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

Stevan Harnad amsciforum at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 16 23:09:06 EDT 2009

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

(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...
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