Prompted by a couple of recent threads of email correspondence, I thought I’d raise the slightly thorny issue of why there doesn’t appear to be many of our science publications appearing in the most-downloaded stats from ORO. In the words of one of the people who contacted me about this, “[either] science at the OU is no good, or people in science use other means of communication etc.”.
I’m not the best placed to comment on the quality of our scientific research here at the OU, although I would hazard a guess that it cannot all be labelled bad, nor for that matter can it all be labelled good, much the same as at any other institution one would assume. So, I doubt very much that science at the OU being “no good” is the reason behind its lack of presence in the ORO download stats.
Instead, my own hunch is that, across Science as a whole, academics have been (and still are, to a certain extent) spoilt by their access to electronic journals, databases, and other subscription-based resources. They are very much used to visiting places like Science Direct, Web of Science, Scopus etc., and then clicking through seamlessly because their libraries have paid access to the journals which interest them. Other disciplines, in the Social Sciences and Arts, have perhaps (relative to the sciences) been lavished to a far lesser degree in terms of access to electronic resources, and so have evolved more innovative ways to search for literature.
One might reasonably ask, therefore, do institutional research repositories serve as much of a purpose for Science as they do for other disciplines? Well, I think it would be foolish to make any kind of judgement here based on anecdotal evidence from ORO alone. It would, though, be interesting to hear from other institutions as to the trends in their own download stats. How high do the sciences feature elsewhere?
What is clear, however, is that even if scientific research is relatively less well accessed in institutional repositories now, it is extremely unlikely to remain the case. All the signs are that the aforementioned seamless access to electronic resources will decline over the coming years, simply because libraries cannot keep pace with the volume and cost of journals. In the wake of this, scientists will also need to become more innovative in the way they search for literature, as well as disseminate their own work for the benefits of their peers facing the same access problems.
My prediction then, is give it time. Science will have its day!