Open access journals: more downloads…
… but not more citations.
“Does free access to journal articles result in greater diffusion of scientific knowledge?” was the initial question of this study.
It is shown that “articles placed in the open access condition received significantly more downloads and reached a broader audience within the first year, but were cited no more frequently, nor earlier, than subscription-access control articles within 3 years“.
Free access to scientific articles increases readership (as measured by article downloads) and reaches a broader audience (as measured by unique IP addresses) but has no effect on article citations within the first 3 years after publication. These results are consistent with earlier trial reports on the physiology literature and suggest that these claims are generalizable across the scientific, social sciences, and humanities literatures.
The increase in full-text downloads for open access articles during their first year after publication suggests that the primary benefit to the nonsubscriber community is in browsing, as opposed to printing or saving, which would have been indicated by a commensurate increase in PDF downloads. The decrease in abstract views suggests a reader preference for the full document when available.
“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.”
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.fasebj.org/content/early/2011/03/29/fj.11-183988.abstract
See also this review into EurekAlert
Paid access to journal articles not a significant barrier for scientists, 30th of March, 2011, Online at: