OA in High Energy Physics Arxiv Yields Five-Fold Citation Advantage

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2009 23:09:06 -0400

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Gentil-Beccot, Anne; Salvatore Mele, Travis Brooks (2009) Citing and
Reading Behaviours in High-Energy Physics: How a Community Stopped
Worrying about Journals and Learned to Love Repositories

      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].)

      Stevan Harnad

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...


7. Conclusions

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

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

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

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...
Received on Fri Jul 17 2009 - 04:19:22 BST

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