How Does Open Access Publication Impact Readership and Citation Rates of Lumbar Spine Literature?

Clin Spine Surg. 2022 Jul 1;35(6):E558-E565. doi: 10.1097/BSD.0000000000001303. Epub 2022 Mar 3.


Study design: This was a retrospective review.

Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the impact of open access (OA) publication on citation rates and attention scores of literature related to lumbar spine surgery.

Summary of background data: OA literature allows readers to view full-text manuscripts of research publications free of charge, however, OA publication is often associated with substantial fees for authors.

Methods: The Altmetric database was searched for articles related to lumbar spine surgery. Title, journal, publication date, Dimensions Citations, Mendeley Readers, Altmetric Attention Score (AAS), number of public mentions, and OA status were collected for each included article. The influence of OA status on Dimensions Citations, Mendeley Readers, and each individual component of the AAS was assessed. To control for journal influence, impact of OA on Dimensions Citations and AAS was separately assessed for each of the top 10 journals contributing the most mentioned articles. The top 25 most cited articles and top 25 articles by AAS were also characterized.

Results: A total of 5245 articles were included, of which 2063 were published with OA and 3182 were not. OA status was a significant, independent predictor of AAS and Mendeley Readers (both P <0.001), but not Dimensions Citations ( P =0.422). OA status significantly predicted mentions in news stories ( P =0.003), Twitter posts ( P <0.001), Facebook posts ( P <0.001), and Wikipedia citations ( P =0.011). Of the top 10 contributing journals, OA status significantly predicted Dimensions Citations for European Spine Journal , Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine , and Neurosurgery ( P ≤0.005) and predicted AAS for Spine , European Spine Journal , The Spine Journal , Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine , and Neurosurgery ( P ≤0.017, all).

Discussion: OA status appeared to significantly impact public attention scores, but not citation rates, although these effects did vary based on the journal in which articles were published. Authors may want to consider OA publication based on their target audience and the goal of their research.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Bibliometrics*
  • Humans
  • Journal Impact Factor
  • Lumbar Vertebrae*
  • Open Access Publishing*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Media*