Open Access Week 2016: researcher spotlight – management

Today’s blog features further contributions by some of RGU’s most well-represented researchers on OpenAIR, this time working within Information Management and Entrepreneurship.

PROFESSOR RITA MARCELLA (http://www.rgu.ac.uk/dmstaff/marcella-rita/; ORCID http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0069-3516) is Professor of Information Management and the former Dean of Faculty for Aberdeen Business School.marcellaphoto

“Open Access means helping to overcome barriers to information exchange. As an information scientist by discipline, I am hugely committed to the twin concepts of enabling access to information for all and freedom of information. In our field we believe that helping people to access information empowers them and improves society. In my view, we therefore have something of a moral duty to share our knowledge and research with others; yet it should not be forgotten that this also immeasurably benefits us as researchers by removing barriers to our own publications and hopefully enabling our research to become more impactful for other academics and practitioners. However, in order to ensure the impact on practice beyond academia, open access repositories like OpenAIR need to become more visible, obvious and attractive to other audiences beyond the academy, which is a transition that may take a little time – though it is already ongoing. Google Scholar is one of the mechanisms that can assist in achieving high visibility, since it helps to expose repository content; it’s therefore important that we all have a public profile on Google Scholar.

As an illustration of the power of Open Access, I received a few weeks ago an e-mail from an old friend and highly esteemed Professor of Information Science, who had just come upon a study of mine from almost twenty years ago, which had been made open access on OpenAIR in 2008 (http://hdl.handle.net/10059/120 = MARCELLA, R. and BAXTER, G. 1999. A national survey of the citizenship information needs of the general public. Aslib Proceedings [online], 51(4), pages 115-121. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1108/EUM0000000006970). This paper detailed the results of a survey of the information needs and information seeking behaviour of a national sample of the UK population, and had been fairly high profile at the time, being part of the Citizenship Information project funded by the British Library Research and Innovation Centre. This experience illustrated for me not only the extent to which research may be rendered invisible by being too closely guarded within the confines of the refereed research journal, but also the extent to which even those au fait with the discipline (and presumably highly expert at retrieving information, in this particular instance) may fail to find your work.

In this regard, it is not just open access that is important; as academics, we should all ensure that the titles and keywords we assign our published output maximise its potential for retrieval. We should also grasp all of the opportunities which exist to network with our peers – through networks such as Google Scholar, ResearchGate, academia.edu and others – since these help to direct readers to your site and your publications.

Intrigued by the request to reflect on Open Access, I decided to explore OpenAIR@RGU and to have a look at my own papers there – in particular the paper cited above. Interestingly, despite being almost twenty years old, this paper seems to be being downloaded fairly frequently and, frankly, more often than I might have anticipated; for example, it was downloaded almost forty times in February 2016 alone. It’s very satisfying to be able to find this out, and to have a much clearer sense of the impact and use of one’s works. Of course this is a crude measure on its own, but it sets one reflecting – never a bad thing for a researcher to do!”

“Information wants to be free.” – Stewart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalog.

PROFESSOR ALISTAIR ANDERSON (http://www.rgu.ac.uk/dmstaff/anderson-alistair/; ORCID http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1072-4593) is Professor of Entrepreneurship within the Aberdeen Business School. Among RGU’s current academics, Professor Anderson has the highest number of outputs on OpenAIR, which may well contribute to the fact that, according to Google Scholar, he is also RGU’s most cited researcher.andersonphoto

“I am a fan of OpenAIR for a number of reasons which I will explain below. However, I can sum these up as the usefulness of OpenAIR as a way of generating interest in papers that I have published.

Publishing itself is important for both personal and institutional reasons. We become known in the academic world through papers we have written, but only when these are actually read! Our individual reputation is set in the context of our institution’s reputation and publishing interesting papers is a good way to enhance how our institution is known. Having papers readily available for others is one way of helping this process along. Moreover, when we write and submit an article the process is interactive; we correspond with the editors and reviewers. In many ways this links us in real time to the academy. Yet paradoxically when a paper is accepted this conversation stops. The finished paper stands on its own two feet- for better or worse. Reputations are forged in how people interact with the paper, but they will only do so if they actually read it.

Regardless of whether our motivation is to share our ideas, our thinking or even a lofty ambition to influence thinking, this can only work when the article is read. Consequently any mechanism that makes our papers more widely available has to help this process along. Critics might see this as all a bit vain and perhaps that is part of why we write. I claim a nobler view, that it is our academic responsibility to share what we have found. Of course this opens up critiques of our findings ad claims, but surely that is how knowledge is formed, in the thesis and anti-thesis of discussion and argument?

