Five things you can do today to participate in open scholarship

October 23–29 was 2017’s Open Access Week, and I was fortunate to attend the Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences symposium (O3S), one of the hundreds of events around the world to promote open access, with the goal to “increase the impact of scientific and scholarly research.” Open scholarship, as defined by the Association of Research Libraries, “encompasses open access, open data, open educational resources, and all other forms of openness in the scholarly and research environment while also changing how knowledge is created and shared.” The symposium brought together professors, graduate students, librarians, archivists, and researchers from the government and non-profit sectors. Jeff Spies, co-founder of the Center for Open Science, gave the keynote lecture on the second day, and one of his recommendations is that scholars new to open scholarship should start incrementally. Building on his suggestions, I offer five things you can do today to participate in open scholarship.

“For every discipline there is an increase in citations when articles are open access” – Stevan Harnad
The main purpose of this post is not to make the case for open scholarship. But for those who need convincing, here’s one argument specifically in favor of open access. Journal articles that are open access have more citations. For example, the research of Stevan Harnad and co-workers shows, “the aggregated results for all the scholarly disciplines studied so far show that for every discipline there is an increase in citations when articles are open access compared to their non-open access (toll access) partners.” You can see a summary of this and other research on citations for open access articles here.

My personal anecdote is that I was recently informed by an editor of the Journal of Development Effectiveness that one of my articles (with co-authors Drew Cameron and Anjini Mishra) in that journal was the most read article in 2016 from the 2015 and 2016 volumes of the journal. It is also the fourth most-read article in the history of the journal. The journal is not an open access journal, but my co-authors and I were fortunate to be able to pay for the article to be open access. If you wonder whether that has played a role in how often it is read, you can see on the journal’s website that nine of the top ten most-read articles in the history of the journal are open access. If this argument does not convince you, you can read about the benefits of open access and open scholarship here and here.

Ready to get started? Here are five things you can do today.

  1. Deposit a pre-print version of a current paper in an archive.

    A pre-print is (obviously) a pre-publication version of your paper. As an economist, I am used to working papers or discussion papers as the method of sharing early versions of research. After the symposium, I have a better idea of what a pre-print is and how it can be different from a working paper or discussion paper. It is generally expected that a pre-print has not undergone any formal peer review, and pre-prints are typically deposited by the author into an archive rather than submitted to and accepted by an institution or association to be posted in a series with a cover and number. Some working paper series use peer review, but many do not, so working papers are not drastically different from pre-prints. You can learn more about pre-prints by watching this video.

    But these journals are evolving, even if they aren’t publicizing it widely.

    My colleagues working in public health who are reading this are shaking their heads and mumbling “no can do, Annette; if I do that, I won’t be able to publish it.” I used to believe that too and was very careful not to share any early versions of papers I planned to submit to a public health journal. But these journals are evolving, even if they aren’t publicizing it widely. Many of my colleagues’ favorite journals, like Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, AIDS and Behavior, JAIDS, and Studies in Family Planning, allow for pre-prints to be archived. And there is a very easy way to find out whether the journal you are targeting allows for archiving pre-prints. The website Sherpa Romeo enables you to enter the name of a journal and find out the open access policies of its publisher. You may need to check the journal’s own site for additional information.

    Once you’ve confirmed that you may deposit a pre-print, there are numerous archives available for public use. Anyone can deposit a pre-print on the Open Science Framework. There are also archives for specific fields, for example SocArxiv for sociology (and other social sciences) and the Munich Personal RePEc Archive for economics.

  2. Deposit a post-print version of a published article to an archive.

    Typically post-print refers to a version of your paper after peer review but not a .pdf of the publication. Post-print is often used to mean the same thing as the authors’ accepted manuscript. It is the final version of the published content but not with the journal’s copy editing or formatting. Not surprisingly, not all journals that allow pre-prints to be archived allow post-prints to be archived, but many do. Again, check out Sherpa Romeo to find out the policy for the journal where you published. One of the examples from above shows that the post-print policies can be a bit more complicated than pre-print policies. According to Sherpa Romeo and the journal’s site, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology allows for post-prints to be archived on authors’ personal websites immediately and in an open access repository after an embargo period of 12 months. I imagine that many of you have articles that have reached the end of the post-print embargo period for your journal. You could be increasing the visibility of your article, and thus the citation count, by archiving the post-print of it.

    You could be increasing the visibility of your article, and thus the citation count, by archiving the post-print of it.

    What if you don’t have a personal website and the embargo period isn’t over? If the journal allows for archiving pre-prints, there is no reason you cannot archive the pre-print version of the article after publication, especially if you did not make substantive changes during peer review. You probably still have the version of the paper that you submitted to the journal the first time; this version is what some consider the true pre-print version. Just make sure to include a link to the publisher’s version with the pre-print record.

  3. Set up a personal website, or research page.

    The vast majority of journals allow you to immediately archive your post-print on a personal website. While this link to your article won’t show up in searches, you can use it to disseminate your research by using the link in a blog post or tweet. And others can link to it as well. At FHI 360, we are helping our researchers to set up personal websites on so that they can better promote and disseminate their work. Here is the site I set up as the sample for my colleagues, and on the top of this page, you can see how I have listed a recent Journal of Clinical Epidemiology article with both the link to the publisher’s version and a link to my post-print. Of course there are many additional reasons to set up a personal website, but the ability to immediately provide online open access to your new research should be reason enough, especially if you are not able to pay for open access publication. (David Evans’ post on why every academic should have a Twitter profile is what convinced me every researcher should have a personal website.)

  4. Deposit an old data set to an archive.

    Many of you have several data sets that you are finished analyzing. If you published an article using those data in a journal that requires you to provide data and code for replication purposes (replication files) on request, or the data were collected with funding that requires open data or replication files on request, you need to have those data and code in tip-top form anyway. Why not just go ahead and archive them? Many of you are probably subject to open data or replication/reproducibility requirements without realizing it. My ongoing research with Ben Wood and Rui Müller is revealing that many PLOS ONE authors, for example, do not seem to realize that the journal (along with all PLOS journals) has a data availability requirement.

  5. Commit to publish only open access in the future.
    If you want your research to contribute to social impact, then you should want to make your research as widely available as possible.

    If you want your research to contribute to social impact, then you should want to make your research as widely available as possible. This doesn’t mean you need to publish only in open access journals. Many journals allow you to pay an article processing charge (APC) to have your article be open access. Check with the funder of your research. Not only may that funder have extra resources to help you publish open access, they may require it. See the policy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example. If you have no grant or project resources, check with your academic library. Chris Bourg, Director of Libraries at MIT, explained at O3S that libraries may have budgets to cover some APCs for faculty and even for graduate students. If you are a researcher in a low- or middle-income country, you may be able to get the APC waived. If you are someone who still fetishizes journal impact factors (to use Bourg’s verb), see above about citation counts for open access articles. Also, open access journals are starting to move ahead in journal impact factors, for example PLOS Medicine’s impact factor is over 11. If you do want to select an open access journal, you can find a list here, but there are so many open access journals that this site is actually a bit hard to use.

In summary, if you believe in preserving the credibility of science, then you should be supporting open scholarship. This blog post starts with an illuminating historical comparison about the difference between a very closed journal and an open archive. (It is also a great commentary on peer review.)

Interested in learning more about open access? Check out #openaccess, #OAWeek, and #O3S17 or follow @OA_network, @OSFramework, @socarxiv, or @UCBITSS on Twitter.

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