Keeping research in step with policy - Research Information
"In June, under the UK’s presidency of the G8, ministers and research academies from the G8 nations met at the Royal Society and jointly endorsed the need for open data and open access to research. This was in recognition that this will have a positive impact on global economies and challenges. This is the most recent policy declaration in a long-line that demonstrates the tide has turned firmly towards open-access research. And now more and more research funders are increasingly insisting on open access and data sharing ... Recently, a joint Jisc and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) survey of 3,500 UK academics, conducted by Ithaka S+R uncovered rather conservative behaviour in terms of the sharing of research in an open-access way. When asked to rate a number of factors that influence their publication decisions fewer academics rated free access on the web as important in comparison to other factors and a fairly high number rated the ability to publish for free, without article charges, as an influential factor in their publishing choices ... Such results suggest a tension between policy directions and research practice. Publishing practices seem to be more strongly influenced by the ‘impact factor’ and a researcher’s immediate research interests and peers, than by the opportunities of wide availability and models that support open dissemination. One of the interests of the G8 statement was access to research by developing nations. This was stated as an important principle and one that open research can enable. Again we see from the survey results that this is not a factor that features highly for researchers when considering publishing options. In contrast to this, however, the survey showed that, when researchers are themselves in the position of a reader, there is a strong desire for openly-available resources on the web. The largest proportion of respondents turn to the web to search for resources. When asked what they do when they cannot get immediate access to a book or journal in their library around 90 per cent of the respondents said they would next search for a free version online and, failing that, would simply give up and look for an alternative resource. A comparative Ithaka survey, undertaken at the same time in the USA, showed similar results in the preference for searching freely-available resources. However, in contrast to the UK, the US researchers tend to opt for interlibrary loan before they give up and look for a different resource to the one they originally sought. This could reflect the different service models for interlibrary loan between the UK and USA. In the US there does seem to be very strong regional service collaborations around inter library loan across colleges and universities. That UK researchers, as readers, are benefitting from open access is a persistent finding. For example, results from an RIN survey back in 2011 that was undertaken to inform understanding on gaps in access to research articles also confirmed similar behaviours. It found that when an article could not be easily accessed, ‘many researchers in both academia and industry simply give up and either look for another article with similar information, or do something else entirely’. So, how can the gap between these two aspects of research practice be bridged to meet policy aspirations? Inevitably, change takes time. We may see generational shifts in practice, but incentives for researchers to publish openly need to be more explicit. Clearly the latest survey findings show that, if a resource is available openly, other researchers will use it. It can therefore be assumed that there will be higher citation rates if an article is open access. This assumption is backed by evidence, as shown in Alma Swan's examination of over 30 studies of citation ..."