May 20, 2022

New Study Looks at Usage Patterns of Academic Journal Articles (AAP/PSP Funded Research)

infoDOCKET just got our hands on the following new report that was funded by the Professional & Scholarly Publishing (PSP) division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

More in upcoming posts. We will also update this post with reactions from others involved in the discussion.

From Association of American Publishers:

The independent study analyzes the usage pattern of articles published in over 2800 academic and professional journals.

It identifies the “half-life” of journals – the amount of time it takes for articles in a journal to receive half of their lifetime total downloads – and is the first major broad-based report conducted on this topic.

 Who Did the Research

Phil Davis, Ph.D., an independent researcher and former science librarian, analyzed lifetime usage data from 2812 journals representing the works of 13 scholarly publishers in 10 distinct scholarly disciplines including life sciences, engineering, social sciences and the humanities.

Key Findings

Journal article usage varies widely within and across disciplines.

It takes significant time for journals to experience half of the lifetime downloads (“half-life”) of their article

Articles in the majority of journals receive more than half of their lifetime downloads three or more years after publication

Only 3% of journals in all fields have half-lives of 12 months or less

Health sciences articles have the shortest median half-life of the journals analyzed, but still more than 50% of health science journals have usage half-lives longer than 24 months

In fields with the longest usage half-lives, including mathematics and the humanities, more than 50% of the journals have usage half-lives longer than 48 months

Comments from Executive Director of PSP

“There has been extensive dialogue surrounding public access and embargo periods but assumptions, opinions and ideas have never been grounded in actual data about usage of journal literature.  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has called for evidence-based procedures to set appropriate embargo periods for public access to articles reporting on federally funding research.  Rigorous, scientifically sound studies such as this are critical to setting rational and effective policy,” said John Tagler, Vice President and Executive Director, Professional and Scholarly Publishing, Association of American Publishers.

“Publishers have consistently expressed the view that a one-size-fits-all embargo period for scholarly works will not fairly address disparities in journal usage and, in turn, damage the sustainability of high-quality, peer-reviewed science communication,” he added.  “This study provides comprehensive data to support those views and, in some cases, demonstrates that half-lives are even longer than generally assumed.”

In response to the February 2013 OSTP directive, federal agencies are developing plans to support increased public access to research funded by the government. AAP publishers support the OSTP directive and have engaged with agencies and other stakeholders regarding public access.  While the study was funded by the PSP Division of AAP in response to interest from federal agencies and others in relevant data, participating publishers submitted the data to Davis individually and the Association had no involvement in Davis’s analysis.

Direct to Full Text Report (5 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.