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News Release 09-026

Open Access to Scientific Papers May Not Guarantee Wide Dissemination

New research challenges assumption that having research published in open access journals and other free sources leads to more exposure and citations

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a video screen with journals and old books displayed behind a lock and key.

Millions of research papers and other scholarly material are available on the internet, however, in many cases a person or library must pay to access them. In recent years, as the internet has helped lower the cost of publishing, more and more scientists have begun publishing their research in open source outlets on the internet. Since these publications are free to anyone with an internet connection, the belief has been that more interested readers will find them and potentially cite them. New research from James A. Evans and Jacob Reimer of the University of Chicago suggests that being in an open source publication does not necessarily increase the number of times a research paper is used by other researchers.

Credit: Jupiter Images


James Evans, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, discusses his research into the impact of open source publishing on disseminating scientific information. Evans and his partner Jacob Reimer, a student of neurobiology at the University of Chicago, examined millions of journal articles and other publications. They concluded that having a publication available online in an open source journal did increase the number of times it was read and cited, but having the publication available online in a commercial format increased its usage even more. These findings seemingly contradict previous research into open source publishing. Evans and Reimer did discover that open source publishing provides a vital source of information for researchers and scholars in the developing world who may not otherwise have access to this type of material. Their research appears in the February 20, 2009 edition of the journal Science.

Credit: National Science Foundation/AAAS


Cover of the February 20, 2009 edition of the journal Science.

The research into open source publications appears in the February 20, 2009, edition of the journal Science.

Credit: Copyright AAAS 2009

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