Re: On Self-Selection Bias In Publisher Anti-Open-Access Lobbying

From: Pippa Smart <pippa.smart_at_GOOGLEMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2009 18:15:53 +0000

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Citation and impact are not easy to quantify as different studies
have shown and therefore should not form the basis for arguing in
favour of open access. Intuitively if an article is made open access
then it will have higher visibility and gain greater citation - but
this is not necessarily true. Studies have shown variable citation
behaviour in which the access of an article appears to have no
bearing. For example higher citation of the same article within
different (higher "Impact Factor") journals (Vincent Larivière and
Yves Gingras on, and the
"cluster-effect" of citations whereby authors follow citation trails
laid by papers that they read resulting in a reduction in the number
of articles being cited (James Evans in Science, 18 July 2008). I
guess (as with all statistics) it is quite possible to find a study
that supports one's point of view.

I agree with Ian Russell that accusing publishers of "intensive
lobbying" is inflammatory since both sides have formed lobbying
bodies. Many publishers (commercial or not) are offering authors the
opportunity to publish OA within their journals. The current problem
is that someone has to pay for the operation of scholarly
communication, and there is no simplistic answer that will provide an
overarching solution for all disciplines in all parts of the world -
as much as both publishers and other lobbyists would like there to

(And to pre-empt the response that repositories would provide the
answer, no, I don't they necessarily will for all disciplines and in
all institutions, partly because they do not provide the content
fiiltering and other valuable benefits that journals currently do,
and partly because of the additional time/effort/expenditure required
of libraries/institutions - some can easily meet the requirements,
whereas others may not.)


Pippa Smart
Research Communication and Publishing Consultant
PSP Consulting
3 Park Lane, Appleton, Oxon OX13 5JT, UK
Tel: +44 1865 864255
Mob: +44 7775 627688
Skype: pippasmart
Editor of the ALPSP-Alert ( and Reviews editor
of Learned Publishing (

2009/11/18 Stevan Harnad <>
      [hyperlinked version of this posting:

      Response to Comment by Ian Russell on Ann Mroz's 12
      November 2009
      editorial "Put all the results out in the open" in Times

      It's especially significant that Ian Russell -- CEO of
      the Association
      of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (which,
      make no mistake
      about it, includes all the big STM commercials too) --
      should be

      "It?s not 'lobbying from subscription publishers' that
      has stalled
      open access, it?s the realization that the simplistic
      arguments of the
      open access lobby don?t hold water in the real world...
      [with] open
      access lobbyists constantly referring to the same biased
      and dubious
      ?evidence? (much of it not in the peer reviewed

      Please stay tuned for more peer-reviewed evidence on
      this, but for now
      note only that the study Ian Russell selectively singles
      out as not
      biased or dubious -- the "first randomized trial" (Davis
      et al 2008),
      which found that "Open access [OA] articles were no more
      likely to be
      cited than subscription access articles in the first year
      publication? -- is the study that argued that in the host
      of other
      peer-reviewed studies that have kept finding OA articles
      to be more
      likely to be cited (the effect usually becoming
      significant not during but after the first year), the OA
      (according to Davis et al) is simply a result of a
      self-selection bias
      on the part of their authors: Authors selectively make
      their better
      (hence more citeable) articles OA.

      Russell selectively cites only this negative study, whose
      result is
      more congenial to the publishing lobby, and selectively
      ignores as
      "biased and dubious" all the positive (peer-reviewed)
      studies, as well
      as thecritique of the study in question (as being based
      on too short a
      time interval and too small a sample, not even
      replicating the effect
      it was attempting to demonstrate to be merely an artifact
      of a
      self-selection bias). Russell also selectively omits to
      mention that
      even the Davis et al study found an OA advantage for
      downloads within
      the first year -- with other peer-reviewed studies having
      found that a
      download advantage in the first year translates into a
      advantage in the second year (e.g., Brody et al 2006).

      But fair enough. We've now tested whether the
      self-selected OA
      advantage is reduced or eliminated when the OA is
      mandated rather than
      self-selective. The results will be announced as soon as
      they have
      gone through peer review. Meanwhile, place your bets...

      Brody, T., Harnad, S. and Carr, L. (2006) Earlier Web
      Usage Statistics
      as Predictors of Later Citation Impact. Journal of the
      Association for Information Science and
      Technology (JASIST) 57(8) pp.

      Davis, PN, Lewenstein, BV, Simon, DH, Booth, JG, &
      Connolly, MJL
      (2008) Open access publishing, article downloads, and
      randomised controlled trial British Medical Journal 337:

      Harnad, S. (2008) Davis et al's 1-year Study of
      Self-Selection Bias:
      No Self-Archiving Control, No OA Effect, No Conclusion.

      Hitchcock, S. (2009) The effect of open access and
      downloads ('hits')
      on citation impact: a bibliography of studies.
Received on Wed Nov 18 2009 - 18:30:35 GMT

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