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Hail Caledonia!

To mark St Andrew's Day 2015 the Open Access Support team is pleased to publish a guest post by Janet Aucock, Head of Metadata and Content Acquisition.

St Andrew's Day is a good day to reflect on Scottish influences on the world. Perhaps it’s also a good day to consider alternative Caledonias and one in particular on the other side of the globe.

We are constantly looking to see how St Andrews research is used and reused across the world. Each month we get a usage report from EThOS the national thesis database for the UK, a service provided by the British Library. St Andrews open access full text theses are made available in EThOS as well as in our own institutional repository Research@StAndrews:FullText. The report from EThOS indicates how many theses have been viewed and downloaded and it gives us some limited information about the reader, chiefly their professional sector, if provided, and their geographical location. Most readers are involved in education and research and the majority are in Europe and North America. But we can see an increasing readership from all continents and our interest is particularly sparked by unusual new locations.

Our most recent report showed a number of thesis downloads from a small island nation some 9928 miles away (as the crow flies) in the Pacific Ocean:

Source: http://www.distancefromto.net/
Someone in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia was clearly interested in 3 of our social anthropology theses:

We couldn’t help but wonder who might this be? Was it one of New Caledonia's 268,767 inhabitants? Are they studying at L’Universit√© de la Nouvelle-Cal√©donie?

Do they do their research looking out over views like this and sitting on this pine fringed beach?

By Bahnfrend (Own work) 
Kanumera Bay, Isle of Pines, New Caledonia, 2007
 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Perhaps there were some connections between St Andrews research interests and New Caledonia?

A quick search of the University website uncovered a remarkable relationship:

A University press release aptly entitled “When crows connect” had been issued on 4th November 2015. St Andrews researchers recently published an Open Access paper in Nature Communications that revealed evolution-environment interaction that might explain New Caledonian crows’ hooked tool making skill. Their experimental approach contrasts this with tool behaviours in primates to hypothesise about regional variations observed. The New Caledonian environment and the types of raw material available to make tools are critical. In fact those very pine trees in the image above are crucial to support the crows’ activities 

Detail from Figure 1. St Clair, J. J. H. et al. Experimental resource pulses influence social-network dynamics and the potential for information flow in tool-using crows. Nat. Commun. 6:7197 doi: 10.1038/ncomms8197 (2015). (Open Access)
A further search of Research@StAndrews:FullText revealed other publications on the same topic.

This highlights how Open Access, whether digital theses or articles, can stimulate open discussion among academics of research publications, increase their visibility and improve public understanding of research that is often funded by taxpayers.

We don't really need to know who in New Caledonian has been reading St Andrews research. The whole point of open access to our research is that it can easily be consumed by a global audience and that it can be of benefit and use without barriers to a variety of users. 

However in the meantime we have found out a lot about this other Caledonia....named by Captain James Cook in 1774 because part of the archipelago reminded him of the north of Scotland, perhaps the Isle of Pines. It took him 3 years to complete his voyage across the world to the South Pacific. It’s reassuring to know on St Andrew's Day 2015 that Caledonia and New Caledonia can communicate instantly in the digital age to carry on this international conversation.

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