It is not only individual researchers who benefit from Open Access. Their institutions benefit as well if the research output from that institution is available for all to read and build upon.
The main ways in which an institution can benefit from Open Access are:
- increased visiblity and presence on the Web
- increased impact for its research
- the Open Access collection in the repository forms a complete record of the research output of the institution in easily accessible form
- the Open Access collection in the repository provides the means for the institution to manage its research programmes more effectively
- the Open Access collection provides the means for the institution to measure and assess its research programmes
- the Open Access collection is the institution’s shop window for its research activities and a strategic marketing tool
Visibility and impact
The increased Web presence and impact that Open Access brings to an institution is very well illustrated by the University of Southampton case study. There are two large Open Access repositories in this university. One is in the School of Electronics & Computer Sciences and the other is a University-wide one. Both have mandatory policies requiring researchers to deposit each article they produce in the repository, once it has been peer-reviewed and is ready for publication in a journal. In total, Southampton offers over 50000 articles to the world through these repositories.
Southampton University ranks in the top group of research-intensive universities in the UK, and comes in at position 17 in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s QS Top Universities ranking for 2008. Southampton also came in equal 99th place in the world in 2008 according to this ranking, which has a multifactorial basis (academic peer review, employer review, student/faculty ratio, international staff, international students).
There are other university rankings, though, with other bases. The G-Factor world ranking lists universities according to the links to their websites from the websites of other universities – a form of peer ranking of a university’s online presence. In this ranking, the top of the list is dominated by the big US universities that would be expected to top such a ranking – MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford and so on. Cambridge and Oxford universities (coloured pink in the chart below), and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, make an appearance too, but the only other European university in the top 25 places is Southampton (see chart below).
The reason for Southampton’s outstanding performance is its very strong online presence due to its huge repository content. Tens of thousands of links from other universities point to articles in the repository, giving Southampton’s research an extremely high international profile. Other universities can raise their global impact in the same way by establishing repositories full of current research outputs.
The repository at the School of Electronics & Computer Science at the University of Southampton was one of the earliest examples of the implementation of Open Access in an institutional setting. It was also the earliest example of a mandatory policy – one that required researchers in the School to deposit each research output when it was ready for publication.
The repository has almost 12000 items and the usage of the repository is measured in terms of the number of times papers are downloaded from it each day. The chart below shows the usage the repository has enjoyed during 2008. The average number of times papers are downloaded from the repository each month is around 30000.
This level of usage is not unusual. The large repository at the University of California, the e’-Scholarship’ repository, has so far seen 7.6 million downloads of the c26250 articles it houses. Downloads run at a rate of around 25000 per week.
This kind of visibility and usage of an institution’s research outputs is only possible through Open Access. Closed (Suscription) Access journal articles do not achieve this kind of usage and readership. Morevover, it is important to note that downloads do rather effectively predict later citations, so having an active institutional repository full of Open Access material helps to boost the aggregate citation impact of research from an institution.
Institutions, their repositories and the Web (article by Alma Swan published in Serials Review in 2008)