Public Access Week: Who could read my papers?

I did a little experiment to figure out whether the fulltext versions of my last 15 papers (published between 1997-2008) are available online. The result:

  • 3 papers available for everybody
  • 10 papers only available from within my institution (Journal subscription required)
  • 2 papers only available for purchase

Interestingly, the papers in the two journals with the highest impact factor are both available as fulltext. And the third fulltext paper is my paper with the most citations (and published in 1998).

Conclusion: Not that anyone would care what I have to say, but you have to work in an institution with a good library budget to read my papers.

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22 Responses to Public Access Week: Who could read my papers?

  1. Graham Steel says:

    Bottom Line: Self Archive !!
    “Prof Ajit Varki”: comes to mind.

  2. Lee Turnpenny says:

    Your ‘last 15 papers’. I’d love to sympathise.

  3. Martin Fenner says:

    Graham, I don’t have the copyright to any of these articles.

  4. Graham Steel says:

    As a a Patient Advocate, quite understandably, I like to read/study/pass on relevant literature.
    If I can’t access and forward on (“Fair Use”) such material, what’s the point ??
    _Conclusion: Not that anyone would care what I have to say, but you have to work in an institution with a good library budget to read my papers_
    Well, I do care what you have to say, but without access to your output, how the ‘Facebook’ can I comment?

  5. Graham Steel says:

    @ Martin.
    Sadly, too late…..

  6. Martin Fenner says:

    My numbers appear to be typical for cancer research: “Cancer Literature: 13% Free”:

  7. Maxine Clarke says:

    I am sorry that you can’t self-archive these papers, Martin. I think, moving forwards, more journals and publishers are supporting this practice, so I hope that you’ll be able to achieve more reach for your current and future papers.

  8. Martin Fenner says:

    Maxine, self-archieving is still fairly new to me. Instead of a central repository such as “PubMed Central”:, in Germany we have a large network of institutional repositories (a listing can be found “here”: My University (“Hannover Medical School”: currently does not – as far as I know – offer a repository for self-archieving.
    I will find out more about self-archieving at our institution, maybe I also have to convince a few people. Once (or if) that is solved, I will have to check the journals I have published in for the self-archieving option. That gives me some work to do and a lot to learn.

  9. Maxine Clarke says:

    Forgive me for not providing accurate links, Martin, as I don’t have one to hand, but about a year (or so?) ago, the UK universities made archiving mandatory for people working in their institutions. I believe this is or will be done via a networked repository at each institution but I do not know the details. “Here is a start”: I think it also might be worth looking at the European Research Foundation as I know they are doing much to try to harmonise research practices across the EU in all kinds of ways.

  10. Cameron Neylon says:

    I believe mandated deposition is still fairly rare for UK universities, Southampton and Stirling I think are currently the only ones (see “here”: for the most recent updates I think). And to be honest, as a Southampton staff member I am not entirely sure that I’ve actually been told this.
    The problem with mandates at the university level is that the universities aren’t really big enough, in most cases, to demand the right to deposit from publishers. Funders are in a much more effective position to do this, and Wellcome and MRC have both effectively adopted an NIH style mandate system. How this works out in practice remains to be seen of course. Relying on academics to do anything, particularly when the local repositories are seen as merely an extension of the dreaded RAE rather than a useful place to store their lifes work, is an inherently risky strategy to take in my view. Proper central deposition seems a more effective approach to me. The question is how to make this work both for scientists and publishers.

  11. Martin Fenner says:

    Maxine, the central search page for 83 UK academic repositories is at “Intute”:
    Cameron, a central repository such as “PubMed Central”: or “PubMed Central UK”: and mandatory public access would of course be the easiest solution both for authors and readers. But I believe that in Germany we are going for networked institutional repositories. A fairly detailed “position paper”: of the “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft”: explains this strategy in more detail.
    Spending time to put your papers into an institutional repository could turn out to be a useful investment by increasing the visibility of your research.

  12. Cameron Neylon says:

    Hi Martin, I don’t want to recapitulate the ongoing argument between Steven Harnad and Peter Murray-Rust but I tend to take Peter’s side on this that unless we have centralised repositories (or at least federated repositories that are so seamless the user doesn’t know where the paper is) then we’re not going to get the big benefits that will arise from access to the literature.
    At the end of the day Google can probably index the lot but that will require a transparent means of designating crawling rights and copyright issues. In a sense, if the latter was worked out (i.e. there was a clear charter for robot access) then central deposition becomes much less necessary, but until it is, IRs are going to be problematic.
    And that’s before we get into the problems with versions :)
    IR and mandated deposition are a step forward and much better than nothing but until we have automatic mechanisms for deposition then I think coverage is going to be very patchy. As I said, technically I am at Southampton but I don’t think I’ve actually been told about the mandate. And given that I try to publish in OA journals anyway, why should I take the extra effort to deposit? For that matter, why can’t the IRs just pull down my papers automatically? last time I tried to put a paper in the repository it a) took me 15 minutes, and b) told me I didn’t know my own name (I use my second name which confuses these systems no end). But usability is a separate argument again which I better not get into :)

