Access to full-text copies of research articles is an essential element of evidence-based practice. Physiotherapists read the full-text articles to appraise the quality and applicability of the research before applying the results in practice. However, because the content of some journals can only be accessed with a subscription or payment per article, cost may be a barrier to acquiring full-text articles.
Research articles are being increasingly published in open-access journals. This shift from toll access is due to factors including the public access policies of funding agencies that require investigators to make the results of their funded research freely available, the progressive policies of some journals, and the perceived open-access citation advantage.
A recent descriptive study estimated the percentage of articles in the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) that have free full-text access and compare free access between PEDro and PubMed. Secondary objectives were to: determine if publication year and geographic location have an impact on free access; determine if adding a link to a portable document format (PDF) locator website would improve free access; and evaluate the association between article characteristics and free access.
The study used a random sample of 200 articles published between 2000 and 2019 that were indexed in PEDro. Data collectors in Australia, Brazil, Nepal and Spain attempted to access free full text for each article from at least one of the links provided in the PEDro resource. One data collector attempted to access free full text from at least one of the links provided in PubMed. One data collector attempted to access full text via a PDF locator website. The percentage (95% confidence interval (CI)) of articles with free full-text access from PEDro, PubMed and the PDF locator website were calculated. Logistic regression was used to evaluate the association between free full-text access and article characteristics.
Free full text could be accessed for 51% of the articles (95% CI 44 to 58) via PEDro and for 47% (95% CI 40 to 54) of articles via PubMed. PEDro had 4% higher free access than PubMed (95% CI 1 to 7). Access via PEDro did not vary systematically with time, geographic location, or article characteristics. Access to free full text via PEDro could be expanded by 9% (95% CI 6 to 14) by adding a link to the PDF locator website.
PEDro is a good source of free full-text articles for physiotherapists. From anywhere in the world, physiotherapists with no institutional access to a medical library can access free full text for about half the articles indexed in PEDro using the links provided in the PEDro Detailed Search Results page.
Since this study was conducted, a link to the PDF locator website has been added to the PEDro Detailed Search Results page. This means that free full-text access via PEDro is likely to be available for 60% of articles (95% CI 53 to 67) based on the study data.
More information about accessing full-text articles via PEDro is available in a recent blog.