Practicing what I preach: Here’s a paper I wrote for school about self-archiving

Given how much time I spent as a librarian advocating for open access to all kinds of scholarly content, including teaching and learning materials, it seems only fair that I should practice what I preach and share my own work. Last fall, as a part of the gateway seminar required of all first-year doctoral students in my program, I wrote a literature review about faculty self-archiving attitudes and behaviors. And now, with only some very minor edits for clarity and typos, I’m sharing that paper with you. I will note only that doing this is kind of scary, and resist smothering you in caveats.

Faculty self-archiving attitudes and behavior at research universities: A Literature Review

I learned a few valuable things from writing this review, and assuming that most people have no interest in reading a 25 page paper a new grad student wrote for a class, I’ve summarized them here.

Not much on this topic is peer reviewed

There is very little peer reviewed scholarship on faculty self-archiving attitudes and behavior. The assignment required us to use only peer reviewed articles, and that requirement proved to be a major constraint for me. Many of the larger studies on this question have been released as reports in the gray literature, and so I reluctantly left them out of this review. I’m not convinced this is a problem for anyone other than grad students with assignments limiting them to peer reviewed work, but I would posit that it says something about who is doing a lot of this research (not faculty) and for whom they are doing it (not faculty).

We know why people don’t self-archive, but not why they do

I found a solid consensus around the barriers to self-archiving, including copyright concerns, confusion about publisher policies, time constraints, fear of plagiarism, ignorance, and the belief that the work is already freely available in some form. However, there was little agreement around the reasons faculty do self archive. One researcher says disciplinary culture has a big impact, another says discipline has no effect. One researcher says altruism plays a role, another says faculty are purely self-interested. This is an area that is begging for more investigation.

Most self-archiving might really be mediated archiving

Multiple studies had results suggesting that much of the behavior we term “self-archiving” is actually mediated by librarians, administrative assistants, and automated processes. Faculty may be consenting to have their work deposited in institutional or disciplinary repositories, but the work of the deposit is handled by someone else. If this is the case, many purported barriers to self-archiving might not matter, while efforts to increase deposit rates may fruitlessly target faculty when they would be more successful if they focused on expanding mediated deposit services.

The impact of mandates is an open question

Mandates are the big new thing in open access advocacy, but they are almost completely unstudied. There are a tiny handful of scholarly articles that investigate the impact of mandates on improving deposit rates and expanding access. Given the rising number of open access mandates for both data and published research, it seems wasteful not to understand what is influencing compliance or non-compliance with the mandates already in place, in order to shape more effective policies in the future.

This question of mandates is where I plan to focus my research energy in the coming months. If anyone out there is already looking into it, I’d love to hear from you. I have some ideas for how to approach it, but they’re still nascent.