Open access, readership, citations: a randomized controlled trial of scientific journal publishing

Philip Davis pmd8 at CORNELL.EDU
Wed Mar 30 14:53:39 EDT 2011

In answering the question of whether free access to the scientific literature increases the diffusion of knowledge, I think the answer is apparent: "Yes" if one looks at readership, but "No" if one looks at citations. I see the world as a more complicated and nuanced place than through the lens of advocacy.

-Phil Davis

On Mar 30, 2011, at 2:30 PM, Cristóbal Palmer wrote:

> Adminstrative info for SIGMETRICS (for example unsubscribe):
> On Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 1:54 PM, Philip Davis <pmd8 at> wrote:
>> The concept of information diffusion is abstract so one must employ proxies to measure it. Prior studies focus almost entirely on citations, which measures a very narrow form of diffusion --incorporation by a scientific researcher in a published document. We extend our measurements to include article downloads (abstract, fulltext and pdf) as well as visitors (as measured by unique IP addresses). You will find a more complete discussion of this in our article.
> I like the extended measurements and the discussion, and I think I did
> understand your operationalization on the first read, but I'm still
> confused as to your answer to your own question. Is it:
> a) No, diffusion (as it has historically been operationalized) does
> not increase, but there are nice side effects (eg. practitioners
> reading/linking literature), or
> b) Yes, diffusion does increase, but by diffusion we mean something
> different than others have meant in the past (eg. practitioners
> reading/linking literature).
> I think the answer does not matter in terms of facts in the world
> (they are the same answer), but it does matter in terms of advocacy
> for a position for or against more use of open access by scholars and
> their host institutions, and I'm more interested in your rationale for
> or against than I am a restatement of what's in the paper that I've
> read 1.5 times now.
> I wouldn't be interested in the answer had you not framed the question
> the way you did. Your phrasing is highly loaded, such that a "no"
> answer discounts the value of open access. No judgement from me on
> that; I just want to understand where you're coming from and why.
> Cheers,
> -- 
> Cristóbal M. Palmer
> systems
> UNC Chapel Hill

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