OA articles in Nature Communications attract more views and downloads

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Open-access (OA) articles in the journal Nature Communications attract three times as many views as those only available to subscribers, according to independent analysis.

The Research Information Network (RIN)'s statistical analysis of the articles published in Nature Communications also found that OA articles are cited more than subscription articles.

RIN analysed the web traffic to 722 articles published in the first six months of 2013 and found that OA articles were viewed three times as often as subscription articles in HTML format, and twice as often in PDF format.

Over the first 180 days after publication, subscription articles were viewed in HTML format an average (median) of 804 times, and the PDFs were downloaded an average of 399 times. In contrast, OA articles were viewed 2051 times on average, and downloaded an average of 904 times.

RIN analysed a larger dataset of 2008 papers that were published between April 2010 and June 2013 in order to assess the effect of OA on citations. Articles that were published OA had been cited a median of 11 times and articles published using the subscription model were cited a median of 7 times, a difference that was statistically significant. The only discipline not to show any citation benefit from OA publication was chemistry, note the analysts.

Sam Burridge, MD Open Research, Nature Publishing Group/Palgrave Macmillan commented: 'In the ongoing discussion over whether open research contributes to increased article usage and citations, we have a good test case in Nature Communications – a born-hybrid journal providing a large sample size, where all articles are high-quality, original research and receive similar standards of service, regardless of whether or not they’re open access.

'It’s clear to see that the effect of open research on citations impacts all levels of research positively. We realise that this doesn’t definitively answer the question of whether open access articles are viewed and cited more than subscription articles, but we think this contribution adds to the debate.'

Research Information Network executive director, Michael Jubb said: 'This study adds to the growing body of literature showing that open access is good for article citations and, especially, online visibility. We weren’t able to control for all the factors that might affect views and citations, such as whether articles had been posted in one or more repositories, or the numbers and locations of authors; but we’re confident that the analysis shows that open access has positive effects for both authors and readers.'

The full dataset, reproduced with permission from Web of Science, is available in Figshare. The report from RIN can be found here.