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Central Draw

PubMed Central draws readers away from scientific journals, weakening community ties, says Philip Davis, from Phil Davis Consulting based in Ithaca, NY, in a forum article in The FASEB Journal. Davis examined 13,223 articles published in 14 research journals — spanning the fields of nutrition, experimental biology, physiology, and radiology — published by academic societies between February 2008 and January 2011. The articles were available only to subscribers for a year, and then they were available to all at the journals' websites. Forty-five percent of the articles were funded in part by the US National Institutes of Health, and they were, as policy requires, also deposited into PubMed Central after a year.

Davis found that there is 21.4 percent decline in HTML downloads and 13.8 percent decrease in PDF downloads of articles from the journals' websites after the articles become available at PubMed Central, as compared to articles that were not deposited into PMC. "Whereas PMC may be providing access to readers traditionally underserved by scientific journals, the loss of readership from journal websites may have negative consequences for readers," Davis argues. "As PMC draws readership away from the journal, the journal editor loses the opportunity to direct readers to related articles, editorials, letters and commentary surrounding the article of interest."

"Traditionally, scientific societies published the scholarly research of their members in their own journals. This collegial nexus has been extended — some say disrupted — by the centralization of research reports in PubMed Central," says Gerald Weissmann, the editor in chief of The FASEB Journal, according to Science 2.0.