Article: Measuring Altruistic Impact – A Model for Understanding the Social Justice of Open Access

Citation: Heller, M., & Gaede, F. (2016). Measuring Altruistic Impact: A Model for Understanding the Social Justice of Open Access. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 4, eP2132. DOI:

In this paper from August 2016, the authors argue for assessing the impact of repositories on two levels: pragmatic and in terms of social justice (p. 2). To this end, they have created a so-called “social justice impact metric” which uses the number of social justice related items accessed and the total amount of international usage from “less-resourced” countries (p. 3).

After establishing an overview of social justice as it pertains to Open Access (OA), the authors argue that since OA is “a social and public good,” (p. 3), traditional measures of impact as a number of citations or downloads are insufficient. Instead, they suggest measuring “social justice impact,” which shows how an OA repository or publication is likely to affect those otherwise without access to information that has become “vital to success in our information economy” (page 5).

To create their Social Justice Impact metric, the authors measured how often content is accessed by search engines, and how often it is accessed in “lower-resourced countries” (p. 8). Data were measured with Google Analytics, looking at both search engine keywords related to social justice and geographic usage (p. 9). Keywords were pulled from a corpus created by the authors (p. 10), included as an appendix in the report.

Anyone looking for a specific number like those given by altmetrics or journal impact factor will be disappointed by the results of the authors’ analysis, which is more like a method for measuring how often international users access repository content that relates to social justice, with suggestions for how readers might most successfully increase access to social justice related content at their own instutition.

All the same, the argument that providing access to information to those who would not otherwise have it should be a core part of measuring the success of OA repositories is a compelling one. As the authors note, we all too often focus solely on academic impact, and should not forget that broader social good comes out of OA work as well.