12 Aug 2014

Open Access - a personal perspective

This is an updated version of a post published elsewhere.

In March 2012 a work colleague and I travelled to Hangzhou, South East China to spend a month at Hangzhou Municipal Library. This was done as part of an exchange programme with our home library of University College Cork. We learned and experienced much there and when we came home we wrote an article about our experience. The article, to quote the abstract, "considers an on-going exchange programme between the Boole Library, University College Cork (UCC) and Hangzhou Municipal Library, South East China. The authors describe the exchange and their impressions of working in a different library setting."
The article Cultural Revolution: Reflections on an Exchange was published in An Leabharlann in October 2013
An Leabharlann is a subscription magazine and access is included with your membership of the LAI. But the editors kindly allow authors of articles published in it to place a copy of their piece, the actual finished article as published in An Leabharlann, into a repository. For us, this meant we could place a copy into CORA [Cork Open Research Archive]  This we did and the article can now be found here by those interested.
It is the impact of placing the article into CORA that I now wish to talk about for the remainder of this post.
The article was placed on CORA at the beginning of November 2013. As of August 09 2014 it has been viewed 678 times. This is extra (and more geographically dispersed) readers than it would have received had it been only visible to those people with a subscription to An Leabharlann or a library that subscribes to it. And there are some interesting – to me at least – other statistics. As well as being viewed in Ireland (178 times) and China (40 times) – which you would expect due to the content of the paper – it has been viewed 260 times in the USA, 21 times in the UK, 13 times in the Ukraine, 9 times in the Russian Federation, 7 times in the Netherlands, 6 times in France and one or two times each other countries around the world. This got me thinking: I wonder who those 260 people in the USA are. And what did they think when they read it? What would they think of this exchange? Would they have heard of Hanghzhou before reading this paper? Would they have heard of University College Cork or even Cork before reading this paper? Why is somebody from the Ukraine or Russia reading an article on an exchange between an Irish and a Chinese library? But isn’t it great that people at the other side of the world can actually do this. Without having to pay for the privilege of doing so. And all thanks to the beauty of Open Access.
Further it made me think will this paper have any impact those reading it? Probably not. It is after all merely a descriptive piece detailing a specific experience. But it does make me wonder why more people don’t see the value of placing their research output in repositories or other OA areas? Why do so many researchers and authors still insist on and persist in publishing with journals with paywalls and publishers who place stringent restrictions on, what is after all, their work - work that they the author will have spent hard months toiling over. Do they not want their work to be seen as many people as possible. I know I do and I’m not a serious researcher. I want anything I write to be read by as many people as possible. And surely an academics raison d’etre is to publish and be read and have their work disseminated. OA is a key way to do this. And it is free. What is not to like?
And if one needs any further convincing of the role and importance that OA can play in dissemination of material: I did a Google search of the title by phrase and the first three results on the results page were all for CORA. An Leabharlann, unfortunately for the hard working people people that compile and publish the journal, is nowhere to be seen in the results on the two pages of results. Google sees the value of OA. And I wonder if a simple algorithm can show the value and power of OA why don't more academics see it?

[11/10/14 - Since this piece was posted An Leabharlann have actually gone down the Open Access route for all their issues barring the most recent. I think this is a wonderful move and should open the wonderful archives to a far wider interested audience]


  1. Cheers for that Martin. I couldn't agree more. Combining gold with green is very attractive alright. On a slightly different but related tangent, check out Jeffrey Beall's blog "Scholarly Open Access : critical analysis of open-access publishing" http://scholarlyoa.com/. Very helpful guidance reg. open access publishing.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Alex, and the recommendation re: http://scholarlyoa.com/ Just had a quick look there. OA seems to be massively big business and the number of 'predatory' publishers is mind boggling. Looking at these I can begin to see why authors might want to stay with the old established reliables...