Institutional repositories, social media and academic publication: a simple experiment

Over at Science of the Invisible, my colleague Alan Cann has been reflecting on the contemporary landscape within academic publication. Specifically, he’s been thinking aloud about the role played by institutional repositories alongside (or, more radically, instead of) more formal journal publication (for example, see Wit’s End, which links in turn to Melissa Terras’ post What happens when you tweet an open access paper).

Institutional repositories are playing an increasingly important role in academic publishing

Prompted by Alan and Melissa’s enthusiasm for using social media to promote awareness of published work, in mid-November I started to use Twitter to advertise the existence of some of the papers I have deposited in the Leicester Research Archive (LRA). Some of my tweets were retweeted by others in the community, especially Alan, who also shared some of these within his Google+ circles.

Partway through this process it occurred to me that I had stumbled into a little experiment. So in the end I selectively tweeted about 8 of the 27 documents I currently have in the LRA. Admittedly these were probably the 8 papers that I felt were of most interest to the broader community on Twitter, but this did not mean they had previously received the most hits in the archive. In fact, if you rank the 25 works that had been in the Leicester repository throughout the 6 months (May to October 2011) from most to least popular,  then these 8 were ranked: 4th, 5th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 23rd and 24th= (2 documents were not added to the archive until November).

So what happened? I’m still picking over the data, but here are some of the main take-home messages:

Leicester’s Gareth Johnson, current chair of the UK Council of Research Repositories, suggests that after publishing any paper academics ought to provide copies to their local archive (subject to copyright restrictions) and then alert colleagues to the existence of the work. Gareth calls this the “Publish – Deposit – Share” model of academic publishing.

There is no doubt that if you have gone to the trouble of carrying out research and/or developing a new resource, and then writing the relevant paper, then it seems logical to use whatever channels are at your disposal to you to alert interested parties to the existence of the work.  Wherever possible, you will want to provide a copy of the text and institutional repositories are a good way of doing this, even if it is not the final, formatted version. My experience over the last month clearly illustrates the value of using Twitter and Google+ to advertise your work.

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