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

From: Sally Morris <>
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 2009 12:51:53 +0100

I have a different take on this (though I haven't surveyed any of the
physicists involved to see if I'm right!)

It could be that the HE physicists (a) value journals too much to let them
be destroyed by green OA and (b) are convinced that, if they don't put an
alternative funding model in place, that is what will eventually happen


Sally Morris

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-----Original Message-----
From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
Sent: 18 July 2009 03:52
Subject: Re: OA in High Energy Physics Arxiv Yields Five-Fold Citation

On Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 3:07 PM, Dana Roth <>

> Given the results of this article and the very narrow scientific interest
in high
> energy physics articles, what is the point of SCOAP3 . other than to
> authors of any responsibility for the costs of maintaining the peer-review
> system, and to maintain the enormous disparity in subscription costs
> commercial and non-profit high energy physics journals?

Although I am not sure it is based on quite the same reasoning, Dana
Roth's conclusion is basically right. SCOAP3 is a non-sequitur:

HEP physicists virtually all self-archive, spontaneously, since 1991.
This Green OA has greatly enhanced both the speed and the impact of
their research. The obvious take-home message from this is that other
fields should do likewise (and since most evidently aren't doing it
spontaneously, their institutions and funders should mandate Green

But instead of working to spread Green OA to other fields of physics
and beyond, what is the HEP community doing? It is promoting a
pre-emptive Gold OA consortium, SCOAP3, that is neither needed by HEP
nor serves the interests of other fields. Moreover, SCOAP3 is almost
certainly neither scaleable nor unsustainable (being based on an
internally incoherent notion of annual collective prepayment to
multiple vendors). SCOAP3 is a somnambulistic non-sequitur, not to be

What is to be emulated is HEP's highly productive practice of
self-archiving, which is what has brought all the genuine benefits.
And since it is evident after 18 years that this emulation is not
going to happen spontaneously, it should be universally mandated by
institutions and funders, in the interests of research and researchers
in all fields, worldwide, so all may reap the genuine benefits of
Green OA, at long last, as HEP has been doing since 1991 (and computer
scientists since even earlier):

(In my own commentary on the Gentil-Beccot et al. (2009) article I
ignored SCOAP3 in order to keep the focus on the substantive part,
which is the demonstrated benefits of Green OA, rather than veering
off into voodoo economics. I note that with but a fleeting mention of
SCOAP3 at the very end of their article, Gentil-Beccot et al. avoided
this non-sequitur too.)

Stevan Harnad

> From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
Behalf Of Stevan Harnad
> Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 8:09 PM
> Subject: OA in High Energy Physics Arxiv Yields Five-Fold Citation
> Version with hyperlinks:
> 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
> (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
> 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 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...
Received on Mon Jul 20 2009 - 13:49:35 BST

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