At this time of year, we review patterns in the licenses attached to open access publications. This year, we will look at the changing balance of license use among OASPA members and explore how different publishers place difference emphasis on different license types.


Each year OASPA surveys its member organizations to gather information about the volumes of output they publish in their fully OA and hybrid journals, under various license types. We’re delighted to be working with OASPA on its survey again this year. We process the raw data into consistent categories, normalize publisher names, and create visualizations of the data over time. We also produce a yearly blog post for OASPA, outlining some of the results.

Our underlying analysis of the OASPA data covers much more than we can fit in their one blog post, so we explore the data a little more here. Subscribers to our OA Data and Analytics tool can explore the data further still. It provides a complementary view into our market-wide analysis.

As we examined last year, Creative Commons (CC) licenses have become the de facto standard for open access publications. They account for over 98% of OASPA members’ current OA output, and almost 94% of OA output indexed in Crossref. We therefore focus on CC licenses in our analysis here.

Growth in OASPA’s Coverage

The volume of output produced by OASPA members has grown significantly in recent years. The charts below examine this.

Source: OASPA, Delta Think Analysis. © 2023 Delta Think Inc. All rights reserved.

The charts show numbers of articles published in fully OA journals (left), and OA articles in hybrid journals (right), color-coded by license type. The most permissive licenses are at the bottom (CC BY), through to least permissive at the top, except for the tiny amount of CC0.

  • The volume of publications from OASPA continues to grow. Just under 4M articles were published by members in the period 2000-2021.
  • Just under 1M of the cumulative total were published in 2021, representing a growth of around 46% over the previous year and around one quarter of total recorded output.
  • The total number of articles reported by members has more than doubled since 2018, and grown around 20x over the last decade.
  • Publications in fully OA journals continue to dominate output, at around 4x that in hybrid.
  • CC BY licenses (Creative Commons attribution only) dominate. They account for almost three quarters of members’ total output, and for 81% of their output in fully OA journals.

Changing make-up of membership

The growth in OASPA members’ output in 2021 is higher than our estimate of the market’s underlying growth in OA output of 32%. This is most likely driven by new members joining OASPA in 2021/2022 and adding their data retrospectively to the overall numbers. We estimate new members boosted output of OASPA members measured over all time by roughly 25%.

OASPA membership covers a different sample of publishers to our market estimates, so comparing growth between the two is not a like-for-like comparison. However, we can see how OASPA’s evolving membership influences the composition of its output.

Source: OASPA, Delta Think Analysis. © 2023 Delta Think Inc. All rights reserved.

The chart above compares snapshots of license usage by OASPA members totalled across all years they supplied data for (dating back to 2000 for some). Each bar represents the results of the survey conducted in the year indicated. Surveys include cumulative data up to the full year before they were conducted. So, e.g., the 2022 survey (right-most bar) covers output up to end of 2021.

Patterns in use had seen only a slight movement up until the most recent survey:

  • CC BY licenses dominate, growing slightly to just over 86% of output by 2021.
  • CC BY-NC licenses (non-commercial use) grew slightly to just over 9% of output by 2021.
  • CC BY-NC-ND (non-commercial, no derivatives) share fell back to 3.5% by 2021.

2022’s data then shows more notable changes:

  • CC BY fell back to “only” 81% of output, having been displaced by more restrictive licenses.
  • CC BY-NC fell back slightly to 8.2%
  • CC BY-NC-ND has more than doubled to 9.3% share.

Other license types remain negligible, at less than one percent share.


Comparisons between OASPA survey data and Delta Think’s market data are not strictly like-for-like as each represents different samples and methods. However, they set a useful context.

In 2021, OASPA members published around 1M OA articles, which compares with our market-wide estimate of 1.2M. With all four of the largest corporates as members, and given our highly consolidated market, this large overlap is not surprising.

The focus of OASPA’s members is, of course, reflected in their use of licenses. Three quarters of OASPA members’ output falls under CC BY, compared with around 55% of the total OA market. The three most-used licenses by far are CC BY, BY-NC, and BY-NC-ND. They account for over 99% of OASPA members’ output between them, compared with around three quarters of the wider OA market.

