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European Student Access to Literature Study

Published Feb 15, 2015, 10:44am

If we are to set the default to open when it comes to research, one of the main stakeholder groups that will have to make it's voice heard is the students. Already students around the world are doing just that – talking to librarians, policy-makers, researchers, university staff, publishers etc. – in order to push for Open Access to research. To ensure their success they should be equipped with the best tools. One particularly effective tool that they are sorely lacking right now is hard data. This is something which will be particularly useful in conversations with policy-makers. As things stand, students at various universities have different levels of access to research - some universities provide more access, some less, and no university provides access to all. However, no research has been done to ascertain what the actual differences might be and what contributes to these differences. This is where our study comes in.

To our knowledge, this study will be the first to investigate the level of access students at different universities across Europe have to scientific articles.

It involves a short questionnaire which asks for some demographic data and whether you are able to access a set of 11 journal articles representative of the sort of articles students search for day in, day out. This is a strong objective measure of literature access already validated by our pilot data. This data also shows both a general lack of access and a huge difference between countries. However, we need more data in order to make our analyses reliable and generalisable. With this data, we will be able to show the nature of the differences in access both within and between countries and what may be causing these differences. It is very important to reach students from as many different universities as possible, so we ask you to both participate and forward this call.

We intend to publish the results of this study as an article in an Open Access journal and make the data and methodology publicly available so that Open Access advocates around the world can make use of them. The bigger the sample we get, the stronger an argument we can make so we hope you will support us by promoting our study as much as you can! We really appreciate your help with this promotion. Without your help this study is just an idea, but with your help it’s a significant contribution to the debate on access to literature and one that is completely student-driven from design to promotion to participation.

At this point in the project, the focus is solely on Europe and articles produced in the field of psychology. However, if we can complete this study successfully it is possible for us to expand both in disciplinary and geographical focus with the aim of providing even better tools for advocacy. Its success will depend on the kindness of those willing to participate.

Participate in the study, it only takes ten minutes at

Authors: Ivan Flis (PhD Candidate at Utrecht University), Jonas Haslbeck (MSc student at Utrecht University), Chris Noone (PhD Candidate at NUI Galway)


This article reflects the views of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Right to Research Coalition or SPARC.

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