Consequently I see OpenAIR as an important part of knowledge production through wider dissemination. The paper may stand on its own two feet but the platform of OpenAIR gives visibility a boost. In turn we remain connected to the paper. At the very least we know that somebody somewhere has taken an interest!

Alongside from this reputational work and even the significance of advancing knowledge and understanding, I have noticed how research in the academic world has changed. The image of spending days in the library no longer works; the practice of burrowing and browsing in worthy tomes is no longer valid. We are all champions, or perhaps we are victims, of ICT. We now search for interesting stuff by keywords and associations. However, we are too easily deterred from reading a paper if our library doesn’t subscribe to that journal; we move on to find an easily downloaded paper. OpenAIR, at least after any periods of a publisher’s embargo, makes our work instantly available through simple and easy systems like Google Scholar. In fact, for better or worse, these systems do much of the browsing on our behalf. Indeed in line with the apparent trend for instant gratification, OpenAIR presents our papers and makes a version instantly available.

Another change I have noted is a widening interest in bibliometrics. Where we used to have to rely on experts to tell us which papers were read or most cited, systems like Google Scholar and OpenAIR inform us in real time (or almost real time) who has downloaded, read and even who has cited our work. I think we must be careful not to assume that high levels of downloads or even citations is a hallmark of quality. Nonetheless these offer a quick, perhaps even a quasi-objective count of something that might stand close to quality. We can expect our peers and probably our bosses to use this as a measure of what we do. Moreover, having a paper publically available, as open access, is, I believe, now a condition of the Research Excellence Framework.

Speaking more personally, I have been fortunate (i.e. very lucky!) in having some papers published in well ranked journals. As you might expect, these tend to be well cited. Yet I am not convinced that these papers represent my ‘best’ work in the sense of challenging existing wisdom. These ‘best’ journals are very cautious about publishing pioneering ideas. The gatekeepers of editors and reviewers may be concerned about (overly) protecting the journal’s reputation from what they see as too different, too challenging and decline this sort of work. I am an editor of such a journal and am guilty too. On the other hand, less ‘prestigious’ journals may be more likely to be interested in publishing provocative papers that are challenging. Rather than dismissing new ideas as unconventional or even rubbish, (some of my stuff may well fit that category,) such editors will take more of a chance with ‘different’ papers.

The problem of course is ‘impact’; that less prestigious journals don’t attract as many citations as the biggies, and many such papers are harder to find and less likely to be readily available. The dilemma for an author is whether to write only ‘sound’ papers for higher ranked journals and hence forget about that bright new idea that could change the field. Alternatively; to write an interesting paper for a journal that is not widely read. OpenAIR seems to offer a solution, or at least that is my experience.

When asked to write this, I asked which of my papers were most downloaded from OpenAIR. Intriguingly it was not the biggies in the grand journals that were most downloaded. The most downloaded were exactly the sort of papers I described earlier- a bit challenging, not mainstream and often theoretical. I speculate that because these papers are not easily available from the publishers, because fewer libraries subscribe to the less well ranked journal, scholars used OpenAIR to read the paper. I have no scientific way of checking this, but I have noticed that citations to these papers are very healthy. Certainly the level is higher than I would expect for publications in those journals.

I can offer an example, (OpenAIR ref http://hdl.handle.net/10059/718) Anderson, A. R., Dodd, S. D. and Jack, S. L., 2012. Entrepreneurship as connecting: some implications for theorising and practice. Management Decision, 50 (5), pp. 958-971. This is an entirely theoretical paper with no data whatsoever. It is radical in that we argue for a totally different conception of entrepreneurship and challenges much accepted theory. Consequently, the paper was very unlikely to appeal to a 4* journal. Yet we were convinced that there was some theoretical purchase in the idea of entrepreneurship as a sort of dynamic and the editor was willing to publish the paper. Management decision is a 2* journal, very respectable, but not seen as world class. Consequently we were delighted to see it published, especially because it was so novel and radical.

To date, Google scholar credits this 2012 paper with 81 citations which is pretty good by any standard; but excellent for a very conceptual paper in a 2* journal. One explanation for this impact is that last year, the paper was downloaded 664 times from OpenAIR. Now you know why I am a fan of OpenAIR.”

Some of Professor Anderson’s other highly-downloaded works on OpenAIR include:

http://hdl.handle.net/10059/207 = AVNY, G. and ANDERSON, A.R. 2008. Organisational culture, national culture and performance in International joint ventures based in Israel. International journal of business and globalisation [online], 2(2), pages 133-145. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1504/IJBG.2008.016622

http://hdl.handle.net/10059/202 = ANDERSON, A.R., JACK, S.L. and DRAKOPOULOU DODD, S. 2005. The role of family members in entrepreneurial networks: beyond the boundaries of the family firm. Family business review [online], 18(2), pages 135-154. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-6248.2005.00037.x

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