Open Access Success Stories! Academic Works at New York City College of Technology, CUNY

an interview by Profs. Monica Berger and Maura Smale, Library, New York City College of Technology, CUNY 

Wouldn’t it be great if your scholarship was highlighted in The Chronicle of Higher Education? Last April, Dr. Maura Smale, Chief Librarian and Library Chair at New York City College of Technology, City University of New York (CUNY), received wide publicity for her research on students and reading. Maura’s success story can help you better understand how open access and your local institutional repository can enhance scholarly visibility.

Being read by our peers is very important and open access has a clear citation advantage. We typically think of institutional repositories in terms of post-publication dissemination. However, in this case, Maura’s article had been accepted to the open access journal IMPACT: The Journal of the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching an... but there was a very long wait for publication. The article would be published in Winter 2020. Maura decided to add her article to Academic Works, CUNY’s institutional repository, so it could be read immediately. We asked Maura more about her experience.


MB: Tell us more about your choice to share out your article before publication via Academic Works.

MS: It’s important to me that I share my research widely, and I only submit the articles I write (or cowrite) to open access publications. The research I reported on in this particular article was the result of my sabbatical project, in which I interviewed students to learn about their attitudes and practices around the required reading in their courses. I chose to submit to IMPACT because of their specifically pedagogical and interdisciplinary focus -- I talked to students in a range of courses, and I wanted to be sure that I was sharing this research broadly across the disciplines.

When the editors of IMPACT let me know that my article was accepted with minor revisions, they also let me know that their publication schedule was running about a year out from acceptance. Since they’re an open access journal I was reasonably confident that they’d support my posting the post-peer reviewed, pre-publication version of my article in Academic Works, which they confirmed was fine. Without the ability to post a version ahead of publication in the journal, I likely would have sought another journal to submit my article to, and I was glad that the folks at IMPACT were okay with my depositing the article in Academic Works.

MB: Did you know the Chronicle would report on your article and link to it via Academic Works? What was that experience like?

MS: I did not! I was pleasantly surprised to get a phone call from Chronicle reporter Steven Johnson about a month after my article was posted in Academic Works. He was working on a piece about why students may not read their assigned course texts, and faculty strategies for addressing that. He’d gotten a link to my article from library faculty member Dr. Diane Mizrachi at UCLA, who also researches student reading preferences (and everyone should read her terrific coauthored article that aggregates academic reading preference survey data from 10,000+ students worldwide.

I had a phone conversation with Steve and he asked a few questions about my research, and also mentioned other faculty and researchers he was talking to for the piece. It was super interesting to talk with him -- he’d been talking to some of the scholars whose work I’d cited in the literature review for my article, and he was able to point me to a few other researchers that I hadn’t known about previously.

MB: What good things ensued after the Chronicle article went live?

MS: It’s always gratifying to have the opportunity to share my work more widely, and the Chronicle article definitely helped spread the word. By the time the Chronicle piece was published it was about three months after I’d talked with Steve on the phone, and my article had been available for about four months. When I look on Academic Works at the download statistics for the article it’s clear that the Chronicle piece gave me a readership boost: there’s a marked increase in downloads in April after the article was mentioned in the Chronicle.

I also think the Chronicle mention helped spread the word about my research beyond my immediate context, to faculty and staff outside of academic libraries, to scholars outside of the US, etc. For example, over the summer I got a Google Alert that led me to a faculty workshop on web annotation at Ohio State University in which one of the activities was group annotation of my article, which was terrific to see.

MB: Did you self-promote your article in Academic Works before or after the Chronicle article? 

MS: Yes, when I uploaded my article into Academic Works I posted about it on Twitter, which is the primary social network I use. I’ve been on Twitter for over a decade and I do have a fairly robust network of librarians, researchers, and academics that I follow, which makes self-promotion easier. And I really value Twitter for my own academic research and practice -- it’s easy for folks to retweet publications of interest, and to learn about research across the disciplines.

MB: Finally, tell us more about why you believe in open access for your scholarship and how it’s benefitted you over the years.

MS: I’m super committed to open access for my research and scholarship, and have been since before I was tenured and promoted. It’s absolutely been advantageous in my own work to publish open access, I’m convinced that I’ve gotten wider readership than I would have with paywalled publications (and there’s research backing that conviction up). I’m also committed to open access as a scholar and faculty member at CUNY. The research I do is funded by taxpayers and my research focus is broadly on student success -- it’s important to me that anyone can read the articles I write, regardless of institutional affiliation.

MB: Any concluding thoughts?

MS: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences with open access. Happy OA Week 2019!

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