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Review
, 99 (3), 208-17

The Impact of Free Access to the Scientific Literature: A Review of Recent Research

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Review

The Impact of Free Access to the Scientific Literature: A Review of Recent Research

Philip M Davis et al. J Med Libr Assoc.

Abstract

Objectives: The paper reviews recent studies that evaluate the impact of free access (open access) on the behavior of scientists as authors, readers, and citers in developed and developing nations. It also examines the extent to which the biomedical literature is used by the general public.

Method: The paper is a critical review of the literature, with systematic description of key studies.

Results: Researchers report that their access to the scientific literature is generally good and improving. For authors, the access status of a journal is not an important consideration when deciding where to publish. There is clear evidence that free access increases the number of article downloads, although its impact on article citations is not clear. Recent studies indicate that large citation advantages are simply artifacts of the failure to adequately control for confounding variables. The effect of free access on the general public's use of the primary medical literature has not been thoroughly evaluated.

Conclusions: Recent studies provide little evidence to support the idea that there is a crisis in access to the scholarly literature. Further research is needed to investigate whether free access is making a difference in non-research contexts and to better understand the dissemination of scientific literature through peer-to-peer networks and other informal mechanisms.

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