Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Virtually Invisible

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Virtually Invisible

Article excerpt

THE SOURCES: "Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship" by James A. Evans, in Science, July 18, 2008, and "Open Access Publishing, Article Downloads, and Citations: Randomised Controlled Trial" by Philip M. Davis, Bruce V. Lewenstein, Daniel H. Simon, James G. Booth, and Mathew J. L. Connolly, in BMJ, Aug. 9, 2008.

THE ARRIVAL OF THE INTERNET ushered in a rapid expansion of library holdings everywhere. Readers suddenly had access not only to what rested on the shelves, but also to countless books and journals from all over the world. It seemed only a matter of time before scholars took this abundance of resources and translated it into broader and more innovative research. But if you're waiting for that day, don't hold your breath, advises James A. Evans, a sociologist at the University of Chicago.

Unlikely as it may seem, Evans's study of more than 30 million articles found that as journals go online, researchers actually see less of their contents. For every additional year of archives a journal makes electronically available at no charge, the number of distinct articles cited in other journals falls by 14 percent on average. Moreover, the articles that are cited tend to be more recent. In other words, if a journal puts more of its older issues online, the effect will be that the newer articles receive more citations--perhaps because scholars are less likely to thumb through the shelved volumes when a journal's online archive is extensive. For every additional year a journal's online archive goes back, citations to that journal will reference articles that are, on average, 10 months more recent. …

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