A recently published survey of scholarly authors reveals a growing acceptance of the benefits of open access publication, yet authors are still wary of unfettered and commercial reuse of their work.
The 2014 Taylor & Francis Open Access Survey updates and expands upon their 2013 study. Juxtaposing the results of both surveys allowed the researchers to identify potential trends over time. We should reserve a little caution with interpreting some of the changes since there may be evidence of sampling or response bias between the two surveys.
For example, while the 2014 survey received nearly 8,000 responses (a 9% response rate), it was nearly half of the response size of the 2013 survey, which reported a 19% response rate. The demographics of the two response groups also appears to be somewhat dissimilar. Compared to 2013, 2014 respondents were measurably younger (median age 43 versus 46), included more women (39% versus 35%), far fewer full professors (20% versus 26%) but many more assistant professors (16% versus 13%). These differences do not invalidate the comparison, only that readers should be aware that changes in author responses may simply reflect the dissimilar composition of these two response groups.
Taylor & Francis authors believe that open access offers wider circulation, higher visibility, and larger readership than publication in subscription journals (Q1). For all three of these questions, 2014 respondents selecting strongly agreed increased from 2013. Similarly, 39% of respondents strongly disagreed to the premise that “there are no fundamental benefits to open access publication” up from 30% in 2013 (Q2).
And while there appeared to be mixed responses when an author’s work is utilized for text or data mining, translation, adaptation or inclusion in an anthology, authors were largely against the use of their work for commercial gain (Q5). The majority of respondents (71%) were fine with non-commercial use of their work, however.
Authors are also still leery of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, which permits users to “distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon” a piece of work as long as the creator of the work is credited (Q6). While the CC BY license was consistently rated as the least preferred license in both surveys, aversion to the CC BY license appears to be softening: 35% rated CC BY as their least favorite license in 2014 compared to 52% in 2013. It should be noted that CC BY permits an article to be republished anywhere for any commercial purpose–a surprise that came to several PLOS authors last year.
In contrast, the most preferred license by respondents was again the CC BY-NC-ND, a restrictive license that prohibits derivative and commercial use. Thirty-three percent of respondents selected CC BY-NC-ND as their most preferred license in 2014, up from 28% in 2013.
While framed within the context of open access publishing, the Taylor & Francis survey included questions about peer review and submission preferences (Q8). Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of respondents preferred a form of peer review that included an assessment of the merit and novelty of their results. Other flavors of peer review, such as those used by eLife, PLOS ONE and F1000 Research, received support by fewer respondents, although their numbers appear to be rising. I do wonder if the responses would come out differently if the questions were posed a little differently. For example, peer review with rigorous assessment came with a caveat (“even if this takes a long time”), while the other forms of peer review avoided listing any risks, costs, or biases.
The last question that caught my attention was to have authors rate the importance of services they expect with open access publishing (Q13). Personally, I don’t feel that any of these questions are limited to open access per se; nevertheless, they seem to reaffirm what most authors want from journal publication:
- Rigorous peer review
- Rapid publication of my paper
- Rapid peer review
- Promotion of my paper post-publication
- Automated deposit of my paper (Author Accepted Version) into a repository of my choice
- Provision of usage and citation figures at the article level
- Detailed guidance on how I can increase the visibility of my paper
- Pre-peer review services such as language polishing, matching my paper to a journal, and / or formatting my paper to journal style
- Provision of alt-metrics (such as Altmetric or ImpactStory)
What surprised me from the results was that alt-metrics ranked dead last. In 2014, 38% of respondents rated the the provision of alt-metrics as either very important (5) or important (4) on a Likert scale, down from 45% in 2013. Are authors still confused with this term or does “alt-metrics” convey a negative connotation? The fact that the composition of the 2014 respondent pool was younger, less senior and more female implies that the next generation is responding much more conservatively than its predecessors. Likewise, it suggests that new publisher services, such as accessibility on mobile devices, may be more importance to publishers than to their authors.
Correction (6:45am): The original post listed some incorrect dates for both survey and publication dates. Thanks to Joanna Cross at T&F for spotting them.