Open access papers ‘gain more traffic and citations’

Open access science articles are read and cited more often than articles available only to subscribers, a study has suggested.

July 30, 2014

The Research Information Network analysed the web traffic to more than 700 articles published in hybrid science journal Nature Communications in the first six months of 2013.

It found that, after 180 days, articles whose authors had paid for them to be made open access had been viewed more than twice as often as those articles accessible only to the journal’s subscribers.

A further analysis of more than 2,000 papers published in Nature Communications between April 2010 and June 2013 revealed that open access articles were cited a median of 11 times, compared with a median of seven citations for subscription-only articles. The paper concludes that open access papers enjoy a “small” citation advantage in all disciplines except chemistry.

Research Information Network executive director Michael Jubb said the study added to “the growing body of literature showing that open access is good for article citations and, especially, online visibility”.

“We weren’t able to control for all the factors that might affect views and citations, such as whether articles had been posted in one or more repositories or the numbers and locations of authors, but we’re confident that the analysis shows that open access has positive effects for both authors and readers.”

Sam Burridge, managing director for open research at Nature Publishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan, said: “In the ongoing discussion over whether open research contributes to increased article usage and citations, we have a good test case in Nature Communications – a born-hybrid journal providing a large sample size, where all articles are high-quality, original research and receive similar standards of service, regardless of whether or not they’re open access. We realise this doesn’t definitively answer the question…but we think this contribution adds to the debate.”

Nearly 38 per cent of the articles Nature Communications published from its launch in 2010 until the middle of 2013 have been open access. The highest proportion (41 per cent) was in biological sciences and the lowest (30 per cent) in chemistry. However, the proportion of open access papers in the biological sciences fell from 59 per cent in 2010 to 34 per cent in the first half of 2013.

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Reader's comments (3)

For those interested, the report can be found here: and the data is on Figshare here: Amy Bourke Nature Publishing Group/Palgrave Macmillan
NO NEED TO PAY FOR OPEN ACCESS TO INCREASE TRAFFIC AND CITATIONS Same old story, year in, year out. We've known for over a decade that Open Access (OA) increases downloads and citations: We've also known that there's no need to pay to publish in OA journals ("Gold OA") for those increased downloads and citations. Researchers can publish in any journal at all and deposit their final draft in their institutional OA Repository as soon as it is accepted for publication (“Green OA”) — as now required by HEFCE/REF: Gargouri, Y., Hajjem, C., Lariviere, V., Gingras, Y., Brody, T., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2010) Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research. PLOS ONE 5 (10) e13636 Houghton, J. & Swan, A. (2013) Planting the Green Seeds for a Golden Harvest: Comments and Clarifications on "Going for Gold". D-Lib Magazine 19 (1/2)
Why can't news-writers always include source citations (especially when they are Open Access) in their articles? Thanks Amy. Stevan, I agree that article can be freely posted on repositories to increase readership. I do so, both in ResearchGate and my university's repository (Lirias). I can provide one case study. I have a non-OA paper published by Taylor&Francis (who tracks and publishes download figures) that has been downloaded 141 times since publication (Sept 2012). The 'Green OA' version have been downloaded 27 from ResearchGate and 42 from Lirias. That's a 49% increase in readership. It would be interesting to perform a study on a random sample of subscription papers with Green OA copies to see how much more readership is obtained by Green OA. Of course, some of the people who downloaded a Green OA copy might also have had subscription access but did not made use of it due to the convenience of finding a pdf copy for free on a Google search, so the data can be a bit bias, but insightful nonetheless.

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