Scholars can gain tremendous professional benefits from expanded dissemination of their work.
Beyond the convenience and speed of more open scholarly exchange, a growing body of evidence indicates that articles that are freely available on the Internet have greater impact. For example:
Gunthur Eysenbach of the University of Toronto compared the citation rates over time of both open-access and non-open-access articles published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. His findings indicate that the open-access articles are cited earlier and more often.
Steve Lawrence, a scientist at NEC Research Institute, analyzed nearly 120,000 computer science articles cited in a standard disciplinary bibliography. When he looked at articles with successively higher levels of impact or citations, he found successively higher percentages of open-access articles, and vice versa. The strength of this correlation steadily increased over a decade, Lawrence reported.
The large audience for information made available free on the web is apparent from just one example: the National Library of Medicine’s experience. NLM transformed its fee-based index and abstracts of biomedical journal articles to free availability on the web as PubMed. Use of the database increased a hundredfold once it became freely available. The potential scope of this usage could never have been anticipated by looking solely at use of the controlled-access version.
Who are these new readers? Certainly they include scholars around the globe at institutions that may not be able to afford the monographs you write or the journals in which you publish. They also may be users in unexpected fields who didn’t previously realize they’d be interested in your work. And they may be professionals who apply your research, patients, hobbyists, or others from the general public — taxpayers who indirectly fund much research — with an interest in your field.