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Fee-Based Journals Get Better Results, Study in Fee-Based Journal Reports

February 23, 2009

Research scientists with egalitarian tendencies toward publication may want to think twice if they also hope to make tenure. A study by a pair of investigators at the University of Chicago has concluded that researchers may find a wider audience if they make their findings available through a fee-based Web site rather than make their work freely available on the Internet.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science, say that when a research article is offered online after being in print for one year, the use of an open-source format increases citations to the article by 8 percent. But when a paid-subscription format is used to distribute a year-old print article, the citations increase by 12 percent.

The exception, said the study’s authors, James A. Evans and Jacob Reimer, is the developing world, where researchers were far more likely to read and cite open-source articles. Mr. Evans and Mr. Reimer based their findings on data from more than 26 million articles in more than 8,000 scientific journals dating back to 1945.

“Open access does have a positive impact on the attention that’s given to the journal articles,” Mr. Evans said, “but it’s a small impact.”

Science, which published the findings, charges $142 for an annual subscription. —Paul Basken