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Friday, January 25, 2008

Portrait of Helen Troia

Dorothea Salo has sketched a painfully plausible, fictitious Dr. Troia to dramatize the problem of getting faculty to self-archive.  Excerpt:

...Dr. Troia...will be the first to tell you that she doesn’t keep very good track of her computer files....

She knows that her tenure approval will depend on the prominence of the journals her work is published in. Basketology tenure committees do look at post-publication measures such as impact factors and citation rates, but when the rubber meets the road, publication numbers and journal prestige are what count. Although they use electronic resources heavily, Basketology faculty (especially more senior faculty) look somewhat askance at electronic-only journals, a fact of which Dr. Troia is well aware....

Dr. Troia is a fan of Achaea University’s library; as far as she is concerned, she has access to all the literature she needs....

Dr. Troia’s basketology data, which are unique and could not be recreated if they were to disappear, live on the computer in her office. This computer is not to her knowledge backed up. Dr. Troia doesn’t want to put data on the department’s shared network drive, because she isn’t sanguine about its security, and her data are vital to her professional advantage, not to be pawed over by just anyone. Some of her older data are in a file format her current software can’t open; Dr. Troia shrugs about that—it’s just how software works, and she has a workaround (though a tedious and annoying one) for any file she absolutely must get into.

Dr. Troia signs whatever publication agreements are put in front of her. The important thing for her career is getting her work into the right places. She has no idea how copyright gets swapped around, and isn’t sure why she should care, since she has no choice but to accept publisher agreements....

Open access? Dr. Troia looks puzzled. Isn’t that for software? She doesn’t do computational basketology. Oh, putting her work on the Web? Well, isn’t it there already? She can go to her computer at work and download her own articles, though when she’s at home she has to sign in. Oh, openly? Doesn’t that violate copyright? Well, yes, I suppose some of my colleagues do have their papers on their departmental websites. That’s good enough, isn’t it? Why does there need to be another place?

Oh, says Dr. Troia. I didn’t know the library did that. Can I use it for syllabi? What about the draft I’m working on? Oh, just finished work. Just research. Well, it sounds like a nice idea, but I’m very busy and I don’t see much benefit in it for myself. I just don’t have time to go through hard drives and old floppy disks for my old work, and I’m sure if I did one of my publishers would get angry with me. Citation advantage? Well, okay, but my committee won’t pay much attention to putting work anyplace that’s not peer-reviewed—and besides, if it’s in the right journals everyone who really needs to will see it.

What about my students’ work, though? That might be good. Theses and dissertations, yes! But my own work? Mine?

Well, why would I want my own work in the same place as my students’?

Comment.  We've all met Dr. Troia.  We all work with Dr. Troia.  When you think about motivating real-life OA archiving, think about Dr. Troia.  By all means know the evidence for benefits to authors and readers, but don't limit yourself to it.  If you're a good teacher, you teach the students in the room, not the ideal student who doesn't really need you.  If we're good OA advocates, we must address researchers where we find them. 

Update.  Dorothea has created another character, Cassandra Athens, "webmaster for the Department of Basketology at Achaea University."

Update. Next on stage is Menelaus Fox, a collection-development librarian at Achaea University.

Update. Next up is Ulysses Acqua, the repository manager at Achaea University.