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Citation Impact of Open Access Articles

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Choosing a journal to submit a paper to can be tiresome because there are many criteria to consider to get a good distribution within the research community. Of course, the field of study plays an important role, and the better the reputation of the journal, the more a research gains attention. Another key player is access. Journals can be divided into closed, open, or hybrid, based on their accessibility to readers.

Open Access (OA) is when publications are freely available online with no cost and limited restrictions in reusing the article. In Gold OA, the author holds the copyright and the article is freely accessible immediately after publication. In Green OA, however, the copyrights are held by the publisher or the funder and only when the author places a copy of the manuscript in a repository is it freely available. Here, the restrictions for reuse are greater. In both cases, the article processing charges are to be paid by the authors, but often, it is sponsored by funders, institutions, or in rare cases, by the journal itself. Lowering the APC for OA has been found to encourage authors to choose OA, indicating their preference. Hybrid journals that publish both open access and closed access articles combine subscription and sponsorships. Preprints and post-prints also come under OA.

Bibliometrics is a specialized and complex field of study that measures an author’s influence or impact, and citation analysis is a part of it. OA journals have been studied for a long time to assess the impact factor when it is freely available to all. Knowing the impact factor is significant in applying for funds, for career growth, and in knowing the article’s reach. How many times an article has been cited is a casual representation of its impact and validation by peers. OA helps the article reach a wider audience, as it is just a click away. OA papers are given priority in search engines, and URLs are provided above restricted papers. Online access improves readership and citation impacts, as many researchers heavily rely on online journals and articles. The more a paper is downloaded, the more likely it is to be cited. As research and publishing continue to shift online, readers are growing increasingly reluctant to use information that presents any barriers to access.

Given all the advantages, this leads to citation bias among authors where authors use only OA journals. Prominent authors usually prefer OA for papers that carry significance, and also they are more likely to be cited even without OA. Papers by these authors do not have an OA advantage, as the author’s reputation itself attracts citations. This affects the study of citation impact due to OA. Preprints often serve as substitutes for closed access papers, even though they still cite the published version. Early-view articles might show an increase in the citation, which cannot be attributed to OA. Self-citation is a criterion that needs to be excluded when calculating the impact factor.

Excluding all other factors to study the impact of open access alone is an impossible feat. However, studies so far suggest a positive correlation between OA status and citation impact. It is interpreted as causal due to the intuitive and sociological appeal. Research must be driven by information and not by how one can access it. If restricted accessibility is the cause of bias and narrowed research, open access must be accepted to break barriers and make information free for all.

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