A wide-ranging new international study across all disciplines has found that over 80 per cent of academic researchers the world over would willingly comply with a mandate to deposit copies of their articles in an institutional repository.
The findings of the study, carried out by Key Perspectives Ltd, for the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK, have been greeted by Southampton's Professor Stevan Harnad as 'a historic turning point in the worldwide research community's progress towards 100 per cent Open Access'.
The new results are being reported this week at the International Conference on Policies and Strategies for Open Access to Scientific Information in Beijing, China (22-24 June 2005) by Dr Alma Swan of Key Perspectives, along with new findings from Dr Les Carr, of the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, the only UK university that already has a self-archiving mandate. Southampton is a leader in the worldwide Open Access movement.
The international, cross-disciplinary study on Open Access had 1296 respondents. The main findings are:
* The vast majority of authors (81 per cent) would comply willingly with a mandate from their employer or research funder to deposit copies of their articles in an institutional or subject-based repository; a further 14 per cent would comply reluctantly, and only 5 per cent would not comply (highest willingness, US: 88 per cent; UK: 83 per cent; lowest, China: 58 per cent).
* 49 per cent of respondents had already self-archived at least one article in the previous three years
* 31 per cent of respondents were not yet aware of the possibilities of self-archiving
* Use of institutional repositories for self-archiving had doubled since the first survey (2004) ; the University of Southampton has the highest rate of self-archiving in the UK
* Only 20 per cent of authors who self-archived reported any degree of difficulty in self-archiving, and this dropped to 9 per cent with subsequent experience. Les Carr's analyses of Southampton web-logs show that it takes 10 minutes for the first paper, and even less for subsequent papers.
* Self-archiving is done the most by those researchers who publish the most papers
* Researchers' primary purpose in publishing is to have an impact on their fields (i.e., to be read, used, built upon, and cited)
In a separate exercise the American Physical Society (APS) and the Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd (IOPP) were asked about their experiences over the last 14 years of existence of arXiv (the open e-print archive which has over 300,000 physics papers deposited). Both publishers said that they could not identify any loss of subscriptions due to arXiv, did not view it as a threat to their own publishing activities and indeed encouraged it.
'These results are hugely important,' said Stevan Harnad, 'and will be highly influential. Currently only 15 per cent of articles are being self-archived worldwide, but we can see from the survey that the overwhelming majority of academic authors everywhere would willingly self-archive if they were asked to do so.
'Universities and research-funders who have hesitated about requiring this now have the clear evidence that a self-archiving mandate would not lead to resistance or resentment. And those who hesitated to mandate out of concern for publishers should note that the publishers with the most and longest experience with author self-archiving welcome it.'
On the critical question of whether the optimal route for self-archiving is the central one (as favoured by the US National Institutes of Health) or the distributed institutional model (favoured by the UK), Professor Harnad says that the JISC/Key Perspectives reports provide strong support for the UK Parliamentary Select Committee, which specifically proposed distributed institutional self-archiving. This is now likely to form the basis of a recommendation from Research Councils UK (RCUK), which has been considering the future of Open Access to UK-funded research output.