Researchers’ green Open Access practice: a cross-disciplinary analysis

The EC-funded Publishing and the Ecology of European Research (PEER) project (http://www.peerproject.eu/) is an unprecedented collaboration between stakeholders involved in scholarly research and scholarly publishing, looking into specific aspects of the complex relationship between Open Access (OA) and scholarly communication. The project includes publishers and representatives, libraries, open access repositories (OARs) and researchers themselves, both as authors of journal articles and as readers (or consumers) of journal literature. The behavioural research is one of three strands that form the PEER Observatory, which was set up to investigate the effects of the large scale deposit of stage-two manuscripts (also known as authors’ final peer-reviewed and accepted manuscripts) on reader access, journal visibility and viability, and the broader ecology of European research (Shepherd & Wallace, 2009). The PEER behavioural research project was carried out in two phases, between April and September 2009, and from September 2010 to August 2011. Researchers at Loughborough University examined the behavioural aspects affecting self-archiving of stage-two manuscripts in OARs as well as the use of these manuscripts by fellow researchers. Most discussion of Open Access recognises the two main mechanisms to achieving open access. The gold route, often referred to as the ‘author pays’ route, involves payment of an article processing charge to publishers enabling the article to be made available to all without subscription or charge barriers. The alternative green route, often referred to as the ‘self archiving’ route, entails authors submitting manuscripts to traditional journals but maintaining the right to mount a version of their work on an open access repository. Much debate has focussed on the most effective way to achieve Open Access. There are many advocates of the green self archiving route to OA; subject-based repositories containing both stage-two manuscripts and preprints of research articles are a widely accepted development in certain disciplines such as physics and economics. Alongside this, many institutions are developing their own open access repositories and some are mandating deposit into these respositories. ROARMAP (http://roarmap.eprints.org/) and OpenDOAR (http://www.opendoar.org/) outline the extent of these developments worldwide. On the other hand, the recent report by the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, chaired by Professor Dame Janet Finch (Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, 2012) recommended developing clear policies in support of publication in Open Access journals. In recommending gold OA, the Finch report requests that repositories carefully consider the balance between the aims of open access and possible risks ‘to the sustainability of subscription-based journals during what is likely to be a lengthy transition to open access’, however the report does recommend the continual development of the infrastructure surrounding subject and institutional repositories, though primarily for the purposes of research data and grey literature. In the lights of current policy developments in favour of the different routes to Open Access, a cross disciplinary analysis of researcher’s views and attitudes towards green (self archiving) OA practice is timely. Based on Phase 2 of the project, this article extends the preliminary results from phase 1 reported in Creaser et al (2010), and further develops understanding of researchers’ green OA experience both as authors and readers of peer-reviewed journal articles by looking in greater detail at their reported use of OARs and the context of that use. The article identifies disciplinary patterns of behaviour at the level of the Medical sciences, Life sciences, Physical sciences & mathematics, and Social sciences, humanities & arts in order to better understand the role of OARs in the scholarly communication landscape.