Help Library Pipeline liberate the 90% of LIS research that’s inaccessible

This post was authored by Library Pipeline Publications Committee chair, Marcus Banks.

We’ve got a problem: over 90% of LIS articles are inaccessible to those without a journal subscription.

It sounds incredible, but it’s true. We recently benchmarked a portion of the LIS literature to understand exactly how many articles were accessible to all: how many were published OA, how many were self-archived by LIS authors, and how many articles were inaccessible to non-subscribers.

Within the five journals we looked at (which comprise ~10% of all LIS journals published by a leading publisher), 203 articles were published overall in 2013 and 2014. (We chose this time span intentionally–we wanted to make sure any embargoes on self-archiving would be expired.) Of the 203 articles published during that two year period, only 19 (roughly 9%) were free to access as of August 2016: four had been self-archived, and 15 had been either published OA or made “free to read” by the journal.

We know our quick-and-dirty study isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. And it confirms what we already know: that for a profession that values access to information, we’re pretty abysmal at making our own research available.

We need to make a change. Here’s an idea we have for doing just that.

As its first major endeavor, the Library Pipeline Publications Committee will focus on increasing access to librarian-produced scholarly research. Much of this fine work is in subscription-based journals, because librarians face the same pressures to publish in “brand-name” journals as do other scholars.

We believe that self-archiving is the perfect solution to this dilemma, at least as an intermediate step on the way toward complete and immediate open for library and information sciences (LIS) literature. With rare exceptions, LIS journals allow for self-archiving of the final accepted manuscript — either in institutional repositories or in general-purpose repositories such as Zenodo.

Over the next six months, the Green Open Access Working Group will contact authors of recently published LIS literature to encourage them to self-archive as a way to maximize access to their work. We’re also going to contact LIS journal editors to share with them resources for migrating their journals to a fully open access model, and to ask for their help in making their authors aware of their self-archiving rights in the meantime.

In six months’ time, we’ll take a look at the numbers to see if more of the LIS literature is accessible to all. If so, we’ll scale up our efforts and work to liberate even more LIS research. If not, we’ll begin testing other approaches as previously recommended in our Environmental Scan.

Volunteers are welcome (and much needed) in this endeavor! We’ll provide the tools and support you need, and you can work at your own pace. Visit the Green Open Access Working Group page for more information and to volunteer.