The Green OA Disconnect: Attitudes or Actions

In November, an article that I wrote with two of my colleagues was published in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication ( The article reports some of the results of a wide-ranging survey of faculty attitudes regarding issues in scholarly communication. Essentially, we replicated the California/Toronto instrument ( for the IUPUI campus ( The campus-wide survey helped us sort out some priorities in our library's scholarly communication services, but slicing up the results to answer a (subsequent) research question was difficult. (Lesson learned: a practical instrument, while useful for internal decisions, is not always an efficient research tool.) It took us more than three years to identify the data we needed, ask the right questions of the data, run the analyses, and write and revise the article. (Although to be fair to us, we've been really busy providing the services prompted, in part, by the results of this survey. The success of these services didn't leave us with a lot time to write the article.)

IUPUI is an interesting campus. It's both the home campus for Indiana's schools of Medicine, Dentistry, and Nursing and a campus that prides itself for urban engagement and service-based learning. That means that the majority of the articles written by IUPUI faculty are published in medical journals. It also means that we have a strong contingent of scholars conducting community-engaged research and creating works for practice-based professions and real-world impact. As one would expect, IUPUI's health science authors had some different ideas about what open access and scholarly publishing in general was all about. Not that different, it turns out, but different enough to change how we market and implement the institutional repository depending on the discipline that we're working with.

In short, we found and reported in the article, that the health science authors were less aware of issues in scholarly communications and less willing to work to change them than were other authors on campus. On the other hand, our health science authors were way more likely to have directly or indirectly participated in gold OA publishing and green OA archiving than other authors on campus. This wasn't really a surprise; we've known about this disconnect between attitudes and actions on our campus for a while, but seeing the results come back in a survey helped us to put this knowledge in action.

The results confirmed that, in our case, if we want authors to use our OA services, the health sciences are a great place to drum up business. At the same time, if we want some strong allies in committee meetings, the humanities and social sciences are a better bet. Our non-health science respondents were significantly more likely to say that the scholarly communication system was in need of reform (3.28 on a four-point scale, compared to 3.02 for those in the health sciences; p = .015). The non-health science respondents were also significantly more likely to say that OA would benefit them and that a faculty OA policy would be worth considering. Given, the higher levels of support, one might think that the non-health science faculty would be our main providers of green OA manuscripts to the repository ... but they're not. Why? What gives?

We were not able to dig into that question in our article. In fact, our non-health science respondents were more likely to claim to have self-archived. Perhaps they have, but I can personally verify that they didn't do that in the library's institutional repository. Anecdotally, I can also affirm that when we ask our colleagues in the social sciences and the humanities about OA they might voice support, but when we ask for a manuscript for the repository, the tone changes. Why? I don't know for sure, but my hunch is that it's a kind of perfectionism coupled with a different notion of what a scholarly article is supposed to be. The perfectionism is expressed in worries about a draft shared ahead of copyediting. This perfectionism is given extra fuel by the lower volume of articles produced by non-health science authors ... every egg in the basket is more precious when there's only a handful to be gathered. It's also the case, especially in the humanities, that the article is the "science" while in the health sciences the article reports the results of the science. To put it another way, many humanities articles are carefully crafted works of rhetoric; so the final, copy-edited version is much preferred ... and the one with a potential grammar error is to be hidden in a dark and shameful corner. In contrast, in the health sciences if the "science" is good ... well, then a typo or two in the report about that science is nothing to fret too much about.

What does all this mean for our scholarly communication services? I think one of the big "take homes" for me is ... don't assume that an indifferent author is an author that's unwilling to participate in green OA. We've got some work to do in the health sciences -- they're just less aware of key issues in the scholarly publishing ecosystem -- but that doesn't mean that they won't supply a manuscript for a green OA repository. (We have a few thousand manuscripts in IUPUI ScholarWorks in support of that observation.) At the same time, when we ask for a manuscript for the institutional repository, we're having conversations about OA, libraries, and publishing. In this process our authors are learning about the issues. It's my hope that a steady change in attitudes will evolve, one manuscript at a time.

Jere Odell, Jan. 16, 2018 - Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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Updated Jan 16, 2018 by Scholarly Communications Librarian