May 26, 2009

IR impact

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Do open access repositories impact on the number of readers of a paper? I believe that they do: I believe that they bring more visitors to a paper through making it more accessible and visible on the web. All the activity I have been recording and analysing definitely implies an impact of some kind. But what is that impact? And is the impact for the good of the institution (who pay for it!) and of the academic community (who add content to it)?

I have tagged this post "ROI" which stands for "return-on-investment". There are many ways that an IR can be valuable to its institution, but one that is particularly important to Warwick, given the nature of our repository and concerns of our management, is a demonstration that repository deposit will raise citations. This is not an easy thing to prove...

But what made me ask the question I began with, is the impact on the academic community at large. The concerns of academic authors matter hugely to advocacy work and amongst their many concerns is one for their publishers. Academics want to be sure that their existing communication model will continue without damage, i.e. that their publishers will continue to support academic journals.

The "version of record" (i.e. the published version) is enormously important to academic researchers, and I think that is why there are relatively few visitors to WRAP reading our pdf files. It is also why I think that publishers and authors need not be concerned that open access repository deposit will destroy the existing journal publishing system.

What I need to be able to prove is that WRAP will bring more visitors to authors' work, and that it will not detract from visitors to the version of record.

A recent posting to the jisc-repositories list describes the lack of impact on inter-library loan requests, of open access IR availability. ILL is just one of the existing routes to the version of record, but this is a potentially significant piece of evidence because it suggests that repository visits are indeed extra to the existing ways in which people come across authors' work - according to the summary posted to the jisc-repositories list, anyway. I'm not sure how relevant the findings are, because the study was carried out at nine or so US Universities, and I have not read the actual publication. But it sounds promising. The publication referenced in the posting is:

Primary Research Group has published Profiles of Best Practices in Academic
Library Interlibrary Loan, ISBN # 1-57440-122-X

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