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Wikipedia Significantly Amplifies the Impact of Open Access Publications

By Rob Mitchum // September 9, 2015

Today, a scientist’s most desired citation may be from a publication not often thought of as prestigious: Wikipedia. While the open, user-curated encyclopedia may have occasional credibility issues, it remains the first source many people — even scientists themselves — consult when faced with an unfamiliar topic. As such, a Wikipedia reference may expose more people to a particular research finding than any citation from a scientific journal.

In a recent paper, a Knowledge Lab team of Misha Teplitsky, Grace Lu, and Eamon Duede studied the features of “reliable sources” cited in Wikipedia articles to detect the influence of impact factor and open access on probability of citation. Duede has followed up with a blog post for the London School of Economics & Political Science’s Impact Blog, where he points out encouraging signs that open access journals are gaining traction in the world of Wikipedia.

Primarily, the single biggest predictor of a journal’s appearance in Wikipedia is its impact factor –the higher the better. Yet, a really exciting finding to pop out of the data is that, for any given journal, those that are designated as “open access” are 47% more likely to appear in Wikipedia than comparable “closed access” journals. It looks like Wikipedia editors are putting a premium on open access. It is important to emphasize that this does not mean that Wikipedia editors are citing “open access” journals more often than closed access journals. What seems to really matter most to Wikipedia editors is impact factor. Nevertheless, when given a choice between journals of highly similar impact factors, Wikipedia editors are significantly more likely to select the “open access” option.

For more on the paper, see a story from July in MIT Technology Review. And for more on Knowledge Lab research, visit their website.