They say the best things in life are free, but when it comes to online scientific publishing, a new research report in The FASEB Journal (http://www.
"The widely-accepted 'open access citation advantage' appears to be spurious," said Davis.
"There are many benefits to the free access of scientific information," Davis maintained, "but a citation advantage doesn't appear to be one of them."
To reach his conclusions, Davis ran several parallel randomized controlled trials. Upon publication, articles, including those from The FASEB Journal, were randomly assigned to either the open access or the subscription-access group. He then observed how these articles performed in terms of downloads and citations over three years. He found that free access did not affect the number of citations a paper received, rejecting a widely-held belief that open access articles are cited more frequently because of their free-access status. The results are consistent over time across 36 journals covering the sciences, social sciences and humanities.
"A study like this is long overdue," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "For years, institutions and organizations have promoted 'open access' policies under the assumption that some scientists cannot gain access to research reports because they or their institutions have to pay for subscriptions. Now we learn that 'open access' articles may be seen by more, but not cited (used) by more fellow scientists. It's probably time to drop the 'open access advantage' assumption and policies that follow from it."
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FASEB comprises 23 societies with more than 100,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB enhances the ability of scientists and engineers to improve--through their research--the health, well-being and productivity of all people. FASEB's mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.
Details: Philip M. Davis. Open access, readership, citations: a randomized controlled trial of scientific journal publishing. FASEB J.; doi:10.1096/fj.11-183988 ; http://www.