Skip to main content

The prevalence of green and grey open access: Where do physical science researchers archive their publications?


The Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) implemented an open access policy for its grant recipients in 2008. We used bibliographic data from the Web of Science to find out how CIHR-funded researchers in the physical sciences self-archived their publications. We also examined the self-archiving policies of the journals in which the researchers published, and compared the citation rates of two different self-archiving approaches: the green open access route (deposit in an institutional or subject repository) and the grey open access route (deposit in an academic social network or personal/departmental website). Only 14% of the articles were openly accessible through the green open access route, while 37% could be accessed through the grey open access route. We cannot ascribe the low uptake of green open access to publishers’ self-archiving policies, as almost all journals allowed self-archiving through the green open access route. Authors deposited 31% of their publications in ResearchGate, the most popular self-archiving option in our study, while they deposited only 2.1% of their publications in institutional repositories, the least popular option. The citation rates of the various self-archiving approaches did not differ significantly. Our results suggest that it may be time to rethink how to achieve open access.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. 1.

    From April 2018, Web of Science changed its classification of open access status, which now includes the green open access category in addition to gold open access (


  1. Archambault, É., Amyot, D., Deschamps, P., Nicol, A., Provencher, F., Rebout, L., & Roberge, G. (2014). Proportion of open access papers published in peer-reviewed journals at the European and world levels19962013 (Vol. RTD-B6-PP-). Retrieved from Accessed 9 June 2017.

  2. Björk, B.-C. (2017). Gold, green, and black open access. Learned Publishing.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Björk, B., Laakso, M., Welling, P., & Paetau, P. (2014). Anatomy of green open access. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 65(2), 237–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Björk, B. C., & Solomon, D. (2012). Open access versus subscription journals: A comparison of scientific impact. BMC Medicine, 10(73): doi: Retrieved February 3, 2017, from

  5. Björk, B.-C., Welling, P., Laakso, M., Majlender, P., Hedlund, T., & Guðnason, G. (2010). Open access to the scientific journal literature: Situation 2009. PLoS ONE, 5(6), e11273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Borrego, Á. (2016). Measuring compliance with a Spanish Government open access mandate. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(4), 757–764.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Borrego, Á. (2017). Institutional repositories versus ResearchGate: The depositing habits of Spanish researchers. Learned Publishing.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. CARL. (2018a). Adoptive repositories. Retrieved August 8, 2018, from

  9. CARL. (2018b). Repositories in Canada. Retrieved July 18, 2018, from

  10. CIHR. (2013). CIHR open access policy. Retrieved August 8, 2018, from

  11. Gargouri, Y., Hajjem, C., Lariviére, V., Gingras, Y., Carr, L., Brody, T., et al. (2010). Self-selected or mandated, open access increases citation impact for higher quality research. PLoS ONE.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hua, F., Sun, H., Walsh, T., Worthington, H., & Glenny, A.-M. (2016). Open access to journal articles in dentistry: Prevalence and citation impact. Journal of Dentistry, 47, 41–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Jamali, H. R., & Nabavi, M. (2015). Open access and sources of full-text articles in Google Scholar in different subject fields. Scientometrics, 105(3), 1635–1651.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Kurtz, M. J., Eichhorn, G., Accomazzi, A., Grant, C., Demleitner, M., Henneken, E., et al. (2005). The effect of use and access on citations. Information Processing and Management, 41(6), 1395–1402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Laakso, M., Lindman, J., Shen, C., Nyman, L., & Björk, B.-C. (2017). Research output availability on academic social networks: Implications for stakeholders in academic publishing. Electronic Markets.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Lovett, J. A., Lang, A. J., Lovett, J. A., Rathemacher, A. J., Boukari, D., & Lang, C. (2017). Institutional repositories and academic social networks: Competition or complement? A study of open access policy compliance vs. researchgate participation. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Martín-Martín, A., Orduña-Malea, E., Ayllón, J. M., & López-Cózar, E. D. (2014). Does Google Scholar contain all highly cited documents (1950–2013)? Retrieved from

  18. Miguel, S., Chinchilla-Rodriguez, Z., & de Moya-Anegón, F. (2011). Open access and Scopus: A new approach to scientific visibility from the standpoint of access. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 62(6), 1130–1145.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Mueller-Langer, F., & Watt, R. (2014). The hybrid open access citation advantage: How many more cites is a $3,000 fee buying you? Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper, No. 14-02. Retrieved February 3, 2017, from

  20. Narayan, B., & Luca, E. (2016). Issues and challenges in researchers’ adoption of open access and institutional repositories: A contextual study of a university repository. In Proceedings of RAILSresearch applications, information and library studies. School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Retrieved from

  21. OpenDOAR. (2018). Open Access repository types—Worldwide. Retrieved February 7, 2018, from Open Access Repository Types – Worldwide.

  22. Pinfield, S. (2015). Making open access work: The “state-of-the-art” in providing open access to scholarly literature. Online Information Review, 39(5), 604–636.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Pitol, S. P., & De Groote, S. L. (2014). Google Scholar versions: Do more versions of an article mean greater impact? Library Hi Tech, 32(4), 594–611.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. ROARMAP: Registry of Open Access Mandates and Policies, 2018. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from

  25. Sababi, M., Marashi, S. A., Pourmajidian, M., Pourtabatabaei, S. S., Darki, F., Sadrzadeh, M. R., et al. (2017). How accessibility influences citation counts: The case of citations to the full text articles available from ResearchGate. RT. A Journal on Research Policy and Evaluation.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Salisbury, L., Omolewu, A. O., & Smith, J. J. (2017). Identifying “Free” full-text resources in agriculture, food and life sciences: A research study. Journal of Agricultural & Food Information, 18(2), 136–144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. SPARC. (2016). The open access citation advantage service. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from

  28. STM. (2015). STM consultation on article sharing. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from

  29. Swan, A. (2010). Modelling scholarly communication options: Costs and benefits for universities report to the JISC February 2010, (February), 64 S. Retrieved from Accessed 9 June 2017.

  30. Tay, A. (2017). Rethinking institutional Repositories. Online Searcher, 41(2), 10–15. Retrieved from

  31. Thelwall, M., & Kousha, K. (2017). ResearchGate articles: Age, discipline, audience size, and impact. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 68(2), 468–479.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. U15. (2018). Group of Canadian Research Universities. Retrieved August 8, 2018, from

  33. Universities Canada.(2018). 2017 full-time and part-time fall enrolment at Canadian universities. Retrieved July 18, 2018, from

  34. Van Noorden, R. (2017). Publishers threaten to remove millions of papers from ResearchGate. Nature.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Zhang, L., & Watson, E. M. (2017). Measuring the impact of gold and green open access. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 43(4), 337–345.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Li Zhang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhang, L., Watson, E. The prevalence of green and grey open access: Where do physical science researchers archive their publications?. Scientometrics 117, 2021–2035 (2018).

Download citation


  • Green open access
  • ResearchGate
  • Journal archiving policy
  • Citation
  • Institutional repository
  • Subject repository

Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 00A99

JEL Classification

  • D83