Here’s another important reason why academics should publish in open access titles: self interest

Open access has been discussed many times here on Walled Culture. There are several strands to its story. It’s about allowing the public to access research they have paid for through tax-funded grants, without needing to take out often expensive subscriptions to academic titles. It’s about saving educational institutions money that they are currently spending on over-priced academic journals, and which could be better spent elsewhere. It’s about helping to spread knowledge without the friction that traditional publishing introduces, ideally moving to licences that allow academic research papers to be distributed freely and without restrictions.

But there’s another aspect that receives less attention, revealed here by a new paper that looks at how open access articles are used in a particular and important context – that of Wikipedia. There is a natural synergy between the two, which both aim to make access to knowledge easier. The paper seeks to quantify that:

we analyze a large dataset of citations from Wikipedia and model the role of open access in Wikipedia’s citation patterns. We find that open-access articles are extensively and increasingly more cited in Wikipedia. What is more, they show a 15% higher likelihood of being cited in Wikipedia when compared to closed-access articles, after controlling for confounding factors. This open-access citation effect is particularly strong for articles with low citation counts, including recently published ones. Our results show that open access plays a key role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge, including by providing Wikipedia editors timely access to novel results. These findings have important implications for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the field of information science and technology.

What this means in practice is that for the general public open access articles are even more beneficial than those published in traditional titles, since they frequently turn up as Wikipedia sources that can be consulted directly. They are also advantageous for the researchers who write them, since their work is more likely to be cited on the widely-read and influential Wikipedia than if the papers were not open access. As the research notes, this effect is even more pronounced for “articles with low citation counts” – basically, academic work that may be important but is rather obscure. This new paper provides yet another compelling reason why researchers should be publishing their work as open access as a matter of course: out of pure self interest.

Feature image by Wikipedia.

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