13 January 2010

OA, quality and citability

Articles whose authors make them Open Access (OA) by self-archiving them online are cited significantly more than articles accessible only to subscribers. Some have suggested that this "OA Advantage" may not be causal but just a self-selection bias, because authors preferentially make higher-quality articles OA. To test this we compared self-selective self-archiving with mandatory self-archiving for a sample of 27,197 articles published 2002-2006 in 1,984 journals. The OA Advantage proved just as high for both. Logistic regression showed that the advantage is independent of other correlates of citations (article age; journal impact factor; number of co-authors, references or pages; field; article type; or country) and greatest for the most highly cited articles. The OA Advantage is real, independent and causal, but skewed. Its size is indeed correlated with quality, just as citations themselves are (the top 20% of articles receive about 80% of all citations). The advantage is greater for the more citeable articles, not because of a quality bias from authors self-selecting what to make OA, but because of a quality advantage, from users self-selecting what to use and cite, freed by OA from the constraints of selective accessibility to subscribers only

So say Yassine Gargouri, Chawki Hajjem, Vincent Lariviere, Yves Gingras, Les Carr, Tim Brody, and Stevan Harnad in a paper drawn to my attention by Open Access News: Self-selected or mandated, open access increases citation impact for higher quality research.

12 January 2010

E-book readers

The e-book reader market seems set to explode, at least from the supplier side. Whether the plethora of new devices will a) make it to market and b) sell enough to stay in business, is another matter. There's a report of new devices on display at CES this year on the ZD Net site, with prices ranging from $300 to $800 and more. Is anyone really going to spend $800 to read the daily newspaper? After all, if you are really pushed, you can probably pull it out of a trash can at the end of the day and read it for free :-) AND you can then shred it and use it as kitty litter!

A number of the readers are from new suppliers and I suspect that these will be the first to disappear: Amazon and Sony have been first to market (at least first successfully) and are likely to dominate, since they already have cash flow from their devices and will continue to develop, whereas a newcomer is going to find it difficult to establish themselves. Unless, of course, it is the promised Apple tablet...

How big will the market be, I wonder? The obvious user is the traveller, since it is easy to put several hundred books on to a reader and take up very little space in your travel bag, and the public transport commuter might also benefit, if the ambient lighting is good enough. I can see myself using one for these reasons, but not as a replacement for the book in the hand by the fireside or in bed. The younger generation may see things differently , of course: if the iPhone is a permanent extension of your hand and you spend virtually all day using it for one reason or another (including reading e-books), you may be attracted by something about the size of a paperback book, which will be easier to read and the lending of e-books from academic libraries is becoming a pretty standard service, so... time will tell.

06 January 2010

Brian Vickery

I have just learned of the death of Brian Vickery at the age of 91 on October 17th. We had communicated not long before that, when Brian expressed an interest in my writings on activity theory. It transpired that he had had a lifelong interest in Soviet psychology. Readers of this blog will probably be aware that last year he also provided an introduction to the special issue of the Journal of Information Science celebrating its fiftieth year.

I first met Brian in, I think, 1959, when I was working in industry and arranged to travel down to Welwyn Garden City, where he was librarian in one of the ICI labs. We had contact ever after that and, as fate would have it, both ended up as Departmental Heads in LIS schools :-)

Brian was a kindly man and will be missed by those who knew him.