View from a GA, Part One

My name is Nick Farris and I’m the new GA at IUScholarWorks.  I will be assisting ScholarWorks through 2013 with supporting data services on dspace and providing OJS support. Rather than give a standard, book report sounding post- I think Stacy’s post below is great jumping off point into my brief experience here at IUScholarWorks. Salo’s Innkeeper at the Roach Motel, while provocative, still seems to be as relevant today as it was in 2008.

Some of the hurtles mentioned in Salo’s article still seem to be around. It seems like the IRS were first created with the expectation that faculty would just come by and quickly provide content. This strikes me as the primary reason that IRs with broad goals have failed to quickly provide a great deal of open access content. In economics, we constantly told to think about incentives that are created by certain policy decisions or institutions. The incentives created by such an open-ended, meandering IR aren’t ideal from the scholar’s prospective- in so far as the scholars considering depositing have little practical upside (beyond perhaps getting their work to the public, the abstract future benefit of helping develop a more efficient, cost-effective method of scholarly communication) but bare the rather concrete downside risks (time investment, being scoped/plagiarized by other people). Of course, I think it is likely that greater open access of academic work would greatly benefit the academic community as a whole- but the individual incentives don’t align in a way that makes such a task easy to carry out.

I think every IR managers dream at this point is to a Harvard or UC like mandate that all works of a certain type must be deposited in the institutional repository at the end of the academic year. After all, this makes the process significantly easier- rather than hounding weary academics for journal articles or attempts to market the term “open access” to 60 year old professors, the school just makes the IR an integral part of the academic reporting at the end of the year.

While perhaps the original concept behind IRs was slightly too optimistic, I think IRs still have the power to be relevant without broad, institution-wide mandates. For example, many large grant funding organizations (such as the NSF or NIH) are now going about the process of creating policies that publicly-funded research must be archived so that the public can make use of it. ScholarWorks has been at the forefront of creating personalized, individual plans to help researchers archive large amounts of their datasets into the scholarworks and then help with the compliance paperwork. I suspect that these types of projects will become increasingly common and important over the next decade.

One last note- and not a particular well-thought out one at that- but last week’s EconTalk (which along with NPR’s Planet Money are the best economics/finance podcasts around) dealt with the closely associated topic of the problems of academic incentives in scientific research and publishing. While I often hear librarians complain about publishers for financial reasons, Professor Nosek brought up a whole host of reasons that the entire journal-based scholarly communication method is troublesome for its most fundamental goal of producing robust, reproducible science (ie the incentives to publish bombastic positive results but few to publish negative ones, the file drawer effect, and the lack of interest in publishing verifications).  He recommended services like Open Science Framework and the PsychFileDrawer that has many similarities to IRs (posting pre-prints, allowing the general community to review and discuss articles and data, etc ). I wonder to the extent that university IRs could assist or promote this practice. Could an IR provide the tools to help this conversation along? Maybe next month’s post can highlight this theme in more depth.

Sources: http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/09/nosek_on_truth.html