Open Access and IR's in Europe: The PEER Report

Issues related to institutional repositories and the open access of scholarly work continue to gain momentum especially in academic environments in North America. So it's interesting to consider research that falls outside of this usual scope such as the "Baseline Report" recently made available by the Publishing and the Ecology of European Research (PEER) project.

As stated in the introductory remarks of, PEER Behavioural Research: Authors and Users vis-à-vis Journals and Repositories, the goal of the project is "to understand the extent to which authors and users are aware of open access (OA), the different ways of achieving it, and the (de)motivating factors that influence its uptake."

Some points revealed by this research:

  • An individual’s attitude towards open access may change dependant on whether they are an author or a reader
  • Researchers in certain disciplines may lack confidence in making preprints available and to some extent this is due to differences in work organisation across research cultures e.g. researchers who work in close-knit groups, such as high-energy physics, tend to have systems in place for internal peer review. Other factors are likely to include career stage and centrality of research to the parent discipline
  • Value-added services such as download statistics, email alerts, etc would contribute to the perceived usefulness of repositories and would help them gain popularity in what is an increasingly competitive information landscape
  • There is a perception amongst authors that if institutions mandate deposit in an institutional repository the dissemination function will be overshadowed by research assessment. This is perhaps reflected in the perception amongst authors that subject-based repositories are more appropriate for dissemination purposes
  • Readers across many disciplines often need to go through a variety of processes to access all the articles that they require and that widespread open access may reduce the need for this time consuming practice.

Growth in institutional repositories has risen sharply in the last few years and PEER notes that, "The Registry of Open Access Repositories currently reports 860 institutional or departmental repositories worldwide of which 172 are in the US, 97 in the UK, 63 in Germany, and 57 in Japan."

PEER plans a second phase of research that will address the findings in this baseline report in more detail and explore these two additional questions:

1) How do social/institutional factors influence author and reader behaviours (e.g. mandates, embargoes, research cultures)?; and, 2) What tensions, if any, exist between institutional (e.g. employer/funder/publisher) policies and practice, and disciplinary norms and practices? In what ways do such tensions influence authors and readers?

The report includes a nice bibliography as well as the survey questions and responses. Very useful reading for anyone interested in scholarly communication.