65 out of the 100 most cited papers are paywalled.      

The Authorea Team

The web was built specifically to share research papers amongst scientists. Despite this being the first goal of the modern web, most research is still published behind a paywall. We have recently highlighted famous math papers that reside behind a paywall as well as ten papers that have achieved a near rockstar status in research and the public. Here we systematically look at the top one hundred cited papers of all time and find that \(65\%\) of these papers are not open. Stated another way, the world’s most important research is inaccessible from the majority of the world.

A few facts about the top 100 cited papers:

  1. 1.

    The weighted average of all the paywalls is: \(\$32.33\), rounding to the nearest cent.

  2. 2.

    There are \(1,088,779\) citations of the Open Access articles, so, if they cost the same on average as the Paywalled articles and were paid for individually, they would cost a total of: \(\$35,199,108.44\)–that’s \(14\) Bugatti Veyrons, or enough to buy everyone in New York City a Starbucks Tall coffee and chocolate chip cookie. In comparison, the total amount for the paywalled articles, assuming everyone bought the paywalled articles individually, is \(\$54,722,252.80\).

  3. 3.

    That’s \(23\) Bugatti Veyrons, or enough to buy everyone in New York City a footlong from Subway.

  4. 4.

    Although \(65\%\) of the most cited papers are paywalled, only \(61\%\) of those paper’s citations are from paywalled journals. Thus the open access articles in this list are, on average, cited more than the paywalled ones.

Title Citations Status Cost Cost to Buy Individually
Atherosclerosis - an inflammatory disease. 12,119 Paywall $20.00 $242,380.00
Adsorption of gases in multimolecular layers. 12,252 Paywall $40.00 $490,080.00
Homeostasis model assessment: insulin resistance and beta-cell function from fasting plasma glucose and insulin concentrations in man. 12,257 Paywall $39.95 $489,667.15
Continuous cultures of fused cells secreting antibody of predefined specificity. 12,391 Paywall $32.00 $396,512.00
Improved methods for building protein models in electron-density maps and the location of errors in these models. 12,649 Paywall $40.00 $505,960.00
Accurate and simple analytic representation of the electron-gas correlation-energy 12,748 Paywall $25.00 $318,700.00
A low-viscosity epoxy resin embedding medium for electron microscopy. 12,807 Paywall $39.95 $511,639.65
A low-cost high-efficiency solar-cell based on dye-sensitized colloidal TiO2 films. 12,873 Paywall $32.00 $411,936.00
Efficiency of ab initio total energy calculations for metals and semiconductors using a plane-wave basis set. 13,084 Paywall $39.95 $522,705.80
An algorithm for least-squares estimation of nonlinear parameters. 13,258 Paywall $25.00 $331,450.00
Nitric oxide: physiology pathophysiology and pharmacology. 13,267 Paywall $25.00 $331,675.00
Optimization by simulated annealing. 13,293 Paywall $30.00 $398,790.00
Projector augmented-wave method. 13,330 Paywall $25.00 $333,250.00
A new and rapid colorimetric determination of acetylcholinesterase activity. 13,332 Paywall $39.95 $532,613.40
Comparison of simple potential functions for simulating liquid water. 13,774 Paywall $30.00 $413,220.00
From ultrasoft pseudopotentials to the projector augmented-wave method. 14,049 Paywall $25.00 $351,225.00
Improved M13 phage cloning vectors and host strains nucleotide-sequences of the M13mp18 and pUC19 vectors 14,232 Paywall $35.95 $511,640.40
A new look at statistical-model identification. 14,275 Paywall $33.00 $471,075.00
PROCHECK: a program to check the stereochemical quality of protein structures. 14,462 Paywall $40.00 $578,480.00
Gaussian-basis sets for use in correlated molecular calculations. 1. The atoms boron through neon and hydrogen. 14,617 Paywall $30.00 $438,510.00
Crystallography & NMR system: a new software suite for macromolecular structure determinatio,n. 14,898 Paywall $40.00 $595,920.00
The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. 14,903 Paywall $14.00 $208,642.00
Tissue sulfhydryl groups. 15,019 Paywall $24.95 $374,724.05
Multiple range and multiple F tests. 15,047 Paywall $14.00 $210,266.00
Primer-directed enzymatic amplification of DNA with a thermostable DNA polymerase. 15,160 Paywall $30.00 $454,800.00
The assessment and analysis of handedness: the Edinburgh inventory. 15,517 Paywall $39.95 $619,904.15
Measurement of protein using bicinchoninic acid. 15,802 Paywall $35.95 $568,081.90
Controlling the false discovery rate: a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing.