OA advantage = EA + (AA) + (QB) + QA + (CA) + UA

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 15 Sep 2005 23:23:19 +0100

    Prior AmSci Topic Thread:
    OA advantage = EA + AA + QB + OA + UA

Ian Rowlands's observations, below, are spot-on. He is exactly right that
the OA impact advantage (currently 50-250%) will shrink as we approach
100% OA. Right now we are at 15% OA, and the advantage is in part --
no one can say how large a part -- a *competitive* advantage of the minority
15% OA -- the head-start vanguard -- over the laggard 85% non-OA majority.

That makes it partly a race; and clearly, the race is to the swift and
the battle to the strong. The competitive advantage is *more* reason for an
individual, institution or nation (like the UK) to self-archive right now
(as the RCUK will, we hope, soon be doing).


The OA impact advantage consists of at least the following 6 factors,
three of them (2,3,5) temporary, three of them permanent (*1,4,6*):

    1. *EA*: EARLY ADVANTAGE, beginning already at the pre-refereeing
    preprint stage. Research that is reported earlier not only gets its
    quota of citations sooner, but the quota goes up, permanently. This
    is probably because earlier uptake and usage has a greater cumulative
    effect on the research cycle.

    2. (AA): (ARXIV ADVANTAGE) the special advantage of self-archiving
    specifically in Arxiv for physicists, because it is a central
    point of call: OAI-interoperable Institutional Repositories will
    supersede this, I am certain, and it will make zero difference which
    OAI-compliant IR one deposits in.

    3. (QB): (QUALITY BIAS) from self-selection; this does not play a
    causal role: The higher-quality articles/authors are somewhat more
    likely to self-archive in these early (15%) days of self-archiving:
    this too will disappear as self-archiving approaches 100%, of course).

    4. *QA*: QUALITY ADVANTAGE, allowing the high-quality articles to
    compete on a level playing field, freed of any handicaps from access
    affordability. A permanent effect.

    5. (CA): COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE, for self-archived papers over
    non-self-archived ones, in early (15%) days; this advantage will
    disappear once self-archiving nears 100%, of course, but it is an
    optimal extra motivator right now, for the low %-self-archiving

    6. *UA*: USAGE ADVANTAGE: More downloads of OA articles. This too
    is a permanent effect. (There is also a sizeable correlation between
    early download counts and later citation counts.)

Of these effects, only EA, QA, and UA remain operative in the few fields
that are already close to 100% OA, such as astrophysics and High Energy
But in all other fields, we are concerned with getting the 15% to
climb to 100%, and there the CA matters a great deal too.

So I basically agree with Ian Rowlands's comment, and have only two small
replies to add below:

On Thu, 15 Sep 2005 ir_at_soi.city.ac.uk wrote:

> The flow of your logic is that open access increases the chances of an article
> being downloaded and read, and hence a greater probability that it will be
> cited, all things being equal. That's fine as a point of departure.
> If I am the first author to publish an open access article in an almost wholly
> toll access environment, I can see that I would have an enormous comparative
> advantage over the rest of my colleagues and might well expect to accrue
> additional citations. Similarly the first research group or even nation to see
> the light would have a great advantage.
> If, however, I am the one millionth author (or the 10,000th research group or
> the 100th nation) to publish open access, that comparative advantage must
> quickly decline, approaching zero as the last few laggards pile in: there would
> be a completely level playing field. This is not an argument against open
> access but it is a logical consequence of the mass migration to that particular
> form of publishing in terms of citation advantage.

Exactly: The race is to the swift and the battle to the strong. And if
the RCUK adopts its proposed mandate, this will give the UK a substantial
competitive advantage. Once other nations follow suit (as it is to be
hoped that they will do), the competitive advantage will shrink, but the
the Early Advantage, Quality Advantage and Usage Advantage will remain,
and all of research worldwide will be the better off for it.

(Note that in using the most conservative end of the observed 50-250%
OA advantage, I systematically underestimated the size of the advantage.)

> Meanwhile, the measurement tools (and I'm thinking here specifically of ISI as
> an example) remain constant. The only way for us all to get higher citation
> counts within this frame of reference is EITHER for ISI to expand its coverage
> to include more sources OR for ISI-indexed journal editors to reject fewer
> papers or for authors to compile longer reference lists. I can't see the latter
> happening.

ISI will almost certainly expand. But there are other players on the field
now too, including free citation engines, such as citebase, citeseer
and google scholar, and paid ones, such as scopus. So there are plenty
of new ways to measure, credit and compare the increased citations that
come from OA:


> If open access became near universal, all that would happen within the current
> measurement regime is that we'd still all get the same number of citations,
> they'd just be from open access rather than tolled sources. The logic of your
> press release is fine, it's just there's an imminent sell by date before the
> magic works off.

The Competitive Advantage would be gone, but the Early Advantage,
Quality Advantage and Usage Advantage would be going strong. Michael
Kurtz has shown that although articles in a 100% OA field (astrophysics)
do not have longer reference lists, hence do not cite more articles,
they do have three times higher usage rates (UA).


And of course the composition of the references can now be determined by
the merit and quality of the article (QA), not just the affordability
of the journal in which it happened to be published. And whereas the
competitive horse-race (for who self-archives to gain the CA first)
will be over, the cognitive horse-race (for who finds what earlier: EA)
will continue to favour the swift and the strong.

It is fair to say, though, that if the annual 1.5 billion pounds-pounds
worth of potential impact that the UK is currently losing because it only
self-archives 15% of its research output will shrink as other nations'
self-archiving policies catch up. How much it shrinks will then depend
on the true merit of British research and not just the UK's head-start
in self-archiving.

Stevan Harnad

> > From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
> > Subject: Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment in Research
> >
> > Press Release: http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/news/792
> > Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment in Research
> > Full text: http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/28-guid.html
Received on Thu Sep 15 2005 - 23:57:15 BST

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