Scientists’ views on Open Access

I was at the Vitae Researcher Development Conference in the very handsome Midland Manchester Hotel on September 6 (and then had the flu, hence the delay in this post!). I ran a special interest session on Open Access and had a discussion around the continuing perception of researchers that citations from OA sources are less “valuable” than citations from traditional publications …

Which links into the fact that one of the most interesting sessions I attended was a workshop on academic scientists’ perceptions of their careers. The picture was one of a profession marked by anxiety, pressure and tension – with early-career researchers showing particularly high levels of insecurity. No real surprise there, then. But I wonder if this is connected with the tendency to be sceptical about the use of open access repositories for disseminating research results. Do scientists feel that by using OA methods they’d be somehow relinquishing ownership of, and/or control over, their research? Since the research results are the key to career progression, status and even permanent employment, the last thing researchers want is to lose control over them. 

Does this make sense as an analysis?

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3 Responses to Scientists’ views on Open Access

  1. I wonder what scientists feel is the point of ‘keeping control’ of their research if hardly anyone is able to read their publications? By archiving copies of their final refereed articles in their OA institutional repositories they hugely increase the visibility of their findings and accelerate research progress. And this is surely the reason for doing research in the first place. See what happened to Ray Frost, QUT, when his papers were so archived: http://epublishingtrust.blogspot.com/2008/11/yes-you-can.html . . .

    If research is publicly funded, there is an obligation to distribute the output from the investment as widely as possible – and particularly to improve access for colleagues in economically constrained regions. If authors are worried about plagiarism, then the web is the best mechanism to keep track of what is going on in their field.

  2. Martin says:

    Hi Amanda
    that’s been my experience too – I blogged some thoughts after a science 2.0 workshop here http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2009/10/science-20-workshop.html
    where I wondered whether it was partly due to our scientific training meaning that we like to predict outcomes and much of open access/web 2.0 is about unpredictability.
    The tenure process and messages sent to early career academics in particular is a big driver too – I gave a talk for George Siemens course recently (http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2010/09/the-lack-of-uptake-of-new-technology-by-researchers.html) about the lack of uptake. It seems to me that in higher education we are creating a dangerous position where ‘new blood’ is positively discouraged from innovating and told to focus on traditional practice.

    • Bill Hubbard says:

      I think Martin has a valuable point regarding discouraging new researchers from experimenting with new practices. The scientific method is an inherently conservative process, where repeatable proof is required before going on to the next step – and it needs to be. However, there does seem sometimes an unnecessary spread of this approach from the methodology of research to the method of research dissemination. Dissemination of research takes place in a wider context, buffeted by technical, social changes, economic drivers and political pressures, where the cautious methodology of research is less appropriate. It might be a generational change which might not take as long as a generation: time does move swiftly and already some of the young researchers I spoke to at the start of the SHERPA project 7 years ago are now entering their early thirties and beginning to be able to change their research cultures.

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