A Librarian’s Take on the Newly-Released Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey

By Elisabeth Leonard, Market Research Analyst, SAGE

SAGE was happy to be a sponsor of the 2012 Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey which came out last week! As part of National Library Week, we asked one of our own librarians to give us her thoughts on the report. Her insightful comments are below:

It was with great delight that I listened last week to Roger Schonfeld and Ross Housewright as they discussed major findings from the now released report on the US Faculty Survey (SAGE was one of the sponsors, so we got a special early introduction!).  The survey, which has been conducted every three years since 2000, is a way to see what is happening with faculty research, publishing, and teaching practices.

“Higher education is experiencing rapid and transformative change and understanding how these changes affect faculty is more important now than ever before,” stated Roger Schonfeld, Ithaka S+R Program Director for Scholarly Practices and Libraries.

Here are some of the things that stood out for me, although I can’t wait to get my hands on the data that is deposited with ICPSR to do some of my own analysis!  For this briefing, my concentration is on discovery and on publishing preferences.


Is it rude for me to say that I am surprised that only 26% of faculty responded that they find it very frustrating to use a variety of tools to find and access what they need?  If I wasn’t trained as a librarian, I would be too!  It may be one reason that use of specific resources is going down (especially as libraries begin to implement discovery services), even though faculty in my experience know one or two discipline-specific databases really well. What surprised me is that use of the catalog went up from the 2009 survey.  My hunch is that this is due to the increased presence and use of eBooks, but that is unsubstantiated.

Ithaka 1

I was also really interested in how different information-seeking behavior was when faculty were looking for a known item vs exploring for something, but only because I was expecting the percentage of people turning to Google to be higher.


Now, let me admit a little skepticism about the reported reading habits.  I know that in many disciplines there are some fabulous free resources available, including open access journals and working papers.  However, I am not sure faculty are always aware of when they have reached a site that the library has paid for, so the report that 65% of faculty routinely read materials freely available online (vs 78% from the library collection) might be reworded to be “materials they believe to be” freely available.  The good news is that 81% use ILL if the material is not readily available to them (the top response was searching for a freely available version online).


Quick question: what discipline do you think is most interested in reaching professionals outside academia?  My guess was STM, but the top response came from the social sciences!  I am not surprised that faculty want to reach other faculty most.  Sadly, undergraduates barely beat out the general public.

Faculty were most influenced to publish in a journal if the journal’s area of coverage is close to the faculty’s area of research, if the journal has a high impact factor, and if current issues are widely circulated and widely read (by other scholars in the field).  Less impactful were long-term preservation, freely available online articles (although that was their top choice for finding an article if they didn’t have access to it), and access for developing nations.

There is room for libraries or university presses to provide new services, including:

Managing a public webpage that lists links to recent scholarly outputs for individual faculty members, providing information on faculty areas of research and teaching contact information; helping faculty to assess the impact of their work following publication; helping faculty determine where to publish a given work to maximize its impact; making a version of research outputs freely available online in addition to the formally published version; and helping faculty understand and negotiate favorable publication contracts.  I think in the course of my work as an academic librarian, I received requests for every one of these issues, but only saw widespread interest in and resourcing for creating institutional repositories as a way to make publications freely available.  For the remainder of these issues, there was internal interest, but not resourcing.  If anyone does any of these well, I’d love to hear about it!

Lastly, as I work for a publisher, the section on publishing services caught my eye!  I love that what faculty want the most is a vigorous peer review process. For anyone who hasn’t published, this can feel like an impediment, but once you are published, this feels like validation of your research (maybe I am projecting my own feelings a bit, but it does seem likely!).  It is also important that the publisher is reputable, that the research will be highly visible, that the peer review is expeditious, and that professional copy-editing and lay-out is provided. Here at SAGE, we are dedicated to publishing rigorously peer-reviewed work, to communicating with authors at every step of the copyediting and typesetting process, and to disseminating quality research widely. It was good to see that faculty see value in this as well!

To read more about the survey or to read the full report, click here. After looking through, let us know your own thoughts on the survey by leaving a comment below!

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