The cost of communicating scholarly research: is Open Access the answer?

This is an ongoing debate which is getting a lot of attention right now. We have already seen articles about the “Academic Spring” in the Guardian and now the same newspaper has published an article in which it says that Harvard University ” wants scientists to make their research open access and resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls”.

The National Institute for Health (USA) Public Access Policy requires that all research funded by them must be made publicly available “no later than 12 months after the official date of publication”. In the UK, the Research Councils are “committed to the guiding principles that publicly funded research must be made available to the public and remain accessible for future generations” and recently produced for consultation a revised draft of their OA policy which goes much further than the original. The Medical Research Council claim to be “champions of open access publishing”.

So how does Open Access work? Will it be the author-pays-for-publication model or self-archiving in institutional of subject-based open access repositories? If we move towards OA, what is the future for scholarly communication in general?

If you want to know more about Open Access in the UK, the JISC have a useful web page, and the RIN (Research Information Network)  have published a report (Heading for the open road: costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications) which sets the OA debate in the context of  shcolarly journal publishing.

UK share of world research outputs: an investigation

The Research Information Network has released a new report which investigates the complexities of using bibliometrics to measure research output and impact. The report warns of the pitfalls and dangers of using this data without a full awareness of the significant variations in results where different data sources or different methodologies are used.

In fact, the RIN commissioned this report because “… figures provided in various reports for the UK’s share of the world’s production of scientific publications vary enormously. That a seemingly straightforward figure should show such volatility perplexed us …”.

The report is available to download from the RIN website.

Where to publish? Who to cite? The behaviour of researchers. The influence of assessment.

The Research Information Network (RIN) recently published a report on the effects of measures to evaluate the worth of  research upon the publishing and citing behaviour of academic researchers. The report, “Communicating knowledge: how and why UK researchers publish and disseminate their findings“, finds that many are confused as to what the various funding bodies expect of them in terms of communicating their research.  Most would appreciate better guidance as to how this will impact upon any assessment of their work.  

  • What factors influence decisions on the timing of publication and dissemination of research? Is it better to publish in the high status journal or to communicate more directly with the people most interested in the topic of the research? 
  • How do patterns vary across the disciplines?
  • What place have the perceived requirements for research assessment occupied in the full range of factors that have influenced publication and citation behaviour? 

A variety of methods, including focus groups and online questionnaires, were used to consider these and other questions. The report found that many reserachers are apparently considering citing their colleagues’ work more often because of the introduction of bibliometrics. Some researchers also said they felt they were being pressurised into publishing too much, too soon.