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Open access: more signs of its impact on citations

My colleagues and I read with interest your news item 'Open-access research makes a bigger splash'. This is welcome research, and confirms what is being found by a growing number of similar studies carried out since 2001 (see http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation-biblio.html).

It will be of interest to your readers that statistics now available for journals published in developing countries are showing a similar marked increase in usage following conversion to open-access.

For example, the journals distributed by the Brazil/Canada service Bioline International show a remarkable increase in full text paper downloads, rising from an average of about 2,500 per month in 2004 to an average of 200,000 per month since the journals were made freely accessible by compliance with the Open Archives Metadata Harvesting Protocol in January 2005.

The journals are from 16 developing countries — Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal, Turkey, Uganda and Venezuela (a full list of journals is here http://www.bioline.org.br/journals) — and the service is provided free of charge to authors, institutions and countries.

It seems certain that the recovery of full papers will have a direct impact on the citation index as more data become available.

Similarly the distribution service MedKnow (see http://www.medknow.com), which manages biomedical journals in India has found that as a result of converting to open access, paper access rates have risen dramatically. The number of submissions has also grown, with an increasing number from non-Indian authors. The projected citation index has increased almost four-fold and, more importantly, the journals have been able to provide free access without charging authors or losing revenue from print subscriptions.

Although these statistics are not a comparison between the same papers available through either open- or non-open access, as in the study SciDev.Net reported on, it is certainly clear that open access is creating a remarkable and hugely encouraging growth in the use of research publications from developing countries.

Further monitoring will continue and no doubt the pattern of usage, both geographically and by discipline, will emerge as the open access model becomes common practice.

We can provide more detailed statistical information for your readers if requested.

Barbara Kirsop, Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, United Kingdom.
Subbiah Arunachalam, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, India.
Vanderlei Canhos, Bioline International, Campinas, Brazil.
Leslie Chan, Bioline International, Toronto, Canada.
D K Sahu, MedKnow, Mumbai, India.