The following post is in reference to a survey given in May 2018. For more information on the survey, see previous posts on our Survey MethodologySurvey Demographics, and Survey Questions & Reflections (the full survey is available for download and reuse under a CC0 license). Posts on other survey themes: Survey Results ReportsSurvey Results on Open Access Themes, Survey Results on ScholarlyCommons Use, and Survey Results on Data Sharing

Overall Results

We asked:

How much do you trust the following entities to provide long-term access to your scholarship?

Respondents overwhelmingly reported the greatest trust for the Penn Libraries, with the least for Big Technology companies.


or, seen another way:


University Presses were deemed slightly more trustworthy than Society Presses, and both of those were more trustworthy than Big Publishers for providing long-term access to scholarship.

Results by status

While results were consistent across faculty and graduate students, trust in the libraries to ensure long-term access to scholarship was highest among faculty and slightly less enthusiastic among graduate students.

Results by School

Across schools, trust in the Penn Libraries was the highest, but there is a fair amount of variability across schools in the levels of trust for other entities.

Responses by school (please note some of these are very low numbers, and are absolutely not representative of the school as a whole).

What qualities make you trust an organization?

After the multiple choice question, we asked an open ended question:

What are some of the qualities that make you trust or distrust an organization to provide long-term access to your scholarship?

There were 222 respondents who offered answers to this question. Most of the responses were relatively short and to the point, and identified the mission and commercial status of the entity as the primary factors. Among tenured faculty (73 respondents), two people said they trusted commercial and for-profit publishers because of their business models, and a few gave more nuanced answers about the relative pros and cons of various business models. However, the vast majority of them explicitly cited that they based their trust on the mission of the organization, on its non-profit status, or on its affiliation with a University who is committed to supporting scholarship.  A few tenured faculty also called out their own experience and frustration dealing with big publishers.

A few example responses from tenured faculty include:

“Commercial enterprises that are designed to maximize profits have no incentive to provide long-term access. Libraries do, as to university presses. Academic social networking seem to be more about the social and reputational than actually supporting academic exchange and engagement.”

“My sense of its stability, whether it’s for profit (in which case it can change its mind on a dime), whether its mission is to disseminate scholarship (which I then trust) or other.”

“Honesty, Integrity, and lack of Profit Motive”

“Reputation and mission”

There were fewer tenure-track respondents to this question (23) than tenured, but their responses were mainly along the same lines. The majority of them also cited profit motives as concerning to them, though there was somewhat more skepticism in general of all entities. 

“For-profit companies and presses do not have the standards of academic institutions and I don’t trust them long-term. “

“Commercial academic networks are evil, and are built on a business model that further victimizes their content producers by selling their information. For society publishers, I’d worry about long-term viability of the society but they tend to find a way to survive (e.g., by partnering with university presses, see the American Naturalist). University presses I’d imagine will have solid footing mostly.”

“whether providing long-term access is a core part of the organization’s mission; whether the organization is for-profit (generates mistrust)”

Among graduate students (32 research/ 5 professional), the responses tended to fall along the same lines, though sentiments seemed a bit more complex from this group. They still tended to focus on the mission of the organization, but there was a bit more variety in their responses. So we saw answers like:

“University presses and society presses struggle financially, so I have concerns about their long-term viability. Commercial publishers and tech companies are concerned primarily about profits, not the welfare of scholarship. Libraries that are confident of strong university support are the trusted curators of scholarship. “

“I have more trust in those organizations whose interests in providing access to scholarship lie more in scholarly reasons rather than profit motive

But also,

“Why wouldn’t they? I don’t think about it too much”

“Not sure, haven’t thought about this”

“Whether the organization may extract information from my scholarship and interpret it in an unjust way”

“An emphasis on the importance of scholarship itself. So for instance, we know Penn values scholarship. Google, on the other hand, has Google Scholar but scholarship is not really part of their mission. I can see them dropping or restricting access to Scholar one day and not thinking twice about it.”

Generally, staff members and non-tenured faculty were in line with the other respondents.

Overall, the two questions we asked about trust help remind us of our responsibility to continue investing in ensuring long term access to scholarship.

One thought on “Survey Results on Trust

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