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.