The apparent OA citation advantage

From: John Smith <J.W.T.Smith_at_KENT.AC.UK>
Date: Sun, 20 May 2007 19:15:35 +0100

I wonder if we can we come at this discussion concerning the impact of OA on citation counts from another angle?

Assuming we have a traditional academic article of interest to only a few specialists there is a simple upper bound to the number of citations it will have no matter how accessible it is. Also, the majority of specialist academics work in educational institutions where they have access to a wide range of paid for sources for their subject.

Therefore any additional citations must mainly come from academics in smaller institutions that do not provide access to all relevant titles for their subject and/or institutions in the poorer countries of the world.

Should it not be possible therefore to examine the citers to these OA articles where increased citation is claimed and show they include academics in smaller institutions or from poorer parts of the world?

However, even if this were done and positive results found there is still another possible explanation. Items published in both paid for and free form are indexed in additional indexing services including free services like OAIster and CiteSeer. So it may be that it is not the availability per se that increases citation but the findability? Those who would have had access anyway have an improved chance of finding the article. Do we have proof that the additional citers accessed the OA version (assuming there is both an OA and paid for version)?

It is possible that my queries above have already been answered. If so a reference to the work will suffice as a response.

I am a supporter of OA but also concerned that it is not falsely praised. If it is praised for some advantage and that advantage turns out not to be there it will weaken the position of OA proponents.

Even if the apparent citation advantage of OA turns out to be false it does not weaken the real advantages of OA. We should not be drawn into a time and effort wasting defence of it while there is other work to be done to promote OA.

John Smith,
The Templeman Library,
University of Kent, UK.
Received on Sun May 20 2007 - 23:25:19 BST

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