To each reader, their research / Pour chaque lecteur, sa recherche

By Andrea Kosavic, York University Libraries

Guest blogger and York University Digital Initiatives Librarian, Andrea Kosavic, writes about “York Space”, a repository for academic research that researchers can use to enhance accessibility of their research outputs. By taking advantage of institutional infrastructure such as repositories, researchers can leverage technology to make their findings more visible and accessible to those who seek them.

Bloggueur invité et libraire à l’Université de York, Andrea Kosavic écrit à propos de “York Space”, un dépôt virtuel pour les recherches que les universitaires peuvent utiliser pour améliorer l’accessibilité de leurs résultats. En tirant parti de ce genre d’infrastructure institutionnelle, les chercheurs peuvent utiliser la technologie pour rendre leurs résultats plus visibles et accessibles.

The title of this post is a play on the second law of library science as proposed by S.R. Ranganathan, which is “Every reader, his or her book.” It appears to be such a simple and straightforward concept, but I will argue that it still merits our attention.

Working as a librarian in a university library I am often asked what steps an academic can take to make one’s research stand out and get noticed. Researchers are looking above and beyond leveraging the system of ensuring that their work is published in an influential peer-reviewed journal that is broadly indexed.

While I did recently find an article that exposed some rather twisted examples of how a crooked researcher can “game” their citation counts in Google Scholar, beyond these unscrupulous methods, what other options are there?

I recently experienced a real life example that brought some clarity to that question.

I had been suffering from acute head pain while flying, and was referred to a specialist. After ruling out other possibilities, the neurologist assured me that I was suffering from airplane descent headaches. Using those exact search terms, he found an article in Google that suggested some preventative strategies. Armed with the citation I confidently searched our catalogue only to discover that York University Libraries did not hold a subscription to the journal. This was an eye opening experience, where I realized what the public, who do not have the privilege of our wealth of resources, must be experiencing on a regular basis. I was able to call on my network of colleagues to retrieve the paper, but this experience helped to clarify the question of increasing research visibility.

If we want the best return on our research investment, we need to ensure that the research can be found where researchers, professionals, policy makers, and the general public conduct their searches.

Our research needs to be where our readers are.

The scholarly communications system, being what it is, complicates this ideal scenario with copyright restrictions. In many cases, peer-reviewed publication venues of varying levels of prestige demand author transfer of copyright in addition to first publication rights. This practice, up until the early 2000’s, did severely limit the availability of peer-reviewed research.

While open access journals exist as an often prestigious option for publication in an increasing number of disciplines, for those without a desirable open access publishing venue, there is another established system that can be leveraged to increase the impact of their research.

This option is often referred to as the “green route to open access”, or “self-archiving“. Self-archiving involves placing a copy of your paper online, with the permission of the publisher. Publishers in many cases need not be consulted, as their policies on self-archiving are collected by the Sherpa/Romeo website.

Self-archiving is most effective if the research is deposited into software platforms called repositories. Numbering over 1800 across the globe, these platforms are often maintained by research institutions for the purpose of gathering and disseminating research. Repositories differ from unstructured websites as they adhere to a set of technical standards for interoperability, which enable their content to be gathered and shared in a structured way. This helps to increase the exposure of their content in service providers such as Google, Google Scholar, and OCLC.

Furthermore, there are developments such as DRIVER in Europe and Synergies in Canada that are working to compile comprehensive portals of peer-reviewed research from repository content. Synergies Canada to date has aggregated over 100,000 articles and just under 50,000 theses and dissertations. Synergies will be working on collecting repository data in its next phase.

The question then becomes, how to take advantage of all these developments?

At York University, the Libraries host a research repository called YorkSpace where the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York has its own collection. To contribute to YorkSpace, one needs to register with the site, and then email diginit@yorku.ca to be assigned permissions to deposit. Further details about policies, copyright, and instructional guides can be found in the YorkSpace Deposit Toolkit.

By taking advantage of infrastructural developments such as repositories, researchers can leverage technology and policy to make their findings more visible and accessible to those who seek them.

In short, increasing your research impact can be as simple as ensuring that your research can be found online without price or access barriers. If doctors are searching Google for medical articles, then we need to ensure that our articles are not only visible, but accessible there. After all, what good is it to have the media or policy makers respond to your article, if your audience can’t find or access it?

Our research needs to be where our readers are. To each reader, their research.

8 thoughts on “To each reader, their research / Pour chaque lecteur, sa recherche

  1. Thanks Andrea for letting us know about the Knowledge For All Project that the University of Prince Edward Island is working on. Although this sounds like a daunting task, the intention of creating a knowledge repository such as this will certainly help create an effective and helpful interdisciplinary research/knowledge bridge.

  2. Thanks Rick, and your post raises an excellent point that also ties in with KMbeing’s comments about terminology. Searching for publicly available information is challenging, especially in the absence of a thesaurus that bridges terminology gaps across disciplines for the public. The idea of a grand unified portal of research is still very much a work in progress, but I’m very hopeful. I’m quite excited about the Knowledge For All Project that the University of Prince Edward Island is working on.

  3. Thanks KMbeing. As a librarian, I couldn’t agree with you more. Controlling vocabularies has become even more difficult with folksonomies. What I’m hoping for is that as more linked data becomes available on the web, we’ll be able to create some sophisticated ontologies to bridge these terminology silos.

  4. Pingback: Welcome to the KTExchange Knowledge Translation Weblog | “Our Research Needs to be Where Our Readers Are”

  5. Great guest blog Andrea. Glad to see the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University continues to be open and inclusive in seeking broader knowledge to inform further research and best practices.

    I agree with you about the vital importance of accessible research. Thanks for the personal example of seeking information about “airplane descent headaches”. I argue that not only is accessibility to particular journals, articles and resources important, but the right use of terminology is important as well. Suppose your doctor mentioned “airplane descent headaches” but some terminology used described it as “jet altitude cephalgia”. Would you still be able to find the research/information so easily?

    I have included comments from your blog in my recent blog post (link below) about Knowledge Mobilization terminology. I think you, as a Digital Initiatives Librarian, would agree with me, a Digital Researcher, that both accessibility and clear terminology are essential for effective research and knowledge mobilization.

    http://kmbeing.com/2011/03/23/knowledge-mobilization-as-k-k-star-definition-terminology-revisited/

  6. Pingback: Knowledge Mobilization As K* (K-Star)???: Definition & Terminology – REVISITED « KMbeing

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