Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, January 12, 2009

Appeal of OA journals about the same in the North and the South

Tove Faber Frandsen, Attracted to open access journals: a bibliometric author analysis in the field of biology, Journal of Documentation, January 2009.  (The DOI-based URL doesn't work for me at the  moment.) 

Purpose Scholars from developing countries have limited access to research publications due to expensive subscription costs. However, the open access movement is challenging the constraint to access. Consequently, researchers in developing countries are often mentioned as major recipients of the benefits when advocating open access (OA). One of the implications of that argument is that authors from developing countries are more likely to perceive open access positively than authors from developed countries. The present study aims to investigate the use of open access by researchers from developing countries and is thus a supplement to the existing author surveys and interviews.

Design/methodology/approach Bibliometric analyses of both publishing behaviour and citing behaviour in relation to OA publishing provides evidence of the impact of open access on developing countries.

Findings The results of the multivariate linear regression show that open access journals are not characterised by a different composition of authors from the traditional toll access journals. Furthermore, the results show that authors from developing countries do not cite open access more than authors from developed countries.

Originality/value The paper argues that authors from developing countries are not attracted to open access more than authors from developed countries.

Only this abstract is free online from the journal site, but also see the self-archived preprint.

Update (1/14/09).  See Phil Davis' comments on Frandsen's article and the comments of Stevan Harnad and Leslie Chan on Davis' comments.

From Davis:

...The fact that authors in developing nations cite as many subscription-based articles as their counterparts in developed nations questions the notion of a crisis of access to scientific information....

From Chan:

  1. From our perspective, OA is as much about the flow of knowledge from the South to the North as much as the traditional concern with access to literature from the North. So the question to ask is whether with OA, authors from the North are starting to cite authors from the South. This is a study we are planning....
  2. The more critical issue regarding OA and developing country scientists is that most of those who publish in "international" journals cannot access their own publications. This is where open repositories are crucial, to provide access to research from the South that is otherwise inaccessible.
  3. The Frandsen study focuses on biology journals and I am not sure what percentage of them are available to DC researchers through HINARI/AGORA. This would explain why researchers in this area would not need to rely on OA materials as much. But HINARI etc. are not OA programs....
  4. Norris et. al's (2008) "Open access citation rates and developing countries" focuses instead on Mathematics, a field not covered by HINARI and they conclude that "the majority of citations were given by Americans to Americans, but the admittedly small number of citations from authors in developing countries do seem to show a higher proportion of citations given to OA articles than is the case for citations from developed countries...."
  5. ...Davis's eagerness to pronounce that there is "No Benefit for Poor Scientists" based on one study is highly premature.
    If there should be a study showing that people in developing countries prefer imported bottled water over local drinking water, should efforts to ensure clean water supplies locally be questioned?

Update (1/15/09).  Also see Tove Faber Frandsen's comment on Davis' post.  Excerpt:

...I would like to stress that this article do not try to assess the benefits of OA for developing countries. The conclusion of the study is not that open access is of no benefit to developing countries. From the conclusion:

[B]ased on this study author behaviour in terms of OA publishing and citing cannot be distinguished on the basis of the author(s) being located in developed or developing country. However, OA journals can be characterised by attracting a certain group of authors as the results show that although authors from developing and developed countries do not differ in terms of citing OA journals, publications by both authors from developed and developing countries differ from the two former groups.

I would not recommend drawing the conclusion that OA is no benefit for developing countries on the basis of the present study. The analyses are based on publication and citation counts, and we should be careful not to confuse citation rates with usage....

Finally, I would like to say that I look forward to continuing these discussions in the primary literature where we also need to document the differences of opinion.