Sunday, May 25, 2008

Open Access Research Questions

Following are a few of the more substantial entries I've recently contributed to the Research Questions section of the Open Access Directory, repeated here so that a copy is kept of the original questions, and so that there is one copy of the questions under my name as the author. Please join us at the OAD to add and refine questions - and be sure to add a note about any research in progress! Feel free to get in touch if you are interested in pursuing any of the following and my questions are not completely clear.

Hypothesis: there is a rural / urban split in subscription-based access. This will appear in many countries, developed and developing alike. The largest gap will be evident for the public, followed by educational institutions. There will be some gaps even for research institutions, i.e. even a remote / field location of a research university will not always have the same access as the main campus.

This can be tested with a case scenario, e.g. a member of the public in a particular location. Does the location have a public library, and if so, what scholarly subscriptions, if any, are available? What about ILL services? Is there a local college or university campus - if so, is there walk-in access? If walk-in access is available but not close by, what would be involved for the person to take advantage? Is it a simple trip to a larger centre, something the person would be likely to do for other reasons such as shopping anyways? Or, is it an expensive trip?

This research would be very well-suited for collaboration in different regions.

Note likely confounding factor: there will also likely be a rural-urban split in quality and availability of internet. This may be inconsistent (e.g., some very remote locations are very well-served via satellite).

Hypothesis: there is a split in subscription-based access based on relative wealth, both across and within countries and sectors. A mid-sized college in a poorer area will tend to have fewer subscriptions and may not have as robust support for interlibrary loans services. Note: poorer colleges and universities need to attract students. Not all will be happy to advertise less access. Perhaps an anonymous study would help?

[from OAD:} It's also important to distinguish demand for access from people without access. Some of those without access may not care to have it. How well can we measure the demand for access among those who don't currently have it?

Heather's addition:
* On the other hand, demand for access may be due to lack of access. Is there research on demand for reading materials or right-to-read among illiterate people?

Medline free usage jump
When Medline was made freely available, usage jumped a hundred fold. This may be worth exploring and documenting in detail. Is there a relationship between free availability of Medline and the emergence of evidence-based medicine? Possible approaches: usage statistics, surveys, interviews.

Library Support for Open Access
* Library support for open access. (Can be by nature of support, type / size of library and region / location). Types of support:

* Journal hosting (see Karla Hahn's recent ARL study on library publishing activities) [date? link?]
* Payment of article processing fees
* Economic support (and/or commitments) for open access initiatives, e.g. SCOAP3, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
* Institutional and disciplinary repositories (note: the Canadian Association of Research Libraries does an annual survey). # of repositories, type, contents, staffing by type and FTE.
* Educational - number and type of workshops. See recent SPEC kit on scholarly communications activities.

Library use of open access resources
. (Can be by nature of use, type / size of library and region / location).

* Inclusion of DOAJ and other open access lists in link resolving services. (Statistics on hits / downloads?).
* Local open access collection development.
* Interlibrary loan searching for open access resources.

Library support for open access as measured by library website design.

* Is there a link to information about open access and scholarly communication? If so, where - the library home page, placed prominently or not-so-prominently, several clicks in, etc.?
* Does this differ by library type, size, region or country?
* Is there a correlation between library OA support and OA success at the organization?