Academics are divided about the use of the web for (re-)publishing findings and articles they’ve authored in peer-reviewed journals on their own websites. Some are open and free about it, distributing their raw and analysed results online pre- and post- publication, while others are concerned with information ownership issues and fear that their work will be mis-represented or devalued if released online. May 2008’s Scientific American has an excellent summary of the issues.

I’ve struggled with this issue myself, and have I openly asked for advice on whether I should or should not publish the entirety of my PhD thesis on the Web, as other academic colleagues have done (danah, for example). It’s a topic that has been discussed elsewhere. britbohlinger wrote up a summary of a workshop at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference in 2008.

In response to my post, some people voiced their own concerns. As David said,

I would like to turn my thesis into a book and I fear that if I made part or all of it available now publishers would not accept it. Not fair but that seems to be the way things are going.

Jeremy was more cautious. He recommended,

give it away after it is published, not before, especially when starting the career.

Both David and Jeremy have only published the titles and abstracts of their dissertations on their websites.

Yet it seems that there’s a reason to publish research online: simply, it’s cited more. A recent article titled Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research, in the peer-reviewed Computers and Society by Yassine Gargouri, Chawki Hajjem, Vincent Lariviere, Yves Gingras, Les Carr, Tim Brody, Stevan Harnad has found that self-archivists “are cited significantly more than articles accessible only to subscribers.” From the abstract:

Articles whose authors make them Open Access (OA) by self-archiving them online are cited significantly more than articles accessible only to subscribers. Some have suggested that this “OA Advantage” may not be causal but just a self-selection bias, because authors preferentially make higher-quality articles OA. To test this we compared self-selective self-archiving with mandatory self-archiving for a sample of 27,197 articles published 2002-2006 in 1,984 journals. The OA Advantage proved just as high for both. Logistic regression showed that the advantage is independent of other correlates of citations (article age; journal impact factor; number of co-authors, references or pages; field; article type; or country) and greatest for the most highly cited articles. The OA Advantage is real, independent and causal, but skewed. Its size is indeed correlated with quality, just as citations themselves are (the top 20% of articles receive about 80% of all citations). The advantage is greater for the more citeable articles, not because of a quality bias from authors self-selecting what to make OA, but because of a quality advantage, from users self-selecting what to use and cite, freed by OA from the constraints of selective accessibility to subscribers only.

You can get a copy of the full submitted article here, under a Creative Commons license.

I guess this is a long way of saying my decision is, in short, that I will be publishing the whole thing online once the hard-bound copies are in the hands of the appropriates at the University of Surrey next Friday. After that, I know I’ll graduate in 2010. Until then, you can get the full text of the Introduction and the intros to the Literature Review, Study 1, Study 2, Study 3 and the Discussion chapters.