self-archiving study

[some notes I thought I’d share]

Reading Response:

Open access self-archiving: An author study (2005)

Swan, Alma and Sheridan Brown, Key Perspectives Limited

Key Perspectives Ltd “was set up in 1996 to provide high quality market research and consultancy services to the scholarly information industry.”

This survey involved 1296 respondents, the responses from an email list of 25,000.

In part deals with “…author experiences and opinions on publishing in open access journals…” (p1)

reasons for publishing OA:

  • “principle of free access for all”
  • seen as way to reach larger audience
  • way to publish more rapidly
  • or even considered more prestigious than toll journals

reasons for not publishing oa:

  • “unfamiliar with any [oa journals] in their field”
  • no OA journal covering field/topic

This study, one of many Key Perspectives has produced, focuses on self-archiving.

Ways to self-archive:

  1. institutional repository
  2. subject-based repository
  3. personal/institutional website → most popular

“Self-archiving activity is greatest amongst the most prolific authors, that is, those who publish the largest number of papers.” (p6)

“There is still a substantial proportion of authors unaware of the possibility of providing open access to their work by self-archiving. Of the authors who have not yet self-archived any articles, 71% remain unaware of the option.” (p6)


“Nevertheless, the evidence there is to hand points to the likelihood that the peaceful – and perhaps mutually beneficial – co-existence of traditional journals and open access archives is entirely possible; in biological terms, mutualism, rather than parasitism or symbiosis, might best describe the relationship.” (p11)

As the recent release of Anthropology Now magazine shows, there are still new journals/publication outlets being formed under the traditional tole-access business model. Anthropology Now seems to give some OA to articles as they first appear, but controversy abounds as to its true nature given that it also has a subscription page and asks for help promoting it to libraries.  See Jason Baird Jackson’s post on his blog.

“in the vast majority of cases (over 90% is the latest estimate9,10) the publisher expressly permits an author to self-archive their own final draft – the version that was finally submitted to the publisher after peer review revisions and recommendations have been incorporated.” (p10)


“We know from Key Perspectives Ltd the work reported here and elsewhere17,18 that authors publish primarily to communicate their research findings to their peers, so that they can be built upon in future research efforts. Depositing an article at the time of acceptance for publication also means that the inevitable delay at the publisher before the article finally appears in the journal is immaterial – the article is already available to anyone who wants to read it and use it for their work. The research cycle is thus shortened. And of course, the article is available to all interested parties, not just to readers in institutions that can afford the journal in which it is published.” (p12)

Interesting to incorporate anthropology specific arguments for opening up readership – “speaking back at anthropologists”


“Previous surveys by KPL1,2,17,18 and others22 have indicated that there is a substantial level of ignorance within the scholarly community with respect to open access, both open access journals and self-archiving. Those respondents who had not self-archived their work by any means were asked whether they were aware of the possibility of providing open access to their work in this way.

Twenty nine percent of them were aware of this and 71% were not.” (p 50)


“80% of self-archivers have deposited their articles themselves; in 19% of cases the library staff archived articles for them and in 10% of cases this was carried out by students or assistants.”

Go assistants go!

“Some employers, such as Queensland University of Technology in Australia29, and some research funders (the Wellcome Foundation has announced a mandatory self-archiving policy for its own grant-holders21) see the benefit of providing open access by self-archiving to the research carried out under their auspices and have elected to mandate this activity. On the whole, though, employers and research funders have as yet not chosen to go down this path. Only 4% of the self-archivers in this present study say that they are required to make their work open access in this way, and 86% of these people are from Southampton University School of Electronics & Computer Science which has had a mandate in place since January 2003.” (p69)

I have been pretty focussed on individual choices, and individual publishing experiences. Perhaps I’ve been too focussed on authors themselves, and should spend more time looking at institutional policies as mentioned above. If institutions begin to mandate OA, than it won’t matter what pushes anthropologists to publish OA or not, since they will have to. I wonder what kinds of deliberation have gone on at Concordia about this.

“A lack of awareness is also seen with respect to open access-related issues generally, as has been shown in previous studies.” (p77)

Hopefully this project can help scratch at the awareness issue…


“The more prolific an author – that is, the more articles s/he publishes – the more likely they are to self-archive their work on websites or in institutional repositories. It is likely, therefore, that as greater numbers of the most productive authors become aware of self-archiving the number of articles in open access repositories will rise quite steeply.

One teacher I have who has been a very generous collaborator is also a prolific author. It’s true that he/she has self-archived a large number of articles. This goes against what I said about part-time being more open to self-archiving since their publications didn’t lead to tenure… In this case, more publications -> more self archiving.  Also, all self-archiving I’ve seen has been on personal websites – which this study claims is the most popular route. I’ll try and get more people onto Mana’o this week.

The caveat here is that issue of awareness. Awareness of self-archiving amongst those who have not carried out this activity remains low, though scholars in the disciplines of library and information science, computer science, physics and mathematics are better informed than those in other subjects. But there are still many scholars who remain unaware of self-archiving and still others who, though aware, have not elected to undertake the activity, at least so far.” (p78)

This provides some nice support for the advocacy and engagement side of my research project. I’ve succeeded in raising the open access issue with a number of teachers, and will continue to do so.

The amount of material on OA Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown have produced is awesome to say the least. I’ll be commenting more on it soon, but for now I’ll have to settle for scribbled notes and quotes]

Big thanks to Olivier Charboneau for suggesting these articles!

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