The Open Repository Difference: ArXiv Yields Five-Fold Citation Advantage
Submitted by on Tue, 2009-07-21 10:55
A recent study by Anne Gentil-Beccot, Salvatore Mele, and Travis Brooks, “Citing and Reading Behaviours in High-Energy Physics: How a Community Stopped Worrying about Journals and Learned to Love Repositories” argues that physicists are well-served by depositing their papers in ArXiv early and often. ArXiv is owned, operated and funded by Cornell University. This analysis of key points made by Gentil-Beccot et al is from Stevan Harnad, University of Southampton:
“This is an important study, and most of its conclusions are valid:
(1) Making research papers open access (OA) dramatically increases their impact.
(2) The earlier that papers are made OA, the greater their impact.
(3) High Energy Physics (HEP) researchers were among the first to make their papers OA (since 1991, and they did it without needing to be mandated to do it!)
(4) Gold OA provides no further impact advantage over and above Green OA.
However, the following caveats need to be borne in mind, in interpreting this paper:
(a) HEP researchers have indeed been providing OA since 1991, unmandated (and computer scientists have been doing so since even earlier). But in the ensuing years, the only other discipline that has followed suit, unmandated, has been economics, despite the repeated demonstration of the Green OA impact advantage across all disciplines. So whereas still further evidence (as in this paper by Gentil-Beccot et al) confirming that OA increases impact is always very welcome, that evidence will not be sufficient to induce enough researchers to provide OA; only mandates from their institutions and funders can ensure that they do so.
(b) From the fact that when there is a Green OA version available, users prefer to consult that Green OA version rather than the journal version, it definitely does not follow that journals are no longer necessary. Journals are (and always were) essentially peer-review service-providers and cerifiers, and they still are. That essential function is indispensable. HEP researchers continue to submit their papers to peer-reviewed journals, as they always did; and they deposit both their unrefereed preprints and then their refereed postprints in arxiv (along with the journal reference). None of that has changed one bit.
(c) Although it has not been systematically demonstrated, it is likely that in fields like HEP and astrophysics, the journal affordability/accessibility problem is not as great as in many other fields. OA’s most important function is to provide immediate access to those who cannot afford access to the journal version. Hence the Early Access impact advantage in HEP — arising from making preprints OA well before the published version is available — translates, in the case of most other fields, into the OA impact advantage itself, because without OA many potential users simply do not have access even after publication, hence cannot make any contribution to the article’s impact.
(d) Almost no one has ever argued (let alone adduced evidence) that Gold OA provides a greater OA advantage than Green OA. The OA advantage is the OA advantage, whether Green or Gold. (It just happens to be easier and more rigorous to test and demonstrate the OA advantage through within-journal comparisons [i.e Green vs. non-Green articles] than between-journal comparisons [Gold vs. non-Gold journals].)”
EXCERPTS: from Gentil-Beccot et al:
ABSTRACT: Contemporary scholarly discourse follows many alternative routes in addition to the three-century old tradition of publication in peer-reviewed journals. The field of High- Energy Physics (HEP) has explored alternative communication strategies for decades, initially via the mass mailing of paper copies of preliminary manuscripts, then via the inception of the first online repositories and digital libraries.
This field is uniquely placed to answer recurrent questions raised by the current trends in scholarly communication: is there an advantage for scientists to make their work available through repositories, often in preliminary form? Is there an advantage to publishing in Open Access journals? Do scientists still read journals or do they use digital repositories?
The analysis of citation data demonstrates that free and immediate online dissemination of preprints creates an immense citation advantage in HEP, whereas publication in Open Access journals presents no discernible advantage. In addition, the analysis of clickstreams in the leading digital library of the field shows that HEP scientists seldom read journals, preferring preprints instead….
…arXiv was first based on e-mail and then on the web, becoming the first repository and the first “green” Open Access5 platform… With the term “green” Open Access we denote the free online availability of scholarly publications in a repository. In the case of HEP, the submission to these repositories, typically arXiv, is not mandated by universities or funding agencies, but is a free choice of authors seeking peer recognition and visibility… The results of an analysis of SPIRES data on the citation behaviour of HEP scientists is presented… demonstrat[e] the “green” Open Access advantage in HEP… With the term “gold” Open Access we denote the free online availability of a scholarly publication on the web site of a scientific journals…. There is no discernable citation advantage added by publishing articles in “gold” Open Access journals…
Scholarly communication is at a cross road of new technologies and publishing models. The analysis of almost two decades of use of preprints and repositories in the HEP community provides unique evidence to inform the Open Access debate, through four main findings:
1. Submission of articles to an Open Access subject repository, arXiv, yields a citation advantage of a factor five.
2. The citation advantage of articles appearing in a repository is connected to their dissemination prior to publication, 20% of citations of HEP articles over a two-year period occur before publication.
3. There is no discernable citation advantage added by publishing articles in “gold” Open Access journals.
4. HEP scientists are between four and eight times more likely to download an article in its preprint form from arXiv rather than its final published version on a journal web site.
Taken together these findings lead to three general conclusions about scholarly communication in HEP, as a discipline that has long embraced green Open Access:
1. There is an immense advantage for individual authors, and for the discipline as a whole, in free and immediate circulation of ideas, resulting in a faster scientific discourse.
2. The advantages of Open Access in HEP come without mandates and without debates. Universal adoption of Open Access follows from the immediate benefits for authors.
3. Peer-reviewed journals have lost their role as a means of scientific discourse, which has effectively moved to the discipline repository.
HEP has charted the way for a possible future in scholarly communication to the full benefit of scientists, away from over three centuries of tradition centred on scientific journals. However, HEP peer-reviewed journals play an indispensable role, providing independent accreditation, which is necessary in this field as in the entire, global, academic community. The next challenge for scholarly communication in HEP, and for other disciplines embracing Open Access, will be to address this novel conundrum. Efforts in this direction have already started, with initiatives such as SCOAP3…
Citing and Reading Behaviours in High-Energy Physics: How a Community Stopped Worrying about Journals and Learned to Love Repositories: http://arxiv.org/pdf/0906.5418.pdf
More about the paper:
Digital Koans: http://digital-scholarship.org/digitalkoans/2009/07/01/citing-and-reading-behaviours-in-high-energy-physics-how-a-community-stopped-worrying-about-journals-and-learned-to-love-repositories/