Public accessibility of biomedical articles from PubMed Central reduces journal readership—retrospective cohort analysis | The FASEB Journal
peter.suber's bookmarks 2020-03-01
Abstract: Does PubMed Central—a government-run digital archive of biomedical articles—compete with scientific society journals? A longitudinal, retrospective cohort analysis of 13,223 articles (5999 treatment, 7224 control) published in 14 society-run biomedical research journals in nutrition, experimental biology, physiology, and radiology between February 2008 and January 2011 reveals a 21.4% reduction in full-text hypertext markup language (HTML) article downloads and a 13.8% reduction in portable document format (PDF) article downloads from the journals' websites when U.S. National Institutes of Health-sponsored articles (treatment) become freely available from the PubMed Central repository. In addition, the effect of PubMed Central on reducing PDF article downloads is increasing over time, growing at a rate of 1.6% per year. There was no longitudinal effect for full-text HTML downloads. While PubMed Central may be providing complementary access to readers traditionally underserved by scientific journals, the loss of article readership from the journal website may weaken the ability of the journal to build communities of interest around research papers, impede the communication of news and events to scientific society members and journal readers, and reduce the perceived value of the journal to institutional subscribers.—Davis, P. M. Public accessibility of biomedical articles from PubMed Central reduces journal readership—retrospective cohort analysis.
Researchers receiving monies from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) are required to deposit copies of peer-reviewed journal manuscripts into PubMed Central (PMC), a digital repository of biomedical literature operated by the National Library of Medicine. The NIH policy requires that these papers must be accessible to the public no later than 12 mo from final publication (1). Many journal publishers deposit these manuscripts (or copies of the final published articles) on behalf of their authors.
Free access to the research literature has been shown to increase readership but has no effect on article citations (2, 3). An experiment in depositing peer-reviewed manuscripts into institutional repositories reported that public accessibility increases downloads from the publishers' websites in the short term (4). In a preliminary study of physiology articles by a single publisher, we reported that free access to articles from PMC was responsible for a 14% reduction in full-text downloads from the journals' websites (5).
The purpose of this study is to expand on those preliminary results by enlarging our study to include a broader array of biomedical journals covering diverse fields such as nutrition, experimental biology, physiology, and radiology over an expanded period of time, and by measuring the effect of free access from PMC on portable document format (PDF) article downloads, as well as full-text article downloads.