Scientists and researchers appreciate the speed by which online journals can distribute new findings to their colleagues and the academic world, but they fear non-traditional publication can affect their chances of promotion and tenure, according to new study released by professors at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Munich.
The study also shows that academics are concerned about how long their research will be available online. But they are extremely positive about new media opportunities that open access to scientific findings once exclusively available only in expensive journals whose subscriptions libraries are finding increasingly difficult to afford.
Despite these positive attitudes, the study by Dr. Rolf Wigand, who holds the Maulden-Entergy Chair at UALR’s Department of Information Science within the College of Information Science and Systems Engineering, and Professor Thomas Hess and his colleagues Florian Mann and Benedikt von Walter of Munich’s Institute for Information Systems and New Media showed that researchers are reluctant to publish their own work in open access outlets.
One reason is that 60 percent of those questioned believe on-line publication impacts promotion and tenure, and they are reluctant to publish their own research within those open-access outlets, even though open access publications have higher speed of publication and citation rates.
Notwithstanding the speed that brings new research to the marketplace and the importance of providing easy access to research for scientists in developing countries, 51 percent of those questioned said open access publishing is not well-known enough to use it as a medium for publishing their own work. In addition 58 percent perceive the impact factor of open access publishing as a barrier and 53 percent think open access publications lack a guarantee of long-term availability of research.
The UALR-Munich study surveyed the experience of scientists accessing open- access scientific literature and their experience in publishing their own research in open-access outlets. The survey divided researchers in four disciplines: information systems, medical science, German literature, and others.
Of the researchers in “other” disciplines, 80 percent said they had already made use of open-access literature, but only 34 percent published their work in an open-access publication outlet. The study showed 65 percent of researchers in information systems accessed online literature in the discipline, but only 31 percent published their own research in open access venues. In medical science, 62 percent read online research, but only 23 reported publishing online.
“This suggests a gap between the high positive attitude toward open access publication and the low-level of use as well as future intention to use open access media. It is interesting to note that accessing open-access literature is already roughly twice as common as publishing this way,” Wigand said.
The UALR-Munich study measured researchers’ likes and dislikes about traditional publication and open-access outlets to determine causes in an attempt to remove barriers to open access publishing and reduce the cost to readers. The survey showed that according to 79 percent of the respondents, the speed of publication is faster when publishing in open-access outlets, but 60 percent believe publishing in a non-traditional way has negative impact on gaining promotion and tenure.
Wigand said the study can provide valuable data for already established scientific publishing companies, for suppliers of open-access publications, and for publishing scientists and scholarships. It shows traditional publishers still have an enormous advantage in terms of trust compared with new players in the marketplace. The study suggests that open- access outlets address the inhibiting factors identified by study participants and concentrate their marketing on new subject matter areas in which traditional publishing companies are not yet established.
For scientists and researchers themselves, Wigand said the study shows that open access publications have deficiencies with regard to the quality of the scientists’ opinions, but distinct possible advantages do exist concerning reach and frequency of citations.
“Today, scientists should inform themselves about the possibility of additional publications,” Wigand said. “They should consider going beyond only traditionally published contributions, including publishing on their own websites or self-archiving or in institutional open access repositories. Thus advantages of ‘both worlds’ can be utilized.”
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