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Open Access is a lightening rod for controversy and strong feelings in scholarly communication, attracting more opinions and positions than hard data. The limited numbers of empirical studies to date have used methodologies that do not adequately control for potential biases and competing explanations. This study proposes the first randomized controlled study of Open Access publishing to ascertain whether providing free access to scholarly articles leads to greater readership and increased citation impact. It also proposes the first multi-publisher, multi-journal study to allow greater generalizability over subject disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. A feasibility study employing eleven journals in the life sciences commenced on January 1, 2007 with initial data expected in summer 2007. The full study, with participation from publishers in the health and medical sciences, social sciences and the humanities will begin in late spring, 2007.
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