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Citing and reading behaviours in high-energy physics


Contemporary scholarly discourse follows many alternative routes in addition to the three-century old tradition of publication in peer-reviewed journals. The field of High-Energy Physics (HEP) has explored alternative communication strategies for decades, initially via the mass mailing of paper copies of preliminary manuscripts, then via the inception of the first online repositories and digital libraries. This field is uniquely placed to answer recurrent questions raised by the current trends in scholarly communication: is there an advantage for scientists to make their work available through repositories, often in preliminary form? Is there an advantage to publishing in Open Access journals? Do scientists still read journals or do they use digital repositories? The analysis of citation data demonstrates that free and immediate online dissemination of preprints creates an immense citation advantage in HEP, whereas publication in Open Access journals presents no discernible advantage. In addition, the analysis of clickstreams in the leading digital library of the field shows that HEP scientists seldom read journals, preferring preprints instead.

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  1. With the term “green” Open Access we denote the free online availability of scholarly publications in a repository. In the case of HEP, the submission to these repositories, typically arXiv, is not mandated by universities or funding agencies, but is a free choice of authors seeking peer recognition and visibility.

  2. With the term “gold” Open Access we denote the free online availability of a scholarly publication on the web site of a scientific journals.

  3. SPIRES is about to be replaced by a new platform, INSPIRE, jointly realised by the SPIRES partners (DESY, Fermilab, and SLAC) and CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. INSPIRE will add novel functionalities to SPIRES, such as search speed, full-text search, text- and data-mining capabilities, and capture of user-generated content.

    More details are available at

  4. In HEP, five journals publish the vast majority of the articles of the field: European Physical Journal C, Journal of High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics B, Physics Letters B, Physical Review D. They contain mostly HEP content. Another journal, Physical Review Letters, only carries about 10% of HEP content. It is not included in Fig. 1, however its content is almost entirely on arXiv (Mele et al. 2006; Bianco et al.,

  5. The slight decrease in the year 2004 is due to a large conference proceedings published in one journal (European Physical Journal C) whereby most of this material was not submitted to arXiv, as sometimes customary in HEP for some conference proceedings built on existing material.

  6. We restrict our analysis to just two of the five larger journals of the field in order to simplify data handling. However, it is worth remarking that these two journals collectively cover about ½ of the published HEP literature and are therefore representative of the behaviour of the entire data set.

  7. The analysis is restricted to citations appearing in the first two years after publication, since JHEP has an Open Access embargo policy, which makes all articles Open Access two years after they are published.


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This work partly supported by Department of Energy contract DE-AC02-76SF00515. We are indebted to Carmen van Pamel and Nicholas Steketee, on an internship from the Collège du Léman, for their collaboration in the analysis of the data published in this article.

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Correspondence to Anne Gentil-Beccot.

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Gentil-Beccot, A., Mele, S. & Brooks, T.C. Citing and reading behaviours in high-energy physics. Scientometrics 84, 345–355 (2010).

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