4. Findings: Overall

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4.1 Challenges identified by respondents

A content analysis was carried out on the answers to ‘What do you consider the biggest single scholarly publishing challenge facing the Publishing sector?’, along with similar questions about library and research sectors. The question was answered 178 times about the research sector, 151 times about the publishing sector, and 134 times about the library sector.

The responses were categorised according to the 14 issues identified in the literature review, with new categories created as necessary. Six additional categories were created 

  • Timeliness – the long period of time it can take for research to be published;
  • Publish or perish - the drive for researchers to publish in an increasing number of publications as part of academic progression;
  • Research funding – scholarly publishing is part of the wider academic environment, and the ability to produce research is dependent on the resources available;
  • Changing publishing model – recognition of the need to change from the traditional subscription model;
  • Public engagement – The need for researchers to reach out beyond the academic community;
  • Institutional relevance – Changing publishing models raise questions about the need for intermediaries in the scholarly publishing cycle.

Where a response fitted multiple categories, it was ascribed to multiple categories.

The most popular issues raised (those mentioned more than five times) can be seen in Figure 4.1. Accessibility was mentioned most often (146 comments), followed by Trust and validation (68 comments), Changing publishing models (56 comments), and Open access and licensing (56 comments). Changing publishing models and Open access and licensing are closely related categorisations, and combining the two would put the category into second place (104 comments).

Other issues, such as Institutional relevance and Publish or perish are much more important than the relatively low number of comments suggests, as the problem is seen primarily to be a problem for one sector (libraries and researchers respectively).


4.2 Rating Challenges Previously Identified


4.2.1 The Most Important Rated Challenges

When asked to rate the importance of pre-identified issues, all issues were given an overall average rating greater than five out of ten. This is to be expected as all issues were identified in the literature previously. There were nonetheless significant differences between the sectors and between challenges.

Overall, librarians rated the importance of the issues far higher on average. The average rating for all the issues was 7.27 overall, 7.08 for researchers, 6.95 for publishers and 7.92 for librarians. 

Most important issues overall: Accessibility (8.77), Discoverability (8.37), Trust and validation (8.21).

Most important issues for researchers: Accessibility (8.53), Trust and Validation (8.26), Open Access and Licensing (8.14).

Most important issues for publishers: Accessibility (8.65), Discoverability (8.54), Trust and validation (8.04)

Most important issues for librarians: Accessibility (9.48), Open access and licensing (9.22), Discoverability (8.94).

The biggest difference between librarians and publishers is the importance ascribed by librarians to Institutional and Subject Repositories (diff. 2.61), Open access and licensing (diff. 1.98), Data and non-traditional scholarly output support (diff. 1.41).

The biggest difference between librarians and researchers is the importance ascribed by librarians to Metadata and standards (diff. 1.57), Policymakers’ scholarly publishing policies (diff. 1.53), and Discoverability (diff. 1.34).

The biggest difference between publishers and researchers is the importance ascribed by researchers to Institutional and subject repositories (diff. 1.35), Plagiarism (diff. 1.14), and the greater importance ascribed by publishers to Metadata and standards (diff. 1.22).


4.2.2 The Biggest Challenges

Generally those issues that were considered most important are also considered to be the biggest issues to address; there is a moderately positive correlation between the importance of the issues and the size of the issues (Pearson correlation r=0.68). For every issue the importance was rated more highly than the size of the challenge, with the exception of Piracy, Personalisation, and Measuring impact

The biggest rated challenges overall were Accessibility (7.12), Trust and validation (6.98), and Open access and licensing (6.71).

The biggest rated challenges by researchers were Open access and licensing (7.2), Trust and validation (7.14), and Accessibility (7.03).

The biggest rated challenges by publishers were Piracy (7.18), Accessibility (6.5), and Metadata and standards (6.48).

The biggest rated challenges by librarians were Accessibility (8.2), Openness (7.83), and Trust and validation (7.73).


4.3 Respondent identified challenges compared with pre-identified issues

The open-ended questions only asked for the main challenge affecting each of the sectors, so it is unsurprising that those issues that were rated lowly were not identified, even though they were nonetheless rated higher than five out of ten. For example, no one gave either of the two lowest-rated issues, Personalisation and Privacy and data protection, in response to the question of which were the main challenges.

However, this was not always the case. Measuring impact was not seen as a particularly important issue, rated 12th out of 14 issues, however it was seventh out of 20 issues given by respondents. This suggests that where people are aware of the issue of Measuring impact they are extremely concerned about it.

The scholarly publishing cycle does not happen in a vacuum, rather it is part of a wider research system that is often felt to be underfunded, highly pressurised, and with a requirement to demonstrate the impact of research outcomes.

Such a pressured situation is not only damaging to those producing the research, but can also have a negative impact on the scholarly research cycle as a whole. As is discussed by the interviewees in this chapter: there is a contrast between the notions of scarcity of academia and the abundance of digital space (Martin Eve); the academic reward system is negatively affecting the quality of science itself (Corina Logan; Danny Kingsley); and there is a growing need to put researchers first (Sara Uhac).

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