Introduction: The popularity of academic social networks like ResearchGate and Academia.edu indicates that scholars want to share their work, yet for universities with Open Access (OA) policies, these sites may be competing with institutional repositories (IRs) for content. This article seeks to reveal researcher practices, attitudes, and motivations around uploading their work to ResearchGate and complying with an institutional OA Policy through a study of faculty at the University of Rhode Island (URI).
Methods: We conducted a population study to examine the participation by 558 full-time URI faculty members in the OA Policy and ResearchGate followed by a survey of 728 full-time URI faculty members about their participation in the two services.
Discussion: The majority of URI faculty does not participate in the OA Policy or use ResearchGate. Authors’ primary motivations for participation are sharing their work more broadly and increasing its visibility and impact. Faculty who participate in ResearchGate are more likely to participate in the OA Policy, and vice versa. The fact that the OA Policy targets the author manuscript and not the final published article constitutes a significant barrier to participation.
Conclusion: Librarians should not view academic social networks as a threat to Open Access. Authors’ strong preference for sharing the final, published version of their articles provides support for calls to hasten the transition to a Gold OA publishing system. Misunderstandings about the OA Policy and copyright indicate a need for librarians to conduct greater education and outreach to authors about options for legally sharing articles.