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Recent Studies Point to Mixed Findings on the Citation Advantage of Open Access Articles over Paywall-Protected Papers

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NYC, Midtown, New York Public Library Main Building, New York, NY, USA, August 22, 2011 | © Courtesy of Wally Gobetz/Flickr.

While the research of Hajar Sotudeh and Zohreh Estakhr indicates that Open Access articles published in Elsevier-published hybrid journals have a consistent, sustainable and cross-discipline advantage in terms of their citation performance over subscription-based papers published in these journals, from the more recent data that Prashat Kamat has presented it tentatively follows that, for journals published by the American Chemical Society, Wiley and Springer Nature, Open Access articles are as likely to demonstrate higher visibility performance than their closed-access counterparts in these journals as not.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


In their study, published in Scientometrics on February 17, 2018, Sotudeh and Estakhr have used a large sample of Open Access articles funded by article processing charges (APCs) from 47 hybrid-model journals allowing for both Open and closed Access from the period between 2007 and 2015 within two citation windows at the beginning and toward the end of this 8-year period.

As their findings apparently indicate, the cumulative medium-term citation performance of Open Access articles in excess of that of closed-access papers has been confirmed both for the period between 2007 and 2011 and for the publication window between 2012 and 2015. Sotudeh and Estakhr have also found a growing number of APC-based Open-Access-published articles in the sampled journals over this research period. Moreover, this research indicates that for all of these Elsevier-published journals, the article-level citation advantage of Open Access has been found across the overwhelming majority of academic fields comprising health sciences, life sciences, social sciences and humanities.

According to Sotudeh and Estakhr, as compared to toll-access papers, the cumulative citation performance of Open Access articles has significantly increased from 12% and 19% in the period from 2007 to 2013 to 25% and 35% in the period from 2012 and 2016 in health and life sciences respectively, while changing insignificantly for social sciences and humanities articles between these periods. The growth in the citation performance of Open Access articles that Sotudeh and Estakhr have found can be due to their increasing share of the sampled journals’ publication output that rose from 1.1% between 2007 and 2011 to 4.6% between 2012 and 2015.

At the same time, the research of Kamat, published in ACS Energy Letters on February 8, 2018, focusing on 11 journals, such as ACS Nano, Advanced Materials and Nature Chemistry, based on hybrid models of Open Access as a mostly APC-based option available in addition to APC-free subscription-based publishing in the domain of material sciences has found that no consistent citation advantage in 2017 for Open Access articles published in the years 2015-2016 exists.

These mixed findings on the citation advantage of Open Access articles tentatively indicate that it is likely to be dependent on the methodology of its measurement, the period for which citation data is collected and whether journals from different publishers are sampled. Moreover, it is notable that in both of these studies empirical data was collected on articles optionally published in Open Access in otherwise subscription-based scholarly journals.

Since the study of Kamat did not include Elsevier-published journals into its sample, this tentatively supports a conclusion that the citation advantage of Open Access articles may be dependent on both a publisher and a scientific domain.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: NYC, Midtown, New York Public Library Main Building, New York, NY, USA, August 22, 2011 | © Courtesy of Wally Gobetz/Flickr.

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