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University of Groningen LibraryOpen AccessPolicy UG on 'Green open access'

Go green: be cited

Go green: be cited
Go green: be cited

Papers published with green open access are visited and cited more often than publications accessible only to subscribers.

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There are quite a few studies on the asserted, expected or alleged citing advantages of (green) open access. The idea is that more visibility and wide availability of a publication will lead to more citations. Most supportive for the green OA citation advantage claim is a paper by Lars Kullman, concluding on the basis of monitoring his Chalmers University’s green open access publications that "self-archived articles have a 22% higher citation rate than articles that were not self-archived, and that the difference is statistically significant" [1].

A recent paper [2] focusing on the alleged head start of OA articles giving them a citation advantage (having a longer citation window) examined 3.3 million papers from 12,000 journals published between 2007 and 2009 and indexed in the Web of Science, with a citation window from 2007 until mid-2016. The data assessed in this study "strongly corroborate the hypothesis that, regardless of the reason why, open acces spapers have a citation advantage over papers that are not found to have an openly accessible version.

That said, there are strong data (based on a distribution comprising 17,453,126 papers) going against the hypothesis of an advantage accrued to an earlier availability of papers in open access." An article on [3] referred to an analysis by the UK-based Research Information Network of web traffic to more than 700 articles published in Nature Communications in the first six months of 2013. After 180 days, gold open access articles had been viewed more than twice as often as those articles only accessible to the journal’s subscribers. In a group of 2,000 articles published between April 2010 and June 2013, the OA articles on average also showed a substantial citation advantage over the ones that were only accessible through toll access. The advantage varies from one discipline to another, which is a pattern that repeatedly comes out from other studies as well. Many other papers seem to confirm that there is a citation advantage for publications that are open access.

SPARC Europe [4] lists 70 studies of which 46 found a citation advantage, while 23 did not find an advantage or were inconclusive. These studies cover many different ranges of years, disciplines, open access models and policies lying behind them, and they use many different methodologies. The idea that green open acces sarticles may be cited more leans on the assumption that amongst all those who potentially would refer to articles in peer reviewed articles themselves, a significant number would not be able to do so because they cannot access the article if it were only accessible via a subscription. One could argue against that assumption that there are "extremely high penetration rates of subscription journals offered by most publishers into the majority of research-intensive organizations globally" [5].

Another assumption is that "authors would fail to cite a relevant piece of previous research simply because their library did not have a subscription (and would not otherwise obtain a copy via inter-library loan, or request an offprint from the author(s) directly)" [6]. The major part of those who thanks to green open access alone get access to research publications (which otherwise would not have come to their notice) are probably working outside these research-intensive environments. This wider distribution may in itself be a good thing, but it is not where higher citation numbers may be expected to come from. This is the conclusion of a report on citation effects of open access in different fields. "Articles placed in the open access condition (n=712) received significantly more downloads and reached a broader audience within the first year, yet were cited no more frequently, nor earlier, than subscription-access control articles (n=2533) within 3 yr.

These results may be explained by social stratification, a process that concentrates scientific authors at a small number of elite research universities with excellent access to the scientific literature. The real beneficiaries of open access publishing may not be the research community but communities of practice that consume, but rarely contribute to, the corpus of literature." [7] So, there are studies that do measure a OA citation advantage, while others point out that the results of such trials are inconclusive or that find other effects, e.g. a wider distribution without being able to connect that to an effect on citation numbers.

More information

[1] Kullman, L. (2014): The Effect of Open Access on Citation Rates of Self-archived Articles at Chalmers, IATUL 2014 – 35th Annual Conference – Aalto University, Espoo, Finland 2- 5 June 2014.

[2] Archambault, Éric, Grégoire Côté, Brooke Struck, Matthieu Voorons (2016): Research impact of paywalled versus open access papers, oaNumbr, 1.

[3] Jump, Paul (2014): Open access papers ‘gain more traffic and citations

[4] SPARC Europe is an organization supported by academic libraries (among other the University of Groningen Library) and research institutions promoting and advocating more openness in European research through policy development, information gathering, guidance and tool development.

[5] Paper from the Impact-team at George Washington University

[6] Ibid.

[7] Philip M. Davis: Open access, readership, citations: a randomized controlled trial of scientific journal publishing, FASEB Journal, July 2011, 25:2129-2134.

Last modified:12 March 2018 1.53 p.m.
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