  13. Martin Fenner says:

    Maybe high profile examples such as the Harvard Arts and Sciences Faculty “decision”: this February for archiving in a public repository will increase the popularity of decentralized repositories.
    There is also a “PubMed Central International”: initiative to make PubMed Central available in other countries. The web page contains an interesting disclaimer:
    _Microsoft® assisted in the establishment of several PMCI sites. Microsoft assisted in testing NCBI’s pPMC software for the purpose of remote deployment. Microsoft verified that the PMCI sites were properly configured and in several cases donated versions of Windows Server and SQL Server. Microsoft installed, tested, and performed troubleshooting at these remote sites and continues to provide technical assistance for software and database updates._
    Now that is an interesting combination. Using commercial closed source software to promote open access to scientific research. The most popular repository solutions “DSpace”:, “EPrints”: and “Fedora”: are all open source.

  14. Hilary Spencer says:

    Hi Martin–you mentioned that the third full text paper is the one with the highest citations. The OA community has long argued that freely available articles receive more citations than their subscription-only counterparts:
    * “Comparing the Impact of Open Access (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals”:
    * “Citation Advantage of Open Access Articles”:
    (and here’s a non-OA article that disputes this claim: “Do open access articles have greater citation impact? A critical review of the literature”:
    How do your other articles fare?

  15. Martin Fenner says:

    Hilary, it’s hard to say whether this paper was cited more because it was available as fulltext. It’s certainly the paper for which I worked the hardest (generating a knockout mouse). And using “ISI Web of Science”:, I see that this paper has the highest number of citations per year, so it’s not just that older papers have more citations.
    Graham, I was searching for information about plans in Germany to use the PubMed platform. Last July Dean Giustini “talked about”: a possible PubMedCentral Canada.

  16. Cameron Neylon says:

    And also don’t forget:
    Sharing Detailed Research Data Is Associated with Increased Citation Rate””:
    But then I would say that :)
    The issue of closed source services being used to deliver open source information is an interesting one. I think it is helpful to distinguish between the content and the mechanism here. I don’t really have a problem with it as long as it works (in the long term – which could be an issue).
    UKPMC is a project, I think, of the British Library with PMCI. I don’t know of any German equivalents but I would imagine there are people trying to get such a thing off the ground.

  17. Graham Steel says:

    Duff link Cameron :-(

    From the PMCI “2007 Minutes”:
    _PMC International has test sites running in China, Japan, South Africa, Italy and soon Canada. UKPMC and UK manuscript submissions system went live the first week in January._

    Martin, in terms of any OA/IR queries in Germany, I would suggest contacting “Dr Klaus Graf”

  18. Cameron Neylon says:

    oh piffle. Matt, we definitely need an edit comment button :) Even if that does reduce the opportunities to rib Richard G.
    The correct link of course is;
    “Sharing Detailed Research Data Is Associated with Increased Citation Rate”:

  19. Martin Fenner says:

    Hilary, our university doesn’t have fulltext access to the article “Do open access articles have greater citation impact? A critical review of the literature”: It’s interesting that an article with this topic is so difficult to access.
    For those reading along that work in a German research institute (and don’t know this already), the University Library of Regensburg has a database of access options for a large number of journals. “This link”: (in English) allows me to search their journal database and the access privileges for more than 400 German institutions.
    Graham, Germany is very active in institutional repositories. I’m currently trying to find out more about the plans of our institution. The University of Göttingen is very close to Hannover and they “encourage”: (Text in German) their reseachers since 2005 to self-archive.
    I do see closed source software to deliver open access as a problem. And there are good open source alternatives, e.g. to the commercial databases Oracle or SQL Server. One argument is of course cost, but also the flexibility to share and modify the program code.

  20. Cameron Neylon says:

    Martin, I understand the concerns and risks but I guess my attitude is that in many cases we just need to get _something_ up to at least show it can be done. I would guess that many of these new sites might struggle to pull the expertise and infrastructure together on their own.
    Once the underlying database is there then long term stability suggests moving towards an open source system. But to give MS their due, they are actually committed to making a lot of their work in this general space openly available (possibly not open source though, I can’t remember what the precise description of the position is).

  21. Martin Fenner says:

    Progress in the “PubMed Central Canada (PMC Canada) initiative”: was reported this week (via “Peter Suber’s blog”: progress).