In my copious spare time, of which I have none, I teach in the doctoral program at a nearby university. They want me to use the library and keep up on research, both because it looks nice in the alumni newsletter and also so that when students ask me questions about current technologies or findings, I don’t shrug and say, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
That sort of thing makes students wonder whether getting a PhD is really worth going into debt for the remainder of their lives.
So, the university kindly pays money to a whole bunch of different publishers just so usually ungrateful people like me can engage in such use.
The authors of the research would also like people like me to use their research. They’d like to be cited, because that helps make them look good to funding agencies and tenure review committees. They’d like to think that their Uncle Bob was wrong, that they are not wasting their lives studying something as practical as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and that people who are actually teaching school or designing products will use their work to make the world a better place.
What’s the problem? The problem is that between the authors of the research, who probably did not get paid, and the university library, which paid for access, there are a number of barriers thrown up by publishers. Here is what happened yesterday:
- Log into my campus account
- Go to the library web page and search ejournals for the articles I need
- Find article, click link to go to year
- Click link to go to issue
- Click article
- Get taken to publisher page
- Get asked to log in with campus ID again
- Read half of article – get called away for meeting
- Come back to find out I have been logged out due to being away from the computer. Go through steps 1-7 again.
- After answering a couple of calls from clients and students, find I have been logged out due to inactivity. Go through steps 1-7 again.
- Finish first article, go to second article, which is published by different publisher
- Find out that even though I have a university id that I have now logged in with twice (not counting the two previous times I was logged out) I need to register for an account with this publisher and log into that
- Register, log in, read 20 pages. Eat lunch. Come back to find I have been logged out and now need to log into the campus account, go to the library web page, go back to the article and log into the publisher account AGAIN
There was more, but you get the idea. If I can, I download the resource on my computer but often the number of pages I can download is limited. The crazy thing is that all of this is required from someone who has a paid access to the articles.
DIRECTORY OF OPEN ACCESS JOURNALS TO THE RESCUE !
I recalled reading a draft of an article my brother had written and when I told him I’d rather blog because then people could at least read it, he mentioned he was publishing it in an open access journal.
My first stop was the Directory of Open Access Journals and now I am in love.
It was amazing. First of all, they had one journal that had lots of articles that were exactly what I wanted. The Journal of Research in Rural Education, if you are wondering. I got the wild impression from this journal’s website that they actually wanted me to be able to read the articles. Here is the unbelievably crazy thing that happened. I was able to search on the terms I was interested in, 150 results were returned, and when I clicked on a link — IT OPENED WITH THE ARTICLE.
When I went to eat dinner and came back, an amazing feat of technological innovation had occurred – THE ARTICLE I HAD BEEN READING WAS STILL THERE! Apparently, unlike the other publishers, the folks at JRRE are not concerned that part of a band of roaming article sneak thieves prowling the rough neighborhood of Ocean Park will break into my office while I am having my jambalaya and read research on mathematics education in rural contexts without paying $9 per article.
The effect these overly zealous firewalls have had on me personally are a definite preference for anything that is open access. I did request a few articles via interlibrary loan and I’ll probably order a book or two. Given that the university is less than 10 miles away, it’s faster for me to pick up the material in bulk in print than to read it on line – which is just nuts!
There are a few articles and books I wanted because they were very specifically related to the work I am doing. However, for 90% of it, one article on fidelity of implementation measures is as good as another. So, the result will be that the work in the open access journals will get used and cited and the rest will not. I suspect we are seeing the beginning of a trend here.