Open Access Week: Reaching the practitioners

At the first event in our Open Research Series in January 2017 Dr Lauren Devine gave us a great example of a paper that she chose to publish through gold open access. Her paper is a fantastic case study of the impact that research can have when it is published open access. Read on to find out more about her motivations and rewards.

Lauren already had a prior career as a barrister when she started at UWE Bristol. She realised that in order to elevate her career she would need to start publishing, and didn’t want to wait years to advance in her new career (years that would likely find her overwhelmed with teaching and marking.) Lauren’s idea was to get a major funding bid, generate new data, and publish in both open access and subscription journals.

Why open access for me? Because I recognised with the emphasis in the REF on impact, and fast impact, I was going to get my work out, or at least elements of my work out, to a much wider audience.

Lauren pitched a multi-disciplinary project critiquing the Child Protection System, and was awarded funding by ESRC (one of Research Councils UK.) Straight away she published a theoretical article in a ‘fairly solid, middle-of-the-road journal’ which, as the research was RCUK funded, could be made open access by paying an article processing charge from the RCUK block grant. The article quickly became the most read article in the journal. What Lauren found particularly interesting was the audience:

When I had a look at their metrics to see exactly who was downloading the damn thing, it wasn’t lawyers at all. Lawyers are not remotely interested in that article, it’s not in a prestigious enough journal. Social workers! Social work professionals! Well that was very interesting because then it meant that lots of people that are off my discipline had read my work because they had access to it. Then I had service users contacting me, members of the public, who also had accessed that article. And then much to my surprise lots of journalists came flooding into my inbox as well.

As well as reaching practitioners, Lauren’s article resulted in TV and newspaper coverage for the project. Lauren has since been asked to produce more papers by lots of open access journals, and has published in some fully open access journals that might not be considered ‘high ranking’ in her field – it allowed her to publish points from her research that she might have struggled to publish in a more ‘traditional’ law journal.

Lauren’s strategy has worked for her, and she has never felt constrained by advice from colleagues to only publish in certain journals and build her reputation.

I haven’t got time for that. I’m just going to take advantage of whatever I think is most appropriate to get me where I need to be as fast as possible, and part of that is that if I genuinely believe that my research findings are relevant to people on the ground – I research in the field of child protection so I consider my results to be, hopefully, of most relevance to families, ordinary people, not other researchers. I need that message to get out to them as well, and if I’ve achieved that through open access then I’m a very happy researcher.

You can see the whole interview with Lauren in the video from Open access: It’s real and it’s happening now (jump to about 1:18:00 in the video for Lauren’s part) – the first event in our Open Research Series.

 

 

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