Faculty Perceptions of Institutional Repositories

Jean ArthurI got a lot out of the article “Institutional Repositories:  Faculty Deposits, Marketing, and the Reform of Scholarly Communication” by Ronald C. Jantz and Myoung C. Wilson.  In particular, I appreciated its scope, which included detailed discussions of open access journals, the differences between digital libraries and institutional repositories (IR), and the content of IR as well as the faculty who contribute to them.  All of this I found highly interesting, but my attention was caught by the comments regarding faculty reluctance to contribute to the IR.  The problem, after all, may inhere in the IR name itself, which “conveys a different meaning to faculty–suggesting something about institutions but not about faculty scholarship” (190). 

I’ll buy that.  After all, there’s the old joke:  “Marriage is a fine institution, but who wants to live in an institution?”  And who wants to contribute one’s scholarly work to an institution[al repository]?  That idea must have some validity, for the study’s authors end their article by suggesting a name change is in order.  Although I haven’t searched yet, I’m sure some clever blogger has already come up with a more faculty-friendly title, one that resolves into a better acronym than IR. 

What’s in a name?  Well, do you think the actresses Lucille LeSueur and Gladys Georgianna Greene would have become famous actresses if they hadn’t changed their names at the beginnings of their careers?  I’m glad they did, for I would hate to think of motion pictures without Joan Crawford and Jean Arthur. 

The name’s not the only obstacle to faculty contributions to IRs, but it may be a starting point.

The other intriguing thing in this study was the reported result that, of the items in IRs examined, “67 percent are by science faculty, 27 percent by social science faculty, and 5 percent by humanities faculty” (191).  That disparity deserves further investigation.  I thought the authors were absolutely right in suggesting that effective promotion of IRs will necessitate “an understanding of faculty research culture” as well as “the culture of scholarship in different disciplines” (193).  Although the trends among humanities faculty may be changing, in general humanities scholars have been shown to be less interested in new technological advances unless they can be shown to save the scholars time.  This is a wide generalization, I am aware, but it might help in determining an effective strategy to influence researchers in the humanities to use IRs. 

Also, my guess would be that humanities scholars might see less of a need for their work to reach a wider audience, an audience that would rely on open access and GoogleScholar rather than institutional affiliation and database searches, or even a subscription to the print journal.  In other words, if you conceive of your audience as largely academic, then what pressing need is there for open access?  Personally, I believe the archival function of IRs would be more of an enticement to researchers in the humanities.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 3:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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