Sunday, March 23, 2014

Anatomy of Green Open Access

Bo-Christer Björk is Professor of Information Systems Science at the Swedish school of Economics and Business Administration in Helsinki, Finland and is the Founder of the Journal of Information Technology in Construction. His research consists of two areas, the use of IT in construction and how the Internet affects scientific communication with this article fitting into the latter. Mikael Laakso is a Doctoral Student in Information Systems Science in Helsinki, and Patrik Welling is a research assistant in the same program. Patrik Paetau is a Lecturer in Systems Science at the Swedish school of Economics and Business Administration and holds his Doctorate of Science in Economics and Business Administration from the Swedish school of Economics and Business Administration.

This article was published online in November of 2013 in Wiley Online Library, which allows people to publish open access in either their subscription journals or in their fully open access program, and the authors state they purposely chose to submit this article to this subscription journal to allow the immediate upload of a green accepted manuscript version to their university’s institutional repository.

This study sought to explore numerous questions regarding current green open access (OA) usage, and the results should help academics and academic policymakers better understand green OA and the advantages and disadvantages of it. The article begins by defining green open access as “all freely accessible copies of articles, including different versions of said articles, which exist on other web locations than the original publishers website”. The article does not necessarily try to persuade the reader one way or the other in regards to the use of green OA, but instead it goes on for the first half of the article to discuss advantages and disadvantages to green OA. Many arguments are made in favor of green OA. For instance, using green OA could lead to an increased availability of research results for people who might not have access to these results otherwise, leading to a potentially quicker advancement of science. Also, since scientific research is mainly financed by public funds, the results of that research should be considered a public good and therefore be made freely available. It could also increase readership and citations, making this a great advantage for authors, and in fact there is an overall increase in citation when green OA copies are made available.

However, the article also presents numerous disadvantages. Citations that reference the original publication are often required by publishers, even if the author only has access to a green OA copy. Although early advocates of green OA claimed it was almost free, creating and running institutional repositories means that workers as well as money is needed to maintain them. Author attitudes also play a large role in the effectiveness of green OA in that many authors are simply unaware that self-archiving is a possibility, and even many of those that are aware do not have the time or the knowledge on how to upload to a repository.

The second half of the article consists of the results of the study that included information from existing studies as well as new data that were collected and analyzed when existing studies did not provide sufficient information. Results yielded challenges for green OA including the issue of preservation. Results suggest that preserving green OA is more challenging than hard copy publications because it may involve changing formats and storage hardware, and green OA article copies could disappear over time due to technical errors or copies being taken down due to copyright infringements, which was a surprisingly common occurrence due to authors seemingly knowingly uploading copies that publishers would not allow.

While challenges are present, green OA is becoming more popular as institutional repositories are becoming one of the services that university libraries are expected to offer. While many of the large research universities do offer OA support in the form of author self-archiving, this is no guarantee that authors will actually take the opportunity to self-archive, and the article states that the real barrier to green OA is author behavior.

While not obviously stated, the article suggests that what is needed for green OA uptake to increase is for authors to become more knowledgeable in green OA, meaning that not only do authors need to be aware that self-archiving is a possibility, but also that authors need to be taught how to self-archive, as well as simply take the time to do it. In order for this to happen, university libraries need to provide services for teaching authors how to self archive, as well as advertise these services so that authors are aware of the possibility. While I do think the authors are in favor of green OA usage, I think the main purpose of this article was to provide readers with enough information for them to make their own decisions regarding green OA as well as to simply make people aware of it.

Björk, Bo-Christer, Mikael Laakso, Patrik Welling, and Patrik Paetau. "Anatomy of Green Open Access." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (2013).

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