Nov 092006

Earlier this year I conducted a fairly simple survey of librarians’ attitudes to the availability of self-archived journal articles as a possible substitute for subscribed journals. (ALPSP survey of librarians on factors in journal cancellation – ALPSP charge for the full report but there is a free summary and a free version of my article in Learned Publishing is here.)

We found that the key factors in selecting candidate journals for possible cancelation were (in order): relevance (to the research and/or teaching programme); usage; and price. Availability of the same content in an open-access archive was in a distant fourth place. One possible reason was the relatively low level of knowledge of what was available: only 16% of respondents had estimates of the overlap between their collections and archives, and only 31% had plans to introduce systems to measure this overlap.

Chris Beckett and Simon Inger of Scholarly Information Strategies have now done a much more sophisticated piece of research on the same topic, commissioned by the Publishing Research Consortium. According to the summary:

“Overall the survey shows that a significant number of librarians are likely to substitute OA materials for subscribed resources, given certain levels of reliability, peer review and currency of the information available. This last factor is a critical one – resources become much less favoured if they are embargoed for a significant length of time.”

Librarians showed a strong preference for the refereed version, as opposed to an unrefereed pre-print, but

“Librarians showed an insignificant shift in preference between any version of an article once it had been refereed, irrespective of the inclusion of editorial changes such as copy editing.”

Embargoes appear critical: delay in availability reduces the attractiveness of a product offering:

“The survey tested the effect of embargoes on OA and licensed database content set at 6, 12 and 24 months; a significant impact on librarians’ preference for OA, and licensed database, content was seen when embargoes were set to 12 and 24 month.”

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