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News from the open access movement

Friday, July 04, 2008

Effect of online access on researcher behavior

Arthur Eger, Database statistics applied to investigate the effects of electronic information services on publication of academic research – a comparative study covering Austria, Germany and Switzerland, GMS Medizin - Bibliothek - Information, June 26, 2008.  (Thanks to MedInfo.)

Abstract:   In this study, estimations of the effects of electronic information services on academic research as made in 2004, are confronted with the actual situation. For this purpose database statistics on session length per user session, the role of “Referrers” and number of Full Text Articles requested per user session are analysed. The effect of a larger content offering is studied by analysing the relationship between subscribed titles and Full Text Articles requested. Finally a possible relationship between R&D spend, subscription spend and article publication is sought. This study found that time spent on Browse/scan and Search is increasing, possibly caused by a broader penetration amongst less trained users. This study further clearly showed that a larger content offering coincides with a dramatic increase in Full Text Article requests, and an increase in Full Text Article requests, after about 2 years, coincides with increased article publication.

From the body of the paper:

This study further clearly showed...that the contribution of Back File material to the total number of Full Text Article requests is modest.

Comment.  I see two implications for OA:

  1. When users have more online content accessible to them (whether OA or pre-paid by their institution), they click through for full-text "dramatically" more often, showing a rough correlation between breadth of access and research productivity and depth.
  2. Demand for older articles is "modest" compared to demand for new ones, showing that publishers do not need lengthy embargo periods before releasing their backfiles to OA.  Eger's data don't show how short an embargo period period could be for a given journal.  But in estimating the shortest viable length for an embargo, remember that we're not looking for the moment when the demand reduces to zero, but for the moment when the benefits to the journal from offering OA to the backfile (visibility, usage, and citation impact) outweigh the loss of income from access fees.