Open Access News

News from the open access movement


Friday, April 13, 2007

More data on faculty ignorance of OA

Researchers' use of academic libraries and their services, a new report commissioned by Research Information Network and undertaken by Key Perspectives, April 2007.  For our purposes, see esp. Section 9.4 on Open Access (pp. 58-65).  Excerpt:

Researchersí awareness of new developments in scholarly communications, particularly issues to do with open access to research outputs, is low....

In relation to open access, 43.5% of researchers support moves to facilitate the deposit of their research output into their institutionsí repositories. More social science researchers favour this approach than their counterparts in other disciplines, but they are still far behind the wishes of librarians in this regard as shown in Figure 7. A clear majority of all researchers (64%) would favour the provision of clearer pointers to open access content, including in library catalogues....

[L]ibrarians are keen to focus on facilitating the process whereby their researchers can deposit their research output into their institutional repository....

The usual pathway followed to obtain an article not instantly available via a library subscription is much the same in sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities:

  • the scholar seeks access to the full-text, anticipating immediate and free electronic availability via the local library; if that fails
  • tries Google to see if an Open Access version is available; if that fails
  • emails the author or a friend in another institution with better library provision to see if they can email the article; if that fails
  • orders article via inter-library loan; or 
  • consults a subject librarian for expert help...

Despite all the activity and progress on open access over the past couple of years, however, researchers remain largely unaware of the issues and arguments, and this was reflected in the focus groups and other discussions we carried out for this study. Of the researchers we consulted, only about 1 in 10 were able to show that they fully understood what is meant by open access....

Librarians expressed the view that they need support and leadership from senior management in institutions to drive a cultural change and, above all, formulate institutional policies that enable the library to follow up with advocacy to make open access a norm for the institutionís research community....

Even if they are familiar with the concept, researchers are much less familiar with how to make their own research output available on an open access basis....

Our survey shows a significant discrepancy between the proportion of librarians who say their institution has an open access institutional repository (52%) and the proportion of researchers who believe that their institution has such a repository (15%)....

Comment.  Section 9.4 thoroughly documents the still-widespread faculty ignorance of OA, OA repositories, and OA journals.  This finding is two-edged.  On the one hand, it's very discouraging, especially after all this time.  On the other hand, it supports our claim that the problem is ignorance, not opposition.  My experience is that it only takes a couple of minutes to excite faculty about OA, once you get their attention.  The hard part is --still-- getting their attention.