The View from the IR Trenches, Part 1

It may be helpful in understanding IRs to to examine some of the articles mentioned in yesterday’s "Early Adopters of IRs: A Brief Bibliography" posting in more detail.

Today, we’ll look at:

Andrew, Theo. "Trends in Self-Posting of Research Material Online by Academic Staff." Ariadne, no. 37 (2003).

This paper presents findings from "a baseline survey of research material already held on departmental and personal Web pages in the domain" (this is the University of Edinburgh’s domain).

Selected quotes from the article are below; the headings are mine. Caveat emptor: selected quotes are just that. It’s always a good idea to read the full paper. I would hope that these brief quotes entice you to do so.

Self-Archiving Disciplinary Differences Matter

As expected, there is a clear difference between academic areas. The average percentage of self-archiving scholars in each College supports this view. Within the College of Science and Engineering (S&E) this figure is 14.81%, which drops to 3.18% within Humanities and Social Science (HSS) and 0.32% within Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (MVM).

However, the situation is more complex than a simple trend of self-archiving being better established in S&E. Looking at the averages between Schools shows that even within Colleges there is a wide distribution of values. In S&E this ranges from 32.67% in Informatics to 6.99% in Engineering and Electronics. . . and in HSS from 12.70% in Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences to 0% in Divinity and Law . . . .

Even within individual Schools there is a noticeable change in self-archiving attitudes. For example, self-archiving percentages within the School of GeoScience range from 29.41% in Meteorology down to 0% in Geography. . . .

Disciplinary Archives May Not Be Generally Trusted

Considering the wide-ranging self-archiving trends between academic Colleges and even within Schools, it seems there is a direct correlation between willingness to self-archive and the existence of subject-based repositories. . . . because the ArXiv has become so successful . . . academics trust it as their ‘natural’ repository for self-archived material. The same degree of trust may not yet obtain in the case of the subject repositories mentioned above, which leads to additional self-archiving in home institution repositories. . . . where there is a pre-existing culture of self-archiving eprints in subject repositories, scholars are more likely to post research material on their own Web pages, until such time as those subject repositories become trusted for their comprehensiveness and persistence.

Low Number of Preprints Found on Personal Web Pages

A surprising finding from the baseline survey is the relatively low volume of preprints found on personal Web pages. This could be related to the success of eprint repositories. . . . Preprints do not have anywhere near the same impact factor as those papers from accredited journal titles, so it is possible that researchers would favour only putting their most impressive work in their online CV.

Scholars Are Confused by Copyright Agreements

One aspect of the survey that is not shown in the results is the lack of consistency in dealing with copyright and IPR issues that scholars face when placing material online. Some academic units have responded by not self-archiving any material at all. . . . A small percentage of individual scholars have responded by using general disclaimers that may or may not be effective. Others, generally well-established professors, have posted material online that is arguably in breach of copyright agreements. . . . Most, however, take a middle line of only posting papers from sympathetic publishers who allow some form of self-archiving. It is apparent that if institutional repositories are going to work, then this general confusion over copyright and IPR issues needs to be addressed right at the source.