Scientific and social impact of scholarly research: Substitutes or complements?

Pruschak, Gernot (8 May 2023). Scientific and social impact of scholarly research: Substitutes or complements? In: Open Innovation in Science Research Conference 2023. Vienna. 8.-10.5.2023.

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Many governmental agencies and higher education institutions actively advocate for open and collaborative approaches to increase societal outreach and impact of scholarly research. Yet “editors of prestigious journals with high impact factors may have few, if any, incentives for changing their systems” (Banks et al., 2022: 265) towards becoming more open. We follow up on this conundrum by investigating whether scholars perceive scientific impact and social impact as substitutes or compliments in the publishing process. In the context of open and collaborative research practices, we turn to open access publishing because it constitutes an already widespread practice in the academic community. More specifically, we assess scholars’ perceptions of the scientific and social impact of their publications divided among different types of open access publishing (non-open access [closed], hybrid open access, and gold open access journals). Hereby, this study employs data gathered through an interdisciplinary survey among scientists identified through corresponding author contact details in articles published between 2017 and 2022 in 90 open access journals. In total, 446 researchers responded to the survey, of which 235 were eligible for inclusion in this study. We find that scholars perceive that their articles published in closed and hybrid open access journals possess significantly higher scientific than social impact. In turn, we fail to identify a significant difference for articles published in gold open access journals. The study further shows that scholars perceive that their articles in hybrid and in gold open access journals generated more scientific and social impact than their articles in closed journals. We further analyze these results by investigating the antecedents of the perceived scientific and social impact of published articles. The results show that life scientists and social scientists assess the scientific impact of their publications in closed access journals significantly higher than their colleagues. European scholars assess the scientific impact of their articles significantly higher across all journal types. In addition, European scholars, as well as more experienced scholars, perceive significantly higher levels of social impact for their publications in hybrid as well as gold open access journals. We corroborate our results through employing scholars’ perceptions of scientific and social impact of the respective journal types. Our results provide direct implications for journal editors, publishers, and funders by showing that scientific and social impact do not automatically come together. Yet strengthening existing and implementing new initiatives aiming at increasing open access publishing could prove worthy in raising not only the scientific but also the social impact of scientific research. From a literature perspective, we add to the extensive debate about the effects of open access publishing on scientific and social impact. Hereby, our study demonstrates that these effects do not only occur out of bibliometric analyses but are also manifested in scholars’ mindsets. Future research could therefore investigate whether these manifestations can shift scholarly publishing behavior towards aiming not only at scientific but also at social impact.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Business School > Institute for Applied Data Science & Finance
Business School


Pruschak, Gernot0000-0002-3594-2108


A General Works > AS Academies and learned societies (General)
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science




Gernot Pruschak

Date Deposited:

11 Jan 2024 10:47

Last Modified:

11 Jan 2024 10:47

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