Who support #openaccess publishing? Gender, discipline, seniority and other factors associated with academics’ OA practice #sciencepolicy

15 03 2017

I recently published a research article in Scientometrics about open access publishing. See http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11192-017-2316-z?wt_mc=Internal.Event.1.SEM.ArticleAuthorOnlineFirst

This work was built upon my PhD research and presents the findings from a survey study of UK academics and their publishing behaviour. The aim of this study is to investigate academics’ attitudes towards and practice of open access (OA) publishing. The results are based on a survey study of academics at 12 Russell Group universities, and reflect responses from over 1800 researchers. This study found that whilst most academics support the principle of making knowledge freely available to everyone, the use of OA publishing among UK academics was still limited despite relevant established OA policies. The results suggest that there were differences in the extent of OA practice between different universities, academic disciplines, age and seniorities. Academics’ use in OA publishing was also related to their awareness of OA policy and OA repositories, their attitudes towards the importance of OA publishing and their belief in OA citation advantage. The implications of these findings are relevant to the development of strategies for the implementation of OA policies.

As the research assessments after the 2014 REF requires research outputs accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 to comply with HEFCE’s open access policy, it is clear that open access publishing is going to be a major factor in UK academia. The awareness of OA policy and OA repositories is highly important for enhancing the use of Gold and Green OA. The survey results suggested that many academics had little awareness of the existence of OA repositories or RCUK’s OA policy. There were also significant differences between academics from various universities in terms of their awareness of OA policy and experience with OA publishing. Respondents in universities with greater awareness of RCUK’s OA policy were more likely to report experiences with Gold and Green OA publishing. This indicates that the promotion for OA policy for some Russell Groups institutions had not yet been enforced. Institutions with their own OA repositories need to promote their service to be known and understood by more academics if they want their service to be fully used. Institutions without OA repositories need to find alternative methods to help their academic staff comply with RCUK and HEFCE’s OA policies in the future. As HEFCE’s OA policy is related to the research assessments post 2014 REF, UK higher education institutions need to promote OA policy in order to ensure that it is known and understood by academics including those who are not funded by RCUK or HEFCE but who might be in the future. Institutions should reinforce these OA polices to academics through various channels including training especially for those at the start of their careers such as PhD students and research assistants who are more likely to be unaware of those policies as suggested by the findings of this study.

This study found that academics who had self-archived their research articles were not necessarily convinced that doing so would increase the number of citations. Incentives seem to be very important to academics’ publishing practice. Citation impact is highly relevant to academics’ career advancement and it is clear more robust analysis is needed for investigating the citation effects of OA articles. Other impacts of OA publishing need to be studied. For example, has the increase of OA availability helped the public learn about science and improved the public’s satisfaction with science communication? Once positive and reliable impacts of OA publishing are found, funders and academic institutions need to inform academics along with mandatory OA policies. One of the concerns of publishing in Gold OA is the quality of new OA journals. Since the quality of new OA journals may still be uncertain to many academics, research funding bodies could have guidelines for what kind of journals academics should or should not consider. It is clear that open access journals need to be quality assured in the same way that closed access journals are, including the peer review process.

To Reference: Zhu, Y. (2017). Who support open access publishing? Gender, discipline, seniority and other factors associated with academics’ OA practice. Scientometrics. doi: 10.1007/s11192-017-2316-z