This is version 0.1 (revised 18 May 2001) of an abstract to be presented at altmetrics11.
The possibility of an Open Access Citation Advantage (OACA) continues to inspire researchers and advocates. The question of a citation advantage has important implications not only for Open Access as an alternative scholarly publishing model, but also for the careers of individual researchers. In both cases, increased citation translates into increased impact. However, in the efforts to improve upon studies of OACA, increased methodological rigor seems at the same time to remove much of the cultural context of openness. As factors of Open Access such as self-selection, collaboration proximity, and publication of draft texts, are found to influence citation, they are often eliminated from subsequent studies. With a conception of Open Access defined so narrowly, many important dimensions are rendered invisible. In an increasingly polarized debate, improvements in the validity of data and methods may have come at the expense of gains in understanding. What do the results from these analyses tell us about the complexities of publishing models and about research trajectories of individual researchers?
Whereas early research exhorted the virtues of Open Access publishing based on results that revealed a citation advantage from publishing in open access journals, more recent studies claim much of this early research was flawed. Methodological refinements since then have included parsing different forms of open access, such as the crucial distinction between Open Access journals (Gold OA) and author self-archiving (Green OA) (e.g. Harnad and Brody, 2004) and the development of new techniques that strive to isolate open access from influencing factors (e.g. Davis, et al. 2008, Davis 2010). In the new techniques category several factors have been shown to either influence citation behavior directly or obscure the ability to measure an open access citation advantage. These factors include author self-selected deposit of early draft articles in a repository (Kurtz M., et al., 2007), early exposure of draft versions (Moed 2007), the availability of an article at multiple open access points (Xia, et. al 2010), and the impact of physical proximity of collaborators (Lee, et al. 2010). Authors of these studies typically frame the condition or factor as a bias that artificially inflates the number of citations. However, this systematic elimination of biases for the purpose of isolating OACA assumes that the practices can be as unchanged once removed from cultural context.
Missing from techniques such as the the randomized control approach are not only the factors specifically eliminated to control for bias, but also a host of cultural and technological scaffolding that has emerged over time and through multiple evolutionary iterations that together create particular configurations of openness. By classifying open access practices, such as self selection or early publication of drafts, as “confounding effects” the authors of a recent study cite previous research that shows increased citation because of articles that are selectively chosen to be published openly or when pre-print manuscripts are published early (Davis, et al. 2008:1). But these open access practices, in addition to being a performance of particular cultural values, are embedded within a larger social and cultural milieu where publication and citation are significant criteria in the allocation of academic reward. This sort of classification problem is explained by Dehue as “the choice of categories [that] depends on human decisions and cultural conventions” (Dehue 2002:86).
Also not present in the debate of OACA is the view that open access contributes to intertextual scholarly discourse. When in compliance with content interoperability standards, open access articles contribute to the possibility of making explicit intertextual references through hyperlinking (Mitra 2006) from one text to another across different communication platforms. Through hyperlinking, documents, collections of documents, and related audio and visual resources are structured across the web (Halavais 2008, 43). This “textured connectivity” of scholarly discourse is created both by human and machine (such as databases) actors (Beaulieu and Simakova 2006). Unlike traditional citations in printed text, the immediacy of hyperlinks facilitates the construction of intertextual discourses, which are dynamic in both production and consumption. From this vantage point, citations by themselves would appear to be insufficient as an indicator of impact. A more comprehensive definition of a ‘citation’ would need to include its role in discursive practices on the web.
Moreover, when taking this more inclusive view of scholarly discourse and citation practices, citation advantage becomes only one dimension in a dynamic system. In a related area of interest, ethnographic approaches used to study Open Source software development revealed interesting insights about the implications of openness in collaborative practice. Kelty (2008) identifies a crucial characteristic of Open Source communities, whereby software, which in this case is the object and medium of openness, “is a kind of experimental system: its practices can be adopted, adapted, and modulated in new contexts and new places, but it is one whose rules are collectively determined and frequently modified” (Kelty, 2008:98). Open Source software development is, of course, a different community of practice, where reward systems vary in pragmatics, if not their ideals.
As the Internet and the Web are essential prerequisites for the possibility of Open Access, we propose a framework for Open Access that considers the interface and infrastructure of both social and technological configurations of openness. In this framework, the interface of openness is conceived as the place where users act upon digital media to communicate with others. Correspondingly, the possibility for openness is conceived as a technological infrastructure, which is the result of social agents selecting, configuring, and implementing associated communication resources. As such, analytical focus is aimed at individual acts of openness framed as the result of interaction between human agency, social structure in the form of situated practices, and material structure in the form of digital media. Following Orlikowski, we view technology as “both an enabler of, and a constraint on, human action” (Orlikowski 1992, 25). The conceptual framing of openness as contingent upon interface and infrastructure recognizes the dual role of technology in facilitating both agency and structure (Wouters et al. 2008).
1. See for example, The Open Citation Project, where ongoing discourse is manifest trough a well-maintained bibliography and active discussion through enabled comments. http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation-biblio.html (Accessed 05 February 2011)
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