Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More on increased visibility and increased citation counts

J. P. Dietrich, Disentangling Visibility and Self-Promotion Bias in the arXiv:astro-ph Positional Citation Effect, a preprint self-archived on June 25, 2008.  (Thanks to Stevan Harnad.)

Abstract:   We established in an earlier study that articles listed at or near the top of the daily arXiv:astro-ph mailings receive on average significantly more citations than articles further down the list. In our earlier work we were not able to decide whether this positional citation effect was due to author self-promotion of intrinsically more citable papers or whether papers are cited more often simply because they are at the top of the astro-ph listing. Using new data we can now disentangle both effects. Based on their submission times we separate articles into a self-promoted sample and a sample of articles that achieved a high rank on astro-ph by chance and compare their citation distributions with those of articles on lower astro-ph positions. We find that the positional citation effect is a superposition of self-promotion and visibility bias.

PS:  Also see my 2005 article, Visibility beyond open access.

Update.  Also see Stevan Harnad's comment:

This interesting paper...[appears] in the physics Arxiv (astrophysics sector), where virtually all current articles in astrophysics are OA in preprint form (with no postprint OA problem in astrophysics either)....

The authors rightly point out that in a high-output field like astrophysics, visibility is an important factor in usage and citations, and authors need alerting and navigation aids based on importance, relevance and quality, rather than on random timing and author self-promotion biasses.

I would add that in fields -- whether high- or low-output -- that, unlike astrophysics, are not yet OA, accessibility itself probably has much the same sort of effect on citations that visibility does in an OA field like astrophysics. (Even maximized visibility cannot make articles accessible to those who cannot afford access to the full-text.)