Recently, the great Dave Whynes retired from the University of Nottingham after 40 years of service. I will probably be his last PhD student. Over the years, Dave has nurtured many budding health economists who have gone on to achieve great things. It’s natural for those people to venerate Dave and his work and to want to ensure that current and future health economists are also able to learn from Dave’s teachings.
Chances are that your prof doesn’t have much of an online presence. Here I’m going to set out a few easy ways in which you can help ensure that future generations of researchers are able to see a particular academic’s contributions, and understand where they fit within the field. It’s also kind of a to-do list for myself, to which you can all contribute. The focus is on how you might do this for an [health] economics professor, but much of it applies to other fields.
1. Create and maintain Wikipedia coverage
Wikipedia is the go-to reference point for digital natives. It aims to be “the sum of human knowledge”. Despite this lofty purpose, not everyone should have a Wikipedia article about them. Simply having been a good professor is not sufficient. Wikipedia has specific notability criteria for academics to help you figure this out. Being highly cited is usually enough.
At the time of writing there is no Wikipedia page for David K. Whynes, but I will create it. If you’re going to add your prof, an important step is to have a look around Wikipedia to see which other articles might link back to the one you will create. In relation to this it is also important to maintain a Wikidata item and you could even add relevant images to Wikimedia Commons.
In some cases you might also like to create or maintain articles relating to your professor’s research, such as specific theories or named objects.
2. Add to bibliographic databases
The main output of most academics is their writing. There are now a number of publicly editable databases or wiki-style websites for books. See if your prof has an author page on Goodreads. Dave does. The same goes for Open Library. On both sites you can edit author pages to make sure all the information is accurate and up to date.
The sites also allow you to create editions of books that are not yet listed, so dig out that dusty old first edition and add its data to Goodreads and Open Library. You can do the same on the relatively new websites BookBrainz and Bibliogs. In fact, you could even add journal articles to Bibliogs if you wanted to start a major project.
If you want to go a step further and make your prof’s papers more accessible to non-experts, you can write open access summaries for them on AcaWiki.
3. Become an academic genealogist
Professors and their students are like parents and their children; there is an academic genealogy to be explored. You can create family trees to identify lineage and ancestry. There are a growing number of websites to support this. People from all fields can use PhDTree, and most fields can participate in The Academic Family Tree. If you’re an economist then you can also contribute to the RePEc Genealogy.
It’s Open Access Week! For a lot of people, ‘open access’ (OA) is a synonym for ‘more work’. Advocates often don’t appreciate that this is a genuine concern. There’s also a lack of appreciation for the perceived risks of sticking your neck out with an OOIDH (open or it didn’t happen) position.
So here is some advice – based on my own experience – on what you as an individual should do to become an open access author and advocate. No grand commitments, boycotts, costly APCs or threats to your career progression – I promise.
Take the following 10 steps in turn and then climb upon your open access advocate high horse. If you do, we’ll be 10 steps closer to a genuinely open access world of scholarly publishing.
1: Learn the basic principles
Get to grips with some of the basic terminology such as green, gold, pre-print, post-print and Creative Commons. If you know it all, jump to the next step. If you’re still unsure then do a little reading. Wikipedia is always a good place to start. If you work at a university, you will likely find people in your institution who are eager to help you to get started. Go to your institution’s website and search “open access”. For the University of Nottingham (my own institution) I can find an introductory pamphlet, FAQs and a training course.
2: Get to know key services
There’s a big infrastructure out there to support the open access agenda. Familiarise yourself with SHERPA/RoMEO for details on journals’ copyright and open access policies. Similarly, visit JULIET for funders’ policies. Have a look at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Try out some novel apps such as the Open Access Button. If you have the time, explore the Open Access Directory.
3: Make yourself personally accountable
This is the most important step if you’re going to succeed. Create a spreadsheet. In the first column list all (and make sure it really is all) of your published articles, book chapters, monographs – whatever. One row per publication. In the second column (which might be headed ‘Gold’) enter “YES” if the article is published in an open access journal or “NO” if it isn’t. Once you’ve done this you’ll be able to see what proportion of your publications are open access in the ‘gold’ sense. Seeing this is really important. That list of NOs is the start of your OA to-do list – your goal is to turn all of those NOs into YESes. On your journey to OA nirvana you’ll be adding some more columns to this spreadsheet.
It’s also important to make sure you’re personally accountable in terms of the time you dedicate to making your publications open access. You need to check your spreadsheet regularly. As you proceed through the steps below you’ll see a growing (but entirely manageable) list of actions. Decide how much time you want to dedicate to OA. In the first instance, why not set aside a weekly recurring 30 minute slot in your calendar? Or alternatively you could set a target for the number of NOs you wish to turn into YESes per month.
4: Make yourself publicly accountable
This could be the real clincher. Once you’ve made sure you’re personally accountable, you should make yourself publicly accountable. Open up your spreadsheet to scrutiny. In the first instance you could just share your OA percentage. Tweet it! (#myOAlevel?) There are also other services you can use, such as ImpactStory, which will share this information.
Have a look at my own example where I list all of my publications along with accessibility for 6 different locations, shown by either a ✓ if it’s open access, a £ if it’s paywalled or a ✕ if it’s just not there. I’m 69% ✓.
5: Upload to your institutional repository
This will probably be the most time consuming step, but it’s also the most fundamental: actually making your articles OA. Most universities have an institutional repository – find yours via your institution’s website or via OpenDOAR. This is a place where you can share your articles via the ‘green’ route. Check SHERPA/RoMEO to see what you’re allowed to upload. There will usually be staff behind the service checking what you submit, so you needn’t worry so much about getting things wrong.
Add another column to your spreadsheet headed ‘Institutional Repository’. Again, you want to add a “YES” or a “NO” for whether your article is available via the repository. You might find that some of your co-authors or university staff have already added your paper to the repository, in which case you can add a “YES” and move on. But there will probably be a lot more NOs. You might also find that there are entries for your papers but without actual PDFs that can be downloaded – these count as NOs.
6: Upload to other services
Open access isn’t just about having a PDF available in one place. It’s about making your article easily accessible to as many people as possible. This means adding more columns to your spreadsheet. Add as many different services as you can, prioritising those which you believe contribute most greatly to the accessibility of your article. Services to consider are ResearchGate, Academia.edu, Mendeley, PeerLibrary, Zenodo and ImpactStory. Add a column for each to your spreadsheet.
7: Start sharing working papers
A great way to make your research open access is to do so before publishers can get their hands on the copyright. Publish working papers or ‘preprints’ for free at a subject-specific repository, such as arXiv, PhilPapers, RePEc or SSRN. If you don’t have a good repository in your discipline use a generic repository like Zenodo, or just use your institutional repository. If you think sharing your article before peer-review is a bad idea, you’re probably overstating the value of pre-publication peer review.
8: Share other types of output
If you’re becoming a bit of a green OA pro, move on to other types of output. Your data and conference posters – in fact, any of your output – can be published online. Familiarise yourself with services like DRYAD and figshare.
9: Explore gold OA funding options
For your future publications, consider gold OA. Unfortunately you’ll probably need some funds available to do this. Ask your institution if they’ll pay. Ask your funder. If all else fails, there are now some low cost gold OA publishing options. PeerJ currently charge just $300 for unlimited lifetime gold OA publishing.
10: Be an advocate
Now that you are an exemplary open access advocate you can use your moral high ground to persuade your colleagues to do the same. Lobby your institution, your government, your professor. Maintain pressure and let them know that open access is important to you. Attend an open access event. And be sure to take part in Open Access Week!