholarship? Is it acceptable or not?
Data were collected from the WoS Core Collection based on a category search of “communication” on December 1, 2017. The WoS was selected for two main reasons. First, it has more precise coverage in the category of communication, and second, it covers the top prestigious journals highly expected to be OA. The WoS Core Collection consists of six databases—Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-Expanded), Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), Art & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI), Conference Proceeding Citation Index Science (CPCI-S), Conference Proceeding Citation Index Social Science & Humanities (CPCI-SSH), and Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI). The WoS included conference proceedings from 2004 and ESCI from 2015 in their databases. The time span was 1980 to the data collection date.
To evaluate the rank of communication category documents within all existed categories in the WoS Core Collection, the number of total published documents and the portion of OA documents were extracted for all 184 categories of the WoS Core Collection. The data search was repeated for each year from 1980 to 2017. The total publications and OA availability were checked and recorded in a Microsoft Excel sheet for each year separately. To assess the differences between OA and non-OA, publications were sorted in terms of type of documents, country, and languages of all collected data, and were integrated in a dataset. The country, document type, and language of the all documents were collected yearly from 2007 (the year in which first series of OA documents were available in the category of communication) till 2017. Frequency analysis and chi-square tests were used to find any correlation between the country, document type, language, and OA trends. Finally, an equation was developed to predict the trend of OA in communication (called OAI).