Free Content Do discounted journal access programs help researchers in sub-Saharan Africa? A bibliometric analysis

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Prior research has suggested that providing free and discounted access to the scientific literature to researchers in low-income countries increases article production and citation. Using traditional bibliometric indicators for institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, we analyze whether institutional access to TEEAL (a digital collection of journal articles in agriculture and allied subjects) increases: (i) article production; (ii) reference length; and (iii) number of citations to journals included in the TEEAL collection. Our analysis is based on nearly 20,000 articles – containing half a million references – published between 1988 and 2009 at 70 institutions in 11 African countries. We report that access to TEEAL does not appear to result in higher article production, although it does lead to longer reference lists (an additional 2.6 references per paper) and a greater frequency of citations to TEEAL journals (an additional 0.4 references per paper), compared to non-subscribing institutions. We discuss how traditional bibliometric indicators may not provide a full picture of the effectiveness of free and discounted literature programs.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2011

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  • Editor in Chief: Alan Singleton
    North American Editor: Diane Scott-Lichter
    Reviews Editor: Pippa Smart

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