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Friday, April 25, 2008

Recommendations to JISC on access

Alma Swan, Key Concerns Within the Scholarly Communication Process, Key Perspectives, March 2008.  A report to the JISC Scholarly Communications Working Group.  While the report is dated last month, JISC only announced it today.  Excerpt:

The main findings regarding concerns about accessibility were:

  • Availability does not equal accessibility: researchers’ top concern about scholarly communication is that they cannot access all the content they wish to access...
  • The main problem with discovery is coming up against an access barrier
  • Researchers do not always know how to seek out a freely-available copy of an article that they want and which they have discovered behind a toll barrier...
  • Discovering research datasets can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Accessing them once discovered can also be difficult, requiring specialised software tools
  • e-journals are extremely popular and researchers would like all their journals delivered digitally. Access problems occur when digital backfiles are not available, when the subscription to a journal is cancelled and access to the backfile ceases or when site licence terms debar some users
  • Site licences may debar certain constituencies of user, such as remote workers, off-campus workers or visiting faculty not normally based on campus
  • Access to research monographs is a concern. Researchers in the arts and humanities, where monographs are the most important literature type, perceive that access is reducing and that this is because the purchase of monographs is suffering because the science journal budget is taking an increasing proportion of the library’s funds....
  • Accessing intrinsic data – facts that reside in the text of an article – is made difficult by the preponderance of PDF as an output format. XML is the optimal format for authoring and specialised mark-up languages can be built upon that
  • Researchers remain poorly informed about Open Access. Awareness is growing but still only slowly and there remain many misconceptions. Researchers are eager to maximise their own impact and reputation but do not understand what means and opportunities are available to them...

We have made a set of recommendations that we hope will help to resolve the main issues by pragmatic, practical intervention or by further study. Each recommendation is assigned a letter that indicates its category: A (advocacy), O (operational or technical), P (policy), R (research) and S (service).

Recommendations on accessibility

A1 It is recommended that JISC commissions a study to assess the access problems of researchers working in ways that are outside traditional norms. – those in research pools, working in multi-institutional interdiscipinary teams and those working remotely from the employing organisation. The study should attempt to assess the cost to scholarship of these problems and evaluate the role of Open Access in resolving them (R)...

A3 JISC should engage senior research managers and policymakers in the UK with the new developments in scholarly communication and inform them of the importance at both institutional and national levels of new mechanisms and routes for communicating research and teaching information. The engagement could be by relating to the implications of the new developments and models at institutional level in competitive terms, both economic and performance-related (P)

A4 JISC should reinforce existing efforts to inform and educate researchers in matters relating to Open Access for their work, explaining and emphasising the value of Open Access for themselves, their institutions and wider stakeholders. That dissemination of their own work contributes to resolving the access problems they experience should be part of the message. Guidance on how researchers can now actively manage their own profile and impact should be included (A)

A5 A study is needed to look at adding value to institutional repositories with a view to identifying ways of increasing the impact and use of Open Access collections. The study should produce an overview of what types of added value exist, which have proved most successful in attracting usage, what user requirements can be identified that might be translated into effective new ways of adding value and what the cost/benefit position might look like (R)

A6 Guidance should be produced informing researchers of the importance of producing generic (general purpose) tools for accessing and manipulating datasets. The guidance should encourage them to put this good practice into effect and investigate whether there are real barriers to them doing so (A)...

A11 JISC should commission a study on the economic characteristics of, and business models for, Open Access publishing of monographs. Identification of the existing barriers to Open Access for this form of output and what might overcome them, and what the cost might be, should be part of the work (R)

A12 JISC should commission a study into successful models for Open Access journal publishing in the arts and humanities. The study should focus on instances where no publication fee is required and should identify the key factors for success, barriers and problems and sustainable business models. A cost/benefit appraisal would also be needed (R)

A12 JISC should consider offering start-up funding for business and operational planning and training therein for new Open Access journal initiatives and Open Access community resource developments in the arts and humanities (O)...

Researchers complain about restricted access to information yet their own dissemination behaviour does not match up to their access expectations. Researchers are not making their work Open Access for a number of reasons, listed here in order of importance:

  • they are unaware of the concept
  • they are aware of the concept but uninformed as to how to provide it for their own work
  • they are aware in principle of what is needed but unsure of how to go about this in practice
  • they are ill-informed and do not make their work Open Access because of spurious fears and unfounded worries, mostly centred on copyright but sometimes on the ‘prior publication’ issue...
  • they think that placing work on their websites is an adequate substitute for depositing in a repository and have a poor appreciation of what institutional repositories are trying to achieve in general
  • they do not know about, or understand, data on impact for their own work and do not know how to find out how their performance measures up against their peers using new metrics. Consequently, they do not understand how to maximise their own impact and manage their research profile...

Comment.  The findings are very helpful for showing how much faculty education is still necessary, and on which points.  The superb recommendations arise naturally from these findings.