Doctoral Students in New Zealand Have Low Awareness of Institutional Repository Existence, but Positive Attitudes Toward Open Access Publication of Their Work

Theresa S. Arndt

Abstract


Objective – To investigate doctoral students' knowledge of and attitudes toward open access models of scholarly communication and institutional repositories, and to examine their willingness to comply with a mandatory institutional repository (IR) submission policy.

Design – Mixed method, sequential exploratory design.

Setting – A large, multi-campus New Zealand university that mandates IR deposit of doctoral theses.

Subjects – Two doctoral students from each of four university colleges were interviewed. All 901 doctoral students were subsequently sent a survey, with 251 responding.

Methods – Semi-structured interviews with eight subjects selected by purposive sampling, followed by a survey sent to all doctoral students. The authors used NVivo 8 for analysis of interview data, along with a two-phase approach to coding. First, they analyzed transcripts from semi-structured interviews line-by-line to identify themes. In the second phase, authors employed focused coding to analyze the most common themes and to merge or drop peripheral themes. Themes were mapped against Rogers' diffusion of innovation theory and social exchange theory constructs to aid interpretation. The results were used to develop a survey with a fixed set of response choices. Authors then analyzed survey results using Excel and SurveyMonkey, first as a single data set and then by discipline.

Main Results – The authors found that general awareness of open access was high (62%), and overall support for open access publication was 86.3%. Awareness of IRs as a general concept was much lower at 48%. Those subject to a mandatory IR deposit policy for doctoral theses overwhelmingly indicated willingness to comply (92.6%), as did those matriculating prior to the policy (83.3%), although only 77.3% of all respondents agreed that deposit should be mandatory. Only 17.6% of respondents had deposited their own work in an IR, while 31.7% reported directly accessing a repository for research. The greatest perceived benefits of IR participation were removal of cost for readers, ease of sharing research, increased exposure and citing of one's work, and professional networking. The greatest perceived risks were plagiarism, loss of ability to publish elsewhere, and less prestige relative to traditional publication. The reason most given for selecting a specific publication outlet was recommendation of a doctoral supervisor. Disciplinary differences in responses were not sizable.

For additional interpretation, the authors applied Rogers’s diffusion of innovations theory to determine the extent to which IRs are effective innovations. The authors posit that repositories will become a more widely adopted innovations as awareness of IRs in general increases, and through increased awareness that IR content is discoverable through major search engines such as Google Scholar, thus improving usability and increasing dissemination of research. Using the social exchange theory framework, the authors found that respondents’ expressed willingness to deposit their work in IRs demonstrated altruistic motives for sharing their research freely with others, appreciation for the reciprocity of gaining access to others’ research, and awareness of the potential direct reward of having their work cited more often.

Conclusion – Authors identified that lack of awareness, rather than resistance to deposit, as the main barrier to IR depository participation. Major benefits perceived for participating included the public good of knowledge sharing and increased exposure for one’s work. Concerns included copyright and plagiarism issues. These findings have implications for communication and marketing campaigns to promote doctoral students' deposit of their work in institutional repositories. While respondents reported low direct use of IRs for conducting research, the vast majority reported using Google Scholar, and so may have unknowingly accessed open access repository content. This finding suggests that attention be given to enhanced metadata for optimizing discoverability of IR content through general search engines.

Keywords


institutional repository; open access; theses & dissertations

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