PhD Defense by Ameet Dosh

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Title: "Layperson Use of Open Access: Evidence from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and Harvard DASH Repository"             The zoom link is: https://gatech.zoom.us/j/8711339153    The committee is comprised of: Prof. Diana Hicks, chair Prof. Omar Asensio Prof. Julia Melkers Catherine Murray-Rust, external member Prof. Cassidy Sugimoto Summary of Proposed Research: “Layperson Use of Open Access Research” Ameet Doshi Once only available to those with university or scientific affiliations, the peer-reviewed literature is increasingly globally accessible to anyone with internet access due to the advent of open access. Given this unprecedented level of access to scientific and technical information, do non-scientists, or lay persons, who are not steeped in the foundational knowledge of a field use this information? Specialist knowledge requires effort by lay readers to understand (Shen, 1975; Epstein, 1995; Savolainen, 1995). What motivates people to overcome obstacles to find and synthesize scholarly research into their everyday lives? The proposed research seeks to better understand this phenomenon in an emerging era of open science. There is an increase in government mandates to make publicly-funded research open (for example: NIH Open Access policy, OSTP Public Access Plan, EU Plan S). These mandates justify themselves by assuming that non-scientists desire access to, and make productive use of, this literature. Thus, the question of how lay persons use open access scholarship is a policy relevant inquiry worthy of study. Additionally, as information and computing technologies crowd out non-knowledge intensive industries, underemployment creates conditions for “serious leisure” (SL) as a potential substitute (Rifkin, 1995; Stebbins, 2001). SL is an activity pursued as a central life interest involving a high degree of self-directed learning and a “systematic pursuit of knowledge.” SL enthusiasts develop new markets (e.g. homebrewing), as automation incentivizes switching occupations. Pilot research suggests that SL enthusiasts are motivated to engage scientific literature in their respective industries. As more journals offer costly OA options for publication in response to institutional mandates we can anticipate continued growth of openly accessible peer-reviewed science. Yet evidence is lacking about why non-researchers find, read and integrate OA into their lives. Generally, there is a need to better understand open access use from the layperson perspective. The proposed work aims to advance empirical understanding in this interdisciplinary domain by examining the following questions: • What is the effect of an open access policy on non-researcher downloads of high-quality science? (RQ1) • Who are these lay users, and what is the typology of non-researcher use of OA? (RQ2a and RQ2b) • What motivates a layperson to use open access literature? (RQ3) For the first question, I intend to use interrupted time series (ITS) to infer the causal effect of open access on layperson uptake of high-quality science. The data for RQ1 are from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) and include high-frequency report download microdata from 2003 to February 2020. ITS is an appropriate design since NASEM made their reports OA in June 2011. For RQ2 and RQ3, I classify user comments from Harvard’s OA repository (“Harvard DASH”) in order to develop a typology of layperson use of open access literature. I also aim to classify motivation for using open access literature based on the Harvard DASH data. This is policy relevant area of inquiry since federal and international mandates are changing the way research is published, ostensibly to expand access to a wider array of society. Yet very little empirical work exists to understand if and why non-researchers use open access literature. My thesis aims to fill this gap.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Tatianna Richardson
  • Created: 04/18/2022
  • Modified By: Tatianna Richardson
  • Modified: 04/18/2022