Royal Society Publishing Photo Comp Astronomy 2023 runner-up 'Flower Moon on a cloudy night' by Imran Sultan

Looking back on 2023, which was NASA’s year of open science, it was not without epic drama with high numbers of retractions in the industry and developments in AI technologies with a back drop of more space exploration; 2001: a Space Odyssey seems like a fitting theme.

As we reflect on our own open access journey at this time of year the Royal Society journals continue to grow their open access content and break new ground with Read & Publish agreements. As the national academy of science for the UK, we support open access and open science to maximise the dissemination and re-use of research outputs.

Are the journals transforming?

Since The Royal Society committed to flip its main research hybrid journals in 2021, our Transformative Journals have continued to increase their open access output. Proceedings A, Proceedings B, Interface and Biology Letters all met their 2023 Transformative Journal target:

Journal  Articles published in 2023 Open access articles in 2023   Open access target for 2023  Open access actual for 2023
Biology Letters   175  99  55.7%  56.6%
 Interface  216  142  65.1%  65.7%
 Proceedings A  243  113  46.4%  46.5%
 Proceedings B  560  337  58.7%  60.2%

The increase in open access output has been supported by increasing the number of Transformative Agreements, in 2023 we had over 360 institutions signed up and we also brought together a number of existing initiatives for low and middle income countries as part of our Royal Society Open Access Equity scheme. Not all markets are actively pursuing Transformative Agreements but there continues to be growing demand for publishing open access across the world. The Royal Society can still support those markets or institutions through our Open Access Membership scheme that gives researchers a discount on the article processing charge.

Total Royal Society journal open access output

You can see an accelerated increase in open access output from 2020 onwards; our open access output for 2023 stands at over 66% across the portfolio. Over two-thirds of our total output is now open access.

There is a clear benefit to researchers by publishing their research as open access:

Open access advantage infographic

We continue to have robust policies and screening processes around AI and research and imagine integrity to ensure we maintain our high standards on quality research and our publishing values.

Looking forward

Whilst I can’t rule out the rise of the machines this year, or AI taking over, I can say that 2024 has started well and we have almost 400 institutions signed up for a Transformative Agreement as well as over 100 countries eligible for free access and uncapped publishing under our Equity scheme. We would expect to see a continued increase in our open access output this year, and move closer to a brave new world of flipping hybrid journals.

Image credit: Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition Astronomy 2023 runner-up 'Flower Moon on a cloudy night' by Imran Sultan


  • Graham Anderson

    Graham Anderson