New members have joined OASPA over time and have retrospectively added data. Their different approaches to licensing therefore influence the trends we see. Born-OA publishers largely use the most permissive CC BY license and have been the historical bedrock of OASPA membership. Springer Nature and Wiley have both acquired big born-OA publishers, and Springer Nature has its born OA megajournals. The combination of all this has likely been a big factor in tilting historical OASPA output towards high levels of CC BY. With Elsevier joining in 2022, we now see things tilting back towards market averages, and a greater prominence of the more restrictive CC licenses. (It’s also interesting to note that Elsevier has now embraced Creative Commons licenses, and its own license now appears largely reserved for archive content.)

As more publishers – especially the larger societies – explore moves to becoming OA, it will be interesting to see if OASPA’s membership continues to grow, and whether we’ll see the changes in 2022 become the start of a trend, or just a temporary realignment.

This article is © 2023 Delta Think, Inc. It is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please do get in touch if you want to use it in other contexts – we’re usually pretty accommodating.


Nature announces support for authors from over 70 countries to publish open access – January 9, 2023

“From today, primary research from authors from over 70 countries classified by the World Bank as low-income (LIC) or lower-middle-income economies (LMICs) accepted for publication in either Nature or one of the Nature research journals (e.g. Nature Chemistry, Nature Sustainability) can now be published Gold open access at no cost.”

DOAJ joins new Horizon Europe project to strengthen technology for institutional publishing – December 20, 2022

“DOAJ is pleased to continue its support of diamond journals as one of 23 partners in the project “Creating a Robust Accessible Federated Technology for Open Access” (CRAFT-OA). Covering 14 European countries, CRAFT-OA is coordinated by the University of Göttingen, Germany and will start in January 2023 for 36 months.”

New report provides insights into global OA landscape — and with a focus on China – December 14, 2022

“A new report released today provides insights into the complex and evolving global Open Access landscape — and with a particular focus on China. The report is a product of a collaboration between STM Association and the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) focused on the bilateral sharing of ideas and best practices in OA publishing.”

UKRI Open access policy update: December 2022 – December 7, 2022

“UKRI has published updated information to support funded research organisations and researchers to meet its new open access policy. Peer reviewed research articles that acknowledge UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding have been required to comply with UKRI’s open access policy since 1 April 2022. From 1 January 2024, monographs, book chapters and edited collections that acknowledge UKRI funding will also need to be published open access.”

New Wolters Kluwer Report Charts Path Forward for Open Medicine – December 6, 2022

“As an active participant in the fast-changing open medicine landscape, Wolters Kluwer Health has published a new report titled, ‘The Path to Open Medicine: Driving Global Health Equity through Medical Research.’ The paper defines what open medicine means today and sets forth a vision of how all stakeholders in the space, including funders, institutions, publishers, and researchers, must collaborate to deliver on the collective benefit of medical research and ultimately advance global health equity.”


January 11, 2023

The Microbiology Society’s founding journal is now fully Open Access – the transformation of Microbiology

“Publishing advances across the field of microbiology for over 75 years, Microbiology – the Microbiology Society’s founding journal – has now transitioned to fully Open Access (OA). The exciting transformation for this established journal indicates the Society’s commitment to an Open Science future.”

December 22, 2022

Industrial Chemistry & Materials—New RSC partner journal facilitate interdisciplinary academic communication

“Recently, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and the Institute of Process Engineering (IPE), Chinese Academy of Sciences, partnered to publish a new gold open access journal entitled Industrial Chemistry & Materials (ICM).”

December 7, 2022

Oxford University Press to launch open access journal in partnership with Project HOPE

“Oxford University Press (OUP) is pleased to announce a new agreement with global health and humanitarian relief organization Project HOPE to publish its fully open access journal, Health Affairs Scholar. The new international open access journal will be dedicated to health policy and emerging health services research.”