Open Access News

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Interdisciplinary research promotes OA, and vice versa

Michael Jubb, Three Thoughts on Interdisciplinary Research, Michael Jubb's Blog, June 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

Many are the comments on how interdisciplinary research has become an increasingly common and important feature of the research landscape. In meetings I have participated in over the past couple of days, the impact on the scholarly communications system has come up in three interesting ways.

The first was a suggestion, perhaps a hypothesis, that interdisciplinary research will lead (has led?) to an increase in researchersí interest in open access. The thought here is that researchers in some disciplines (notably some areas of the biosciences) are more inclined to adopt some form of open access in publishing their work; and that as researchers from other disciplines less inclined to open access join with, say, bioscientists in their research, they will be introduced to open access ways of thought. It seems a plausible hypothesis, and one that could fairly easily be tested. Does interdisciplinary research feature particularly prominently in OA journals, or in the contents of repositories?

The second thought comes from a presentation by Carol Tenopir of the findings of the latest Tenopir and King reader surveys. One of the interesting findings is that interdisciplinary researchers are more likely than other researchers to follow citation links as their means of getting access to journal articles; and that the latest article they have read is more likely to be in digital, as distinct from print, format. Why that should be is perhaps worth some investigation....

Comment.  I hadn't heard either of these observations before.  Very interesting.  Here's the converse of the first:  not that interdisciplinary research promotes OA, but that OA promotes interdisciplinary research.  Once we start searching for relevant new work online, rather than in a familiar corner of a print library, and once we start searching by keywords in multidisciplinary indices, rather than by journals or in disciplinary collections, we open ourselves to the serendipitous discovery of work beyond our own disciplines.  We find things we would have excluded from our searches in the past, almost from pride in our professional focus.  And when readers can easily find relevant new work outside their fields, authors feel encouraged to write and publish interdisciplinary work, without the fear that it would be invisible to most of the people who might be interested.  OA journal literature shares this property with digital, online non-OA journal literature.  But OA literature has it to a greater degree, or for more researchers, because it reaches everyone.

Three quick examples from the OAN archives:  research crossing the boundaries between physics and economics (stock market patterns), physics and biology (biomicrofludics), law and art (the commodification of music).