Peering into the PEER report

Looking at the recent room released PEER baseline report on authors and users regarding journals and repositories from Loughborough University.

This is packed full of very useful and very dense information and analysis which will repay many close readings.

For advocates of open access, and in particular institutional repositories, one immediately interesting question is Q 22: What reservations do you have about placing your peer-reviewed journal articles in publicly available repositories?

Responses to this are quite fascinating. As a (very) rough analysis, putting together the figures seems to show that the most significant concern is a reluctance to put research publications in a repository were other materials have not been peer-reviewed, with nearly 50% considering this either very important or important.

Following this close behind are concerns about infringing copyright and infringing embargo periods; concern about the paper not having been “properly edited by the publisher”; not knowing of a suitable repository; a concern about plagiarism or unknown reuse; then not knowing how to deposit material in a repository and not knowing what a repository was.  Other concerns are then a step change down from these.

If as advocates we want to get more material into repositories, these might well be the key questions for advocacy to address.  Interestingly, none of these are unanswerable, require policy change or mandates and revolve around a simple lack of knowledge.

For instance, the top concern of sharing server-space with pre-prints really revolves around a lack of knowledge as to how the open access repository system works.  I doubt if academics really object to their words being held on adjacent tracks on a hard disk to non-peer reviewed material.  I suspect it is that in accessing the material they see a user being presented with their hard earned peer review material “displayed” alongside non-peer reviewed material.

In other words it is the difference between storage and access.  Material can be deposited and stored in a repository, but users will access the material in a separate fashion and be able to separate out by subject, peer review status, etc. if this distinction is not appreciated by an author, then they may well see the repository as both storage and access mechanism: whereas for almost all users the actual repository — and its accompanying content — will be reduced in use to a single cover sheet on the article that they actually want.

The concerns about copyright and embargo again, are really a matter of the author being given the right information at the right time.  Repository managers commonly use RoMEO to find out this information: there is a strong case for arguing that RoMEO ‘s API should be used more widely to embed the information directly into the deposit process.  Or at least, tell authors that copyright and embargo information is readily available and that this should not be an issue for them.

Concerns about plagiarism and how the material will be used can also be addressed.  Far from being an invitation to plagiarism, making materials openly accessible simply increases the chance that the plagiarist will be detected.

For those concerned about depositing  materials that have not been “properly edited” by the publisher, again the answer is information as to how the system works — allowing, in most cases, the deposit of the authors-final version, after peer review changes.

The other three highest concerns again revolve around a lack of information as to how the system works: not knowing of a suitable repository, not knowing how to deposit, and not knowing what an open access repository is.

Although this question reveals a range of strongly felt concerns which stop authors using repositories, nonetheless it is reassuring to note that none of the concerns need be showstoppers: it’s just an argument for continued, repetitive, hard slog advocacy of the basics.

Bill

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About Bill Hubbard
Bill Hubbard is the Director of the Centre for Research Communications (CRC), incorporating the work of SHERPA. Bill has a background in Higher Education and IT; in particular in work aiming to embed IT into university functions and working practices. Previous work has looked at the use of Expert Systems in supporting decision making, designing information systems for managing research funding and a number of years working with the introduction of multimedia into university teaching. Bill's commercial experience includes three years as a project manager in virtual reality applications for communications, installations and broadcast, specialising in virtual heritage environments. Before this he worked as a senior lecturer at De Montfort University, Leicester, leading a BA degree course in Multimedia Design and has been an honorary lecturer in the School of Computing Sciences at the University of East Anglia. Bill speaks widely on open access and related issues - repository network development, institutional integration, cultural change, IPR and Open Access policy development. He is also involved in archaeological and heritage applications of new media and sits on the Channel 4 Award jury for new media archaeology.

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