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Randomized controlled study of OA publishing

Dear Readers,

We are in the process of conducting a randomized controlled study
of Open Access publishing to ascertain if free-access to
scholarly articles increases readership and citation impact.

To date, the limited numbers of empirical studies have employed
methodologies that do not control for potential biases and
competing explanations.  A citation advantage may be the result
of increased access, but may equally be the result of higher
quality articles being published as OA.  By using a randomized
controlled methodology, we will be in a stronger position to
attribute a citation advantage [if discovered] to increased

During the feasibility stage of our study, we will be partnering
with the American Physiological Society and experimenting with
eleven of their journals.  Another of their journals allows
author-supported OA publishing will be used as a control.  We
will be studying the performance of these articles, in terms of
article downloads and citations, for the next four years.  If the
running of this experiment goes smoothly as predicted during the
next few months, we hope to expand our study to include journals
from other publishers and disciplines.  Below is a letter that
has been sent out to future authors of APS articles.

We are very grateful to the American Physiological Society for
allowing us to experiment on their journals, and to the Andrew W.
Mellon Foundation for their financial support in this study.
Both groups are fully dedicated to the integrity of the
scientific approach.

--Phil Davis

Dear APS Author,

You are receiving this email because you will soon have an
article published in the [Name of the Journal]. The American
Physiological Society will be participating in a randomized
controlled study to investigate aspects of open-access

During 2007, a small number of articles randomly selected from
those accepted by participating APS journals will be given
immediate free access status.  This means that anyone in the
world will be able to access these articles free of charge
without a journal subscription.  Articles not selected will
continue to be published as normal -- these articles will be
available to journal subscribers for the first 12 months and made
freely available thereafter.

There is some evidence to suggest that articles given free access
upon publication have a different pattern of citations over time,
yet the details have not been rigorously studied using a
randomized controlled methodology.  To assist us in this study,
we will be partnering with researchers from Cornell University's
Department of Communication.  We do not believe that
participation in this study poses any risks to authors of
articles published in APS journals.  Participation in this study
is completely voluntary, and you may drop out of this study at
any time by sending an email to opt-out@the-aps.org, or by
contacting one of the researchers. Please include the authors'
names, the title of the article and the title of the journal it
is being published in.

The APS is committed to providing the highest quality publishing
and services, and rigorous studies such as this will help us
better serve the interests of our authors and members.

Martin Frank, Ph.D.
Executive Director, American Physiological Society

Margaret Reich
Director of Publications and Executive Editor, American Physiological Society


Philip M. Davis, M.L.I.S.
PhD student
Department of Communication
336 Kennedy Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853
Email: pmd8@cornell.edu
Phone: (607) 272-5461

Bruce V. Lewenstein, Ph.D. (P.I.)
Associate Professor of Scientific Communication
Department of Communication
321 Kennedy Hall
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Email: b.lewenstein@cornell.edu
Phone: (607) 255-8310
Fax: (607) 254-1322