Investigating the public in the Public Library of Science: Gifting economics in the Internet community

Charlotte Tschider


Countless critics of the open access movement have cited the Budapest–Bethesda–Berlin open access principles as responsible for unsustainable business models and a dilution of the efficacy of scientific scholarship or “impact.” Impact factors measure a journal’s primacy in academic scholarship, and it reflects how frequently a journal’s articles are cited. Much to the surprise of open access critics, PLoS Biology recently achieved a high impact factor of 13.9 after only two years of publishing, a feat rarely accomplished even in more traditional print journals.
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) employed the most liberal interpretation of the Budapest–Bethesda–Berlin (BBB) open access (OA) principles when creating its inaugural journal, PLoS Biology, after extensive OA advocacy efforts. BBB principles encourage open access for all individuals with an Internet connection and free use of all information for any educational purposes, including the creation of derivative works.
This study explores new OA research methodologies for measuring an OA technology’s effect on the Internet community. I will analyze linking patterns from a variety of Web categories to individual PLoS Biology articles from November 2004, a one–month, investigatory glimpse into who cites these articles and how this compares to Google Scholar citations of the same article.
I will describe two principles involved in the scientific OA transaction: the “gifting” of scientific articles and the further proliferation of this scientific information being given back to the community in the form of citation. Drawing on Marcel Mauss, I will highlight how the concept of “gifting” deviates from “sharing” in an Internet environment. I will conclude by highlighting the public citation finding in order to investigate the “public” in the Public Library of Science.

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