Stupid PubMed Central Tricks

April 8, 2008

The new NIH public access policy mandating deposition of manuscripts describing work supported under NIH awards into the PubMed Central (PMC) repository takes effect this week. Predictably, the Open Access Nozdrul are spurring their porkers onward with great vigor.
I don’t have too much more to say about this at the moment, as I’ve previously mentioned that this NIH demand is relatively seamless from the current perspective of this user. Most of the journals to which I tend to submit papers are now featuring some sort of checkbox on submission that takes care of the whole thing. I’ve discussed how easy it is to drop one of your older manuscripts into the system in your spare 10 minutes drinking your coffee. Also, as someone who has library rights sufficient to cover most of my needs in accessing scientific papers, well, “access” isn’t front and center for me.
But I will take the opportunity to repost part of an observation I made in a prior post about a neat little feature PMC has included for us.

The point I intend to make today, Dear Reader, is related to some prior thoughts of mine on the potential use of paper download statistics as an alternative to journal Impact Factor in assessing the “quality” of work with which one is not readily conversant. I noted there that Elsevier has “top 25 downloaded” stat for many of their journals and wished that actual download stats were available for all pubs, just as ISI tries to pull together all cites for a given article. Well, I note that the PMC manuscript list for my submitted articles has a link for download stats! PDF, Abstract and Whole-Text downloads from the PMC, of course, so this is likely only to be a small fraction. Likewise it will entirely miss the big bump expected right after publication because of the 6-12 mo embargo. But it is a start in the right direction.

It’s pretty neat. Those of you who blog will be familiar with the pleasantly rewarding (and perhaps addictive?) feeling you get with seeing in a fairly direct way that someone is reading your stuff.
We don’t get this so much from paper citations. I mean, you get cites for coming up most recently on the PubMed search list, cited essentially by abstract and half the time they cite the paper wrong anyway! Right? So the most clear reinforcement you get is in talking with your colleagues at meetings. Sometimes you get someone who you don’t even expect to be reading where it is clear that they have really been reading your paper. This is cool. It would also be cool to get some idea of how many people are at least downloading the full articles wouldn’t it?
The PMC system gives you a report for monthly full-text and pdf downloads of each of your manuscripts which you have loaded into the system. Now sure, most people reading your articles are going to be accessing the formatted scientific article through the publishing journal’s website. So the PMC stats are likely a significant undercount and biased by all kinds of things having to do with the typical readership. But still. Until journal publishers supply these stats on a paper by paper basis, it is better than nothing. Perhaps enthusiasm for individual article download stats will spur publishers to start providing this information (because you just KNOW they are collecting it).

2 Responses to “Stupid PubMed Central Tricks”

  1. juniorprof Says:

    Two people in my lab are from developing countries (in one case, developing might even be a stretch). Both of them used PMC to get access to research previously because otherwise they would have had next to none. This is an important service and they’ve made it as easy as it could possibly be to get your papers in. I’ve got all of mine in there and have corresponded with people in countries that I never would have expected to have any scientific contact. I am quite sure this is because of PMC.


  2. Nice widget! I’ll have to check the stats for the journal I edit, which is on PMC. We’re big fans of the whole open-access-eventually thing. I think it’s a complete disgrace that Science’s board refuses to sign on; they’re supposed to be advancing science and educating people! Little buggers. (Though I do know people on the board who are pushing for it. Nature’s evil empire is, I fear, a lost cause.)


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