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Openness increases visibility

The title of this post could apply to a number of things, but here it refers to Open Access publishing. At Uniarts Helsinki the open availability of publications is ensured in many ways: through our own publishing activity, Open Access publishing in third party journals and books, and by self-archiving articles originally published in subscription journals or books to our institutional repository.

Visibility is obviously a very abstract concept, and we are not going to problematize or analyze the concept here. It’s good to bear in mind that visibility or download numbers do not necessarily tell anything about the impact the journals articles may or may not have on future research or society. But it’s maybe safe to say that if no one can access the research article, you cannot expect a huge visibility or impact from it.

Publishing at Uniarts

When Uniarts publications are made available in the institutional repository Helda[1], they are discoverable via international databases, indices and search engines. Users around the world can find and access Uniarts publications without having to come directly to Helda: Uniarts publications can be discovered through the same services as other universities’ publications globally. Helda also provides long-term archiving of the full-texts: the PDF files are as safe in Helda as digital files can be.

So what do the download statistics tell about the visibility of Uniarts publications? One can look at this from various points of view, and there are more variables than I can think of. Let’s just say that the ten most downloaded publications in Uniarts publication series (Acta Scenica, DocMus publications, Nivel etc.) were downloaded 4122–12964 times in 2019, or that all 159 publications in aforementioned series were downloaded over 157 000 times in the same year[2]. I dare to claim that that is a lot more visibility and maybe also impact, than if the publications were published only in print or behind a paywall.

Image 1: Uniarts publication series downloads in 2019.

University publications are also a chance to enrich the diversity of publication channels: from peer reviewed monographs and article collections to such artistic research outputs that may even challenge the boundaries of publication types defined by the ministry of education and culture or Publishing Forum.

In-house publishing and university presses have a long tradition. They can also be seen as part of sustainable academic infrastructure: non-profit publishing governed by the academic community themselves.

Achieving open access through self-archiving

Self-archiving (sometimes parallel publishing), or Green Open Access, is a way of making your paywalled publication openly available. In traditional publishing model an article (or a book chapter) is published in a subscription journal, and only the users of the organization who subscribe it, have access to it. Non-affiliated users can e.g. pay 40€ to buy a PDF copy if they wish. But the publication still stays behind a paywall.

Most publishers, however, allow the author(s) to archive the article to an institutional or some other open repository. This is a generalization, but most often the article 1) has to be the author-accepted manuscript (sometimes postprint), i.e. the peer-reviewed and corrected final version sans the journal layout and copyediting, and 2) can only be archived in a non-commercial repository such as the author’s institution’s repository, and sometimes after an embargo period[3].

This is how paywalled articles and book chapters can be made openly available, and often with a Creative Commons license, allowing e.g. the distribution, re-use, and modification of the article. Publications self-archived to an institutional repository such as Helda can gain the same visibility as the university’s own publications, when they can be discovered and accessed through international databases and search engines. Self-archived PDF files are also secured for long-term preservation.

The same cannot be said about services such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu[4]. Publishers often do not allow self-archiving to a commercial “archive”, but the temptation to upload one’s article to them is understandable, because they are so popular among the researcher community. The funding model of these services should also raise question – you’ve probably heard the saying that if something is free, you are the product. What is more, there are no guarantees that a PDF file uploaded to these services will be available there tomorrow. The discoverability of (articles in) these services through databases isn’t too great either, e.g. Unpaywall, a browser add-on that searches for openly available versions of paywalled publications, doesn’t include them.

It’s difficult to evaluate how much more visibility articles gain through self-archiving, because download statistics of the final published version of the article are seldomly available on journal websites, and comparisons on this level cannot be made. But maybe visibility and download numbers are not the incentive here, rather the idea that you can have your work openly available at no cost, if other means for open access publishing are not possible.  In Uniarts, direct open access publishing (Gold Open Access) is high on a national level, but through self-archiving even more articles could be made openly available.

Image 2: The portion of OA publications of peer reviewed articles in Finnish universities in 2019. Colour blue indicates direct OA publications, orange other types of OA (like hybrid OA), and grey self-archived publications. At Uniarts (”Taideyo” in the image) overall OA publishing is high but self-archiving low compared to other universities. Source: Ilva, Jyrki (2020). Suomalaisten korkeakoulujen avoimet julkaisut vuonna 2019.http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2020051229388

Publishers have lately started to loosen their policy regarding the embargo period, i.e. the time you have to wait after the original article has been published until you’re allowed to self-archive it. Embargo has been justified on the grounds that self-archiving has a negative impact on the visibility and downloads of the original article, and eventually, on the profit margins of commercial publishers. There has been no significant proof of this, though, and some publishers, like SAGE and Emerald, have in fact removed embargo periods[5].

It’s easy to self-archive your publication in Helda. Find the latest corrected version (the same you sent for copyediting after peer-review and corrections) and send it to the library. We check on your behalf if the publisher allows self-archiving, and upload it to Helda (after embargo period if there is any) for everyone to discover and read.

Harri Ollikainen, information specialist (he/him)


ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8877-2237

Uniarts Helsinki Library, lib@uniarts.fi

[1]  It’s worth mentioning here that Uniarts will launch its own repository called Taju in February 2021 which will replace the current collections in Helda and Doria.

[2] Source: https://helda.helsinki.fi/simplestats/all?community_id=72&start_time=201901&stop_time=201912

[3] You can check publisher policies in Sherpa Romeo service: https://v2.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/.

[4] See e.g. https://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/2015/12/a-social-networking-site-is-not-an-open-access-repository/

[5] https://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/openaccess/green-open-access-gets-greener-with-sage-and-emeralds-no-embargo-policies/

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