I am gradually becoming more and more interested in open access, and have followed the PLoS One evolution for a while. Working in materials science, PLoS One is not quite our common avenue for publishing our research. Although it is theoretically open to any domain of science, it is still strongly dominated by biology, for historical reasons.
Last year, though, we had cool and intriguing results about a compound exhibiting ice shaping properties, similar to that of antifreeze protein. I was very interested in having these results reaching biologists instead of ceramists. My first paper in PLoS One, thus.
One of the benefit of publishing there is the availability of usage metrics, updated daily. Curious to see how the paper would be perceived, or at least accessed, I tried to follow the usage over time. I did not manage to do it everyday, but maybe at least twice a week or so. So here are the results, with the total views and daily views for the past 5 months or so.
What we see is a very strong first increase of the views, which then decreases very fast. The window to catch attention of readers is very short, less than a week, with readers coming either from the front page when the paper is still in the recently published papers list, or through RSS or other feed. After that, there is a long tail, with 4 or 5 daily views in average.
A second peak is also visible, shortly after the first one. It corresponds to the publication of the press release by the CNRS, which was tweeted and retweeted a couple of time, and caught the attention of a number of new readers.
The other, less visible observation is the absence of a peak in the last month. I went to a conference in Germany to present these results, and apparently people did not rush to PLoS One to download the paper. Oh well.
Although these data are limited to a single paper, I suspect the general behaviour for all journals is very similar. I would be curious to see such data averaged for a journal. I wish all the journals would make such data available. I guess this is just a matter of time before they do so.