Repositories and “old school” academics

On Repositories

I had an interesting chat with a self-confessed Old School academic: he’s in a deeply unfashionable area of research, and publishes in deeply unfashionable journals…. but he makes sure that everything he publishes goes into his local Institutional Repository.

I ran my idea of a CRIS-like system past him, and he spotted an immediate flaw: “It’s mine!”

He will not share anything until has been published. He will not put unpublished work anywhere that it can be got at1. The problem is that your unpublished work can be plagerised, and published, before you finish your work… meaning that you are now plagerising someone else – on your own research!

I asked him about copies of his work, and if he keeps them on the fileservers in his college: Nope, he keeps them on a removeable hard disk, which he takes home with him every night.

So where does that leave us?

  • I think we need to accept that that old school have a point: plagerism is rife, and not just at undergrad level – it happens at all levels of academia.
  • I think that the “google generation” will be less paranoid about their work… and more aware of computing systems (on which: who else noticed that Peter Murray-Rust mentioned having disk-level encription on his laptop when giving his presentation at OR08?).
  • I think that the idea of providing an backup (or archive) for “work in progress” is valid, and that the idea of a hierarchical system can be sold.

BUT (and you notice it is a pretty damn big “but”), we will need to be sure that the archive is secure, that work cannot be copied, and that the academic feels firmly in control.

On another topic

My friend was hugely supportive of his local repositorty: not only were the staff excellent at handling the deposit and sorting out all the metadata stuff for him; but he was actually able to raise the profile of his work!

He drums into his students two messages when it comes to publications:

  1. Do NOT release anything into the public domain until your work has been definitely accepted
  2. Make sure you put a copy into the local IR: the more people find your work, the greater the pool of people who might cite your work: a 1% citation rate from 10 people is 1-in-10; a 1% citation rate from 100 people is 1: a 10-fold increase!

[1] He told me a story of, when he was in China over the summer, a student submitted a piece for his Masters degree. A quick read of it showed that this was an incomplete work, by someone else. Further, fairly simple, investigation revealed it was written by a PostDoc, in a US University, and was going through it’s final review process.


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