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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Open Access Advantage

Open Access Advantage The 25,000 peer-reviewed journals and refereed conference proceedings that exist today publish about 2.5 million articles per year, across all disciplines, languages and nations. No university or research institution anywhere, not even the richest, can afford to subscribe to all or most of the journals that its researchers may need to use. As a consequence, all articles are currently losing some portion of their potential research impact (usage and citations), because they are not accessible online to all their potential users. This is supported by recent evidence, independently confirmed by many studies, to the effect that articles whose authors have supplemented subscription-based access to the publisher’s version by self-archiving their own final draft to make it accessible free for all on the web ("Open Access", OA) are cited significantly more than articles in the same journal and year that have not been made OA. This "OA Impact Advantage" has been found in all fields analyzed so far – physical, technological, biological and social sciences, and humanities. Hence OA is not just about public access rights or the general dissemination of knowledge: It is about increasing the impact and thereby the progress of research itself. A work’s research impact is an indication of how much it contributes to further research by other scientists and scholars – how much it is used, applied and built upon. That is also why impact is valued, measured and rewarded in researcher performance assessment as well as in research funding.

Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research. (2010) PLoS ONE 5(10): e13636. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013636
Background: Articles whose authors have supplemented subscription-based access to the publisher’s version by self- archiving their own final draft to make it accessible free for all on the web ("Open Access", OA) are cited significantly more than articles in the same journal and year that have not been made OA. Some have suggested that this "OA Advantage" may not be causal but just a self-selection bias, because authors preferentially make higher-quality articles OA. To test this we compared self-selective self-archiving with mandatory self-archiving for a sample of 27,197 articles published 2002–2006 in 1,984 journals.
Methdology/Principal Findings: The OA Advantage proved just as high for both. Logistic regression analysis showed that the advantage is independent of other correlates of citations (article age; journal impact factor; number of co-authors, references or pages; field; article type; or country) and highest for the most highly cited articles. The OA Advantage is real, independent and causal, but skewed. Its size is indeed correlated with quality, just as citations themselves are (the top 20% of articles receive about 80% of all citations).
Conclusions/Significance: The OA advantage is greater for the more citable articles, not because of a quality bias from authors self-selecting what to make OA, but because of a quality advantage, from users self-selecting what to use and cite, freed by OA from the constraints of selective accessibility to subscribers only. It is hoped that these findings will help motivate the adoption of OA self-archiving mandates by universities, research institutions and research funders.