A psychological view on open access publishing: The reasoned action approach

Keywords: Reasoned action approach, construal level theory, survey, open access, behavior


Open Access (OA) has already been with us for some time, and with what has been branded a movement, is now more accurately labeled a trend that holds the promise of disrupting the traditional publishing paradigm. This, naturally, has garnered much interest in the numbers; statistics pertaining to article downloads, citation advantages, and the general impact of an article (that is readily available for people to access and download at their leisure). Copyright, post- and preprint; what is allowed to make available on, say, institutional pages (depending on, for example, agreements with financial backers), has also been debated. Much work has already been done in relation to tracking publications and surveying researchers’ sentiment towards OA. We have learned that, in academia, certain issues related to OA have been more salient than others, some pertaining to the perceived lack of quality in something that is “free”, or the misconceived idea that you essentially pay to have an article immediately published, and also  the lack of impact OA journals suffered in its infant years. Other concerns related to economics (i.e. publication fees/APCs or buying an article free in hybrid OA), and the presence of predatory publishers seeking to gain a quick profit on APCs.  

Although we have much data from conducting studies of varying sizes and asking many questions, and we can say quite a bit about what the challenges with researchers’ OA behavior are – little work has actually been done trying to explain what drives this behavior. Assuming you are a scientist who is conducting research, what are the underlying factors for your intention to disseminate that research via OA? How should we design interventions, and interventions that work, to boost OA use? Some influential theoretical frameworks hailing from psychology can contribute to answering these questions. And, in so doing, help illuminate what drives intentions and how to better understand them. For example, at its most superficial level the reasoned action approach postulates that a person’s attitude towards performing a behavior, the normative pressure that person experiences towards performing the behavior, and to which degree he or she feels control over performing the actual behavior, together influences the intention to carry out the behavior in question. This framework has been used to investigate behavior in a wide variety of settings – it holds promise to shine light on, and give explanation to, the psychological mechanisms in publishing behavior. A complementary framework, construal level theory of psychological distance, describes psychological mechanisms that underlie behavior. Specifically it pertains to how level of abstraction may influence how we construe events. This framework may be beneficial in design of measures to boost open access publishing.

The project aims to explain intention to publish open access using the reasoned action approach, collect and analyze data from Norwegian universities and university colleges, and to design theory-driven measures to boost open access publishing and address issues uncovered in the main study.

Author Biography

Lars Moksness, UiT The Arctic University of Norway
Lars Moksness is a master of psychology, and now a PhD candidate in marketing within the field of open access publishing. The current position is with the University Library and Tromsø School of Business and Economics at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway.