Wikipedia as “bootlegger”

Wikipedia-logo-v2-enIn a new article, Amplifying the Impact of Open Access: Wikipedia and the Diffusion of Science, the authors analyze Wikipedia citations for presence of high impact journal articles and open access articles. Their conclusion:

We found that across languages, a journal’s academic status (impact factor) routinely predicts its appearance on Wikipedia. We also demonstrated, for the first time, that a journal’s accessibility (open access policy) generally increases probability of referencing on Wikipedia as well, albeit less consistently than its impact factor. The odds that an open access journal is referenced on the English Wikipedia are about 47% higher compared to closed access, paywall journals. More over, of closed access journals, those with high impact factors are also significantly more likely to appear in the English Wikipedia. Therefore, editors of the English Wikipedia act as “bootleggers” of high quality science by distilling and distributing otherwise closed access knowledge to a broad public audience, free of charge. Moreover, the English Wikipedia, as a platform, acts as an “amplifier” for the (already freely available) open access literature by preferentially broadcasting its findings to millions. There is a trade-off between academic status and accessibility evident on Wikipedias around the world.