Canadian and South African Scholars’ Use of Institutional Repositories, ResearchGate, and Academia.edu | Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research
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Since their initial development in the early 2000s, institutional repositories (IRs) have proliferated around the globe. Due to low faculty participation, however, content recruitment has often posed a significant challenge for librarians and others promoting their use. Through the last decade, academic social networks (ASNs), such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu, have become popular among scholars as a means to communicate with each other and share their research. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with sixty scholars at six universities in Canada and South Africa to explore their views and practices pertaining to IRs and ASNs. Interviews were transcribed and coded to elucidate trends and themes in the data. The study found that few participants were active supporters of their local IRs. Lack of awareness, time limitations, and concerns regarding copyright remain some of the main obstacles to increased faculty participation. Conversely, more than half of the interviewees were active users of either ResearchGate or Academia.edu. These users valued ASNs both as a means of sharing their work and as tools facilitating connections with their colleagues internationally. Though IRs need not compete with these networks, proponents of open access repositories should be prepared to explain to faculty why they should consider having their research made accessible in a repository though they may already actively share their work through ResearchGate or Academia.edu. Significantly, both ASNs and IRs were more popular among South African than Canadian researchers. It is hoped that the results of the study will be helpful in informing the understanding and decisions of librarians and others working to develop and promote IRs and green open access more broadly.