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Re: Critique of OA metric

Journal 'decoupling' has been discussed for well over a decade, 
since online journals and Web versions began to proliferate. 
'Overlay' journals were one suggested route for this, databases 
are another, but it hasn't happened. Largely this is because the 
whole thrust of open access has been NOT to decouple from the 
rigour of peer review and, hence, from journal brand. Green open 
access encourages authors to publish in their journal of choice 
and deposit an author version in an institutional repository, so 
the connection with journal brands is clear and unbroken. Gold 
open access seeks to create new journal brands, a few very 

No author is being asked to create new Web sites in order to make 
their papers open access. Authors were doing this in an ad hoc 
way in the early days of the Web, and some still are of course, 
but repositories emerged to make that unnecessary. So the point 
about Google ranking is moot. Repositories create a good strong 
signal for search engines.

The open access impact advantage is determined in studies as the 
relative measure of impact (number of citations) of open access 
papers against non-open access papers from the same journal venue 
(again, note the connection with journals). It is not a measure 
of the impact of one source of a paper, say a journal, against 
the impact of the same paper from another source.

The general points made here are interesting for those seeking to 
understand the digital transition, describing useful new services 
that many of us are already using. I'm sure we will see further 
profound changes to the system of scholarly dissemination in 
time. That this does not appear to be happening as fast as for 
other areas of Web content, such as user-produced content (blogs, 
video, etc.) with the concomitant development of services, is not 
as surprising as some people think, simply because these other 
forms of content previously had no means of distribution. That 
does not apply to journal articles. We can see big changes in 
distribution and certainly in access, if not on established 

As far as OA is concerned, however, this discussion continues the 
long tradition of setting up false choices.

Steve Hitchcock
IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
Email: sh94r@ecs.soton.ac.uk

On 29 Oct 2009, at 22:19, Joseph Esposito wrote:

> David's post is an interesting one.  He is certainly correct that
> search engines (Google is simply the most prominent, but not the
> only means of discovery) "atomize" collections of papers.  This
> could lead someone to believe that the "wrapper" of an atomized
> article is no longer important, but this overlooks the mattter of
> search engine rank.  It is one thing to find an article about
> hypertension or a specific aspect of materials science, quite
> another for that article to rise to the top of a long list of
> potentially relevant Web sites.  For search engine ranking, such
> matters as brand are very important, as they collect online
> attention and links and lead to higher scoring.
> If you don't believe this, try it.  Create a Web site (it takes
> two minutes) using a blogging service such as WordPress.  Post an
> article to it.  Post another article (or the same one) to an
> established online venue.  The article in the established venue
> will show up higher in search engine rankings.
> As a footnote, I don't believe David is correct in his discussion
> of PLOS One.  PLOS One is borrowing the brand of the PLOS
> flagship journals.  This is a tricky business.  It works fine
> until it doesn't.  Readers are coming to PLOS One (presumably
> authors, too) thinking they are getting the editorial rigor of
> the PLOS flagships, but they aren't.  Can this go on forever?
> Perhaps.  But consider this:  when you buy a telephone handset
> for a landline phone that bears the AT&T brand, does it matter
> that AT&T has not manufactured handsets in years?  It matters to
> me.
> Joe Esposito
> On Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 3:54 PM, David Prosser
> <david.prosser@bodley.ox.ac.uk> wrote:
>> It is simple to conceive of a decoupling between the journal
>> 'quality' brand (is the research correct?) and the journal
>> 'alerting' brand (here is a group of articles that may be of
>> interest to you) as described by Sally.  In the print world
>> grouping papers thematically together made perfect sense; in
>> the online world where people increasing use search engines
>> (whether specific, like Medline, or general, like Google) to
>> find papers it is perhaps less useful.
>> So, a journal table of contents e-mail may be useful, but
>> equally I may be more interested in seeing the daily digest of
>> papers with a particular tag in Connotea, say. That way the
>> community would define its own interests rather than having the
>> collection codified by an editor.  And different communities
>> could combine the content of different journals in different
>> ways.  This to me is what PLoS One has done - provide the
>> quality brand, but leave the 'what's this journal about' to the
>> readers.  It seems inevitable (and was once titles and
>> abstracts went online!) that the 'alerting' brand is going to
>> become less and less within the control of publishers and more
>> in the control of users.
>> David
>> David Prosser
>> SPARC Europe