Sharmilla Gunasegaran, Ahmad M Qureshi, Than Winn, Lahiru Ambawatta, Dinker R Pai, Laila B Kamal, Vijay Krishnan, MZ Afzal, Suneet Sood, PY Kew, SK Chua, JY Gan
Background Citations of papers are positively influenced by the journal’s impact factor (IF). For non-open access (non-OA) journals, this influence may be due to the fact that high-IF journals are more often purchased by libraries, and are therefore more often available to researchers, than low-IF journals. This positive influence has not, however, been shown specifically for papers published in open access (OA) journals, which are universally accessible, and do not need library purchase. It is therefore important to ascertain if the IF influences citations in OA journals too. Methods 203 randomized controlled trials (102 OA and 101 non-OA) published in January 2011 were included in the study. Five-year citations for papers published in OA journals were compared to those for non-OA journals. Source papers were derived from PubMed. Citations were retrieved from Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar databases. The Thompson-Reuter’s IF was used. Results OA journals were found to have significantly more citations overall compared to non-OA journals (median 15.5 vs 12, p=0.039). The IF did not correlate with citations for OA journals (Spearman’s rho =0.187, p=0.60). The increase in the citations with increasing IF was minimal for OA journals (beta coefficient = 3.346, 95% CI -0.464, 7.156, p=0.084). In contrast, the IF did show moderate correlation with citations for articles published in non-OA journals (Spearman’s rho=0.514, p<0.001). The increase in the number of citations was also significant (beta coefficient = 4.347, 95% CI 2.42, 6.274, p<0.001). Conclusion It is better to publish in an OA journal for more citations. It may not be worth paying high publishing fees for higher IF journals, because there is minimal gain in terms of increased number of citations. On the other hand, if one wishes to publish in a non-OA journal, it is better to choose one with a high IF.