Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

OA ETDs in the sciences


Back in July, 2013 (was that really only 4 months ago?),  College & Research Libraries published the article that had surveyed publishers of social sciences & humanities journals regarding the viability of publishing articles stemming from dissertations available in Open Access institutional repositories.  In that survey, the editors of these publications indicated they would be willing to consider, at least on a case-by-case basis, publishing such work.  When released, this article caused quite a stir in the libraries & scholarly communications community.  After all, libraries are commonly the instigators, administrators and cheerleaders of IR’s and OA, and there had been growing reluctance perpetuated by this myth that putting your dissertation online would keep young post-grads from publishing their work.

Now the same authors have published their results from their survey of editors of scientific publications (note: this is pre-print).  This was actually a different study, using a sampling approach rather than sending surveys to all publishers.  This actually is a better model than the census approach, because it allows the authors to get respondents that are more representative of the population (of journals).  This is because not everybody responds.  This means that the authors could “over-sample” the kinds of journals that are less likely to respond.  It also allows them to use statistical methods to determine differences between those who did and did not respond.  This is a good lesson for students of methodologies.

Because response was, um, low.  Out of 300 emails sent out, a total of 72 responses were received.  This was enough to analyze the results statistically, but with a rather high 11.5% margin of error.  But at least it’s quantifiable.

The questions in the survey were the same as the one for social science & humanities editors.  Of the 72 respondents, 51.4% indicated they would “always” accept such manuscripts for consideration; with the margin of error, that could be as low as 39% and as high as 63%.  Add to that those who would consider them “on a case-by-case basis” – 19% (8-30% w/MOE), you have about 71% of the respondents (47-93%).  Wow – that’s quite a spread.  I’m not sure what to make of that.

On the other side of the coin, only 12.5% of the 72 respondents indicated that they would not consider publishing such an article at all.  Even with the 11.5% margin of error, that’s less than a quarter of the respondents!  Generalizing to the population (which the authors can do because of the methodology of the sampling), no more than one fourth of the publishers would reject a post-doc’s manuscript based on her dissertation outright.

What’s disturbing is that while editors of engineering publications were most welcoming (85%), those of medical publications were least (25%).  This is disturbing because release of federally-funded clinical trials and biomedical research was the primary impetus of the push to OA mandates.  It’s the only discipline with a government-sponsored infrastructure for storing such papers.  But it’s also not terribly surprising.  The PubMed Central (PMC) system of storing OA papers has the subject of many critical posts on Scholarly Kitchen (see here, here and here for recent examples).

Not surprisingly, university presses were most welcoming (85% would “always” publish), but interestingly academic societies had the most who would “never” publish such manuscripts (23.5%).  But these differences, however disparate, were not statistically significant.  What does that mean?  It means that because the sample size was so small, wide variations were expected.  A larger response rate could have produced more valid (and possibly less variable) differences.

Table 10

But were these responses from the scientific publishing community different from those of social sciences and humanities?  Table 10 from the article provides this background.  Note the difference in the “Never” category – 4.5% of the SS&H publishers responded “Never”, but over 13% of the science publishers did so!  And just exactly who is saying “Never”?  Medicine.

 

 

These two papers should start the discussion between faculty members (who advise doctoral students), the doctoral students, the post-grads, the administrators of institutional repositories and editors.  It is apparent that the decision to deposit their work in the IR and make it accessible should not be automatic and should require research into the most appropriate publications.  There should also be further research to provide the evidence of benefits and risks of making research results accessible for not only the authors, but for the community and for the progress of knowledge.

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This entry was posted on November 2, 2013 by in Open Access, Publishing.
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