Davis PM. Open access, readership, citations: a randomized controlled trial of scientific journal publishing. The FASEB Journal 2011; published online March 20, 2011
Using a randomized controlled trial of open access (OA) publishing, involving 36 academic journals in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, the effects of free access on article downloads and citations are reported. OA articles received significantly more downloads (almost a doubling) and reached a broader audience than subscription-access articles within the first year after publication, yet they were not cited more frequently within 3 years. The author concludes that the real benefit of free access to the scientific literature is to those outside the core research communities, who consume, but rarely contribute to, the corpus of literature.