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The open access effect in social media exposure of scholarly articles: A matched-pair analysis

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Abstract

Scholarly journals are increasingly using social media to share their latest research publications and communicate with their readers. Having a presence on social media gives journals a platform to raise their profile and promote their content. This study compares the number of clicks received when journals provide two types of links to subscription articles: open access (OA) and paid content links. We examine the OA effect using unique matched-pair data for the journal Nature Materials. Our study finds that OA links perform better than paid content links. In particular, when the journal does not indicate that a link to an article is an OA link, there is an obvious drop in performance against clicks on links indicating OA status. OA has a positive effect on the number of clicks in all countries, but its positive impact is slightly greater in developed countries. The results suggest that free content is more attractive to users than paid content. Social media exposure of scholarly articles promotes the use of research outputs. Combining social media dissemination with OA appears to enhance the reach of scientific information. However, extensive further efforts are needed to remove barriers to OA.

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Social media microblogging has made major inroads in physician education and information exchange. The authors evaluated their early experience with Twitter "tweet chat" sessions as a medium to expand the reach and audience of a peer-reviewed radiology journal. The authors analyzed Twitter activity metadata tagged with the #JACR hashtag from the first 6 tweet chat sessions sponsored and promoted by JACR. The assessment included multiple metrics: radiologist versus nonradiologist session participants, individual tweets, tweets with embedded web links, common words, retweets, and impressions. We correlated Twitter metrics with temporally related journal website activity. Each session generated a mean of 444 ± 172 tweets contributed by a mean of 33 ± 14 participants (45.4% nonradiologists) and resulted in a mean of 1,163,712 ± 441,971 impressions. Per session, a mean of 19 ± 7.6 tweets contained web links, and 138 ± 35.6 tweets were retweets. Monthly journal website article views increased from 31,220 to 41,017 (+31.4%), journal website visits increased from 9,192 to 11,539 (+25.5%), and unique visitors increased from 7,368 to 8,841 (+20%). Since JACR tweet chats were initiated, mean monthly journal website visits and page views per month directly from twitter.com increased from 24 to 101 (+321%) and from 38 to 159 (+318%), respectively. Early experience with JACR tweet chats demonstrates that organizing Twitter microblogging activities around topics of general interest to their target readership bears the potential for medical journals to increase their audiences and reach. Copyright © 2014 American College of Radiology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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First paragraph: No one can read everything. We rely on filters to make sense of the scholarly literature, but the narrow, traditional filters are being swamped. However, the growth of new, online scholarly tools allows us to make new filters; these alt-metrics reflect the broad, rapid impact of scholarship in this burgeoning eco-system. We call for more tools and research based on altmetrics.
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The research access/impact problem arises because journal articles are not accessible to all of their would-be users; hence, they are losing potential research impact. The solution is to make all articles open access (OA, i.e., accessible online, free for all). OA articles have significantly higher citation impact than non-OA articles. There are two roads to OA: the “golden” road (publish your article in an OA journal) and the “green” road (publish your article in a non-OA journal but also self-archive it in an OA archive). About 10% of journals are gold, but over 90% are already green (i.e., they have given their authors the green light to self-archive); yet only about 10–20% of articles have been self-archived. To reach 100% OA, self-archiving needs to be mandated by researchers’ employers and funders, as they are now increasingly beginning to do.
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