Research highlights from Dr. Obvious: Tracking the citation advantage of open-access publication in the developing world
N.G.- A new study published this week in Science sought to explore the effect that open-access has on citation rates. But Dr. Obvious, hasn’t this been done before??
Dr.O.- Well, certainly this has been examined to some degree [see here, here and here, but also see here and here], but we felt that many of these studies were flawed and needed to separate parameters like open-access and actual electronic access (web access).
N.G.- So what was the result? Did citation rates increase with open-access?
Dr.O.- Well, interestingly, in the developing world, where there are less resources available to purchase expensive site licenses, open-access articles were cited at a much higher rate.
N.G.- Well, if they did not have access to other pay-access articles, this result would be expected right? I mean, you couldn’t expect researchers in developing countries to cite papers that they haven’t read, could you?
Dr.O.- Of course not. I just think that it was important to confirm that scientists tend to cite articles that they read. And if they can’t get access to them, they can’t read them, and thus won’t cite them. In fact, to take this a step further, a second conclusion revealed by the data was that in the poorest countries where Internet access is hard to come by, this open-access advantage in citation rate breaks down. So if a researcher can’t read any papers, s/he cites open-access and pay-access papers equivalently.
N.G.- Uh, don’t you mean that in those poorest countries, they just don’t cite much at all because the publication rate is so low?
Dr.O.- No, I’m saying that there is an equivalent citation rate. Even if both rates are dangerously close to zero. Remarkable!
N.G.- Right. So the take-home messages here are: open-access citation advantages are greater in countries that rely more heavily on open-access articles, thus open-access publication is meeting one of its goals to disseminate scientific research to those who have fewer resources [ed. note- all kidding aside, this is a very good thing] and that countries that do little research and lack Internet access cite very few papers, eliminating this citation advantage.
Dr.O.- Precisely!! I think there’s hope for you yet. Good show ole’ boy!! Wait till my next study…
Evans, J., & Reimer, J. (2009). Open Access and Global Participation in Science Science, 323 (5917), 1025-1025 DOI: 10.1126/science.1154562