The research production cycle has three components: the conduct of the research itself (R), the data (D), and the peer-reviewed publication (P) of the findings. Open Access (OA) means free online access to the publications (P-OA), but OA can also be extended to the data (D-OA): the two hurdles for D-OA are that not all researchers want to make their data OA and that the online infrastructure for D-OA still needs additional functionality. In contrast, all researchers, without exception, do want to make their publications P-OA, and the online infrastructure for publication-archiving (a worldwide interoperable network of OAI 1-compliant Institutional Repositories [IRs]2) already has all the requisite functionality for this.
Yet because so far only about 15% of researchers are spontaneously self-archiving their publications today, their funders and institutions are beginning to require OA self-archiving,3 so as to maximize the usage and impact of their research output.
The adoption of these P-OA self-archiving mandates needs to be accelerated. Researchers’ careers and funding already depend on the impact (usage and citation) of their research. It has now been repeatedly demonstrated that making publications OA by self-archiving them in an OA IR dramatically enhances their research impact.4 Research metrics (e.g., download and citation counts) are increasingly being used to estimate and reward research impact, notably in the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).5 But those metrics first need to be tested against human panel-based rankings in order to validate their predictive power.
Publications, their metadata, and their metrics are the database for the new science of scientometrics. The UK’s RAE, based on the research output of all disciplines from an entire nation, provides a unique opportunity for validating research metrics. In validating RAE metrics (through multiple regression analysis) 6 against panel rankings, the publication archive will be used as a data archive. Hence the RAE provides an important test case both for publication metrics and for data-archiving. It will not only provide incentives for the P-OA self-archiving of publications, but it will also help to increase both the functionality and the motivation for D-OA data-archiving.
Now let us look at all of this in a little more detail:
Research consists of three components: (1) the conduct of the Research (R) itself (whether the gathering of empirical data, or data-analyses, or both), (2) the empirical Data (D) (including the output of the data-analyses), and (3) the peer-reviewed journal article (or conference paper) Publications (P) that report the findings. The online era has made it possible to conduct more and more research online (R), to provide online access (local or distributed) to the data (D), and to provide online access to the peer-reviewed articles that report the findings (P).
The technical demands of providing the online infrastructure for all of this are the greatest for R and D – online collaborations and online data-archiving. But apart from the problem of meeting the technical demands for R and for D-archiving, the rest is a matter of choice: if the functional infrastructure is available for researchers to collaborate online and to provide online access to their data, then the rest is just a matter of whether and when researchers decide to use it to do so.78 Some research may not be amenable to online collaboration, or some researchers may for various reasons prefer not to collaborate, or not to make their data publicly accessible.
In contrast, when it comes to P, the peer-reviewed research publications, the technical demands of providing the online infrastructure are much less complicated and have already been met. Moreover, all researchers (except those working on trade or military secrets) want to share their findings with all potential users, by (i) publishing them in peer reviewed journals in the first place and by (ii) sending reprints of their articles to any would-be user who does not have subscription access to the journal in which it was published. Most recently, in the online age, some researchers have also begun (iii) making their articles freely accessible online to all potential users webwide.