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Scholarly Communication: New Models for Publishing

New models for scholarly communication are emerging in pilot form. Lasting changes to the world of scholarly communication will need many such trials in tandem with discussions by scholars themselves about new expectations, policies, and practices in how material is created, submitted, published, reviewed, used, and credited (see Forthcoming Discussions).

Initiatives fall on a spectrum from using existing publishing structures in slightly new ways, to totally different models for production, distribution, and long-term stewardship of scholarly information. Four categories of initiatives are highlighted below:

Changing Relationships with Existing Publishers

Scholars can use their influence with existing publishers to make scholarly information more readily available (see Faculty Action/Support).

Open Access Journals

Open access journals are a promising alternative to commercial publishing. Publication costs are recovered in a variety of ways before publication, and the product is then made available to the public for free. The impulse behind creating open access journals is set forth in the Budapest Open Access Initiative of 2002:

The literature that should be freely accessible online is that which scholars give to the world without expectation of payment. Primarily, this category encompasses their peer-reviewed journal articles, but it also includes any unreviewed preprints that they might wish to put online for comment or to alert colleagues to important research findings. There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

Of note: UC's eScholarship has recently added the capability to publish peer-reviewed journals in addition to its less structured repository functions.

There are a growing number of open access journals available in all disciplines (see The Directory of Open Access Journals).

Proponents of open access offer a number of reasons to pursue this alternative:

First, authors are assured that their work is disseminated to the widest possible audience. Second, the information available to researchers is not limited by their library's budget - or their nation's wealth. Third, the widespread availability and central archiving of research articles enhances literature searching and facilitates meta-analyses of data. And fourth, the results of publicly funded research become accessible to all taxpayers, not just those with access to a specialist library. — Editorial, Journal of Biology 3, 5 (2004).

There are benefits to open access beyond monetary savings, as Joe Esposito points out in a discussion group thread on funding open access.

The real appeal of OA is that it permits you to do so much more with the text of an article. OA articles can be seamlessly integrated and aggregated, simultaneously searched, linked to citations and semantically similar texts, and wired into OPACs. And much more than I can imagine. OA is one part of the evolution from author-based fixed expression to community-based dynamic expression. We have to begin to conceive of articles not as "papers" but as nodes on a network. It's time that we all began to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource, began publishing monthly in October 2003. Michael Eisen, one of the founding editors for PLoS, writes of his motivation to begin an open access publishing vehicle:

It should be a public scandal that the results of publicly-funded scientific research are not available to members of the public who are interested in, or could benefit from, such access…. If we and our allies (such as the pioneering London publisher BiodMed Central) succeed, everyone with an internet connection will be a click away from a comprehensive online public library of scientific and medical knowledge. (Source: Publish and be praised. by Michael Eisen, The Guardian, October 9, 2003.)

Many open access experiments now ask authors to pay the cost of initial publication. As the benefits of open access publication become known, some funding agencies are moving to support authors as they move to this new medium:

Backing for the new open-access author-fee publishing model is growing, particularly in biomedical fields. Recently the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Wellcome Trust, major private funders of biomedical research in the U.S. and U.K. respectively, announced that they will earmark funds to pay open-access publication fees as part of their grants. In addition, the recent conference on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities issued the Berlin Declaration, which promotes the Internet as an instrument for a global scientific knowledge base and human reflection and specifies measures which research policy-makers, research institutions, funding agencies, libraries, archives and museums need to consider. (Source: SPARC and PLoS Partner to Advocate for Open Access Publishing, SPARC News, November 10, 2003.)

The Wellcome Trust has posted their statement of support of open access publishing on their website.

Digital Repositories

Repositories come in various shapes and sizes and are defined in many different ways. At a minimum, they are storage mechanisms for scholarly material that has been digitized. Information stored in repositories is usually open to all users and is available via the Internet. In contrast to traditional publishing, submitted material can often be made available in a very short amount of time. Although some repositories do, some may not provide functionality for peer review or other editorial services, and hence may differ from "publishers" in the more traditional sense.

Some repositories are sponsored by scholarly disciplines while others are sponsored by institutions. Discipline-based repositories have begun to appear to which scholars submit pre-prints and working papers in their fields. One example of this is ArXiv, an e-print service in the fields of physics, mathematics, non-linear science, computer science, and quantitative biology hosted by Cornell University and partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

Institutional repositories are being developed to capture, distribute, preserve, and provide stable long-term storage for the intellectual output of the institution. The front-runner in this field has been D-Space, developed at MIT to manage the intellectual output of the MIT community. Queensland University of Technology's policy requires that all research and scholarly output be posted to their "E print" repository unless specifically included on a short-list of exclusions. University of California's eScholarship "offers faculty a central location for depositing any research or scholarly output deemed appropriate by their participating University of California research unit, center, or department." (For an interesting article on the history of UC's eScholarship, see eScholars of the World, Unite! The University of California Revolutionizes Publishing Paradigm.)

Clifford Lynch, Executive Director, Coalition for Networked Information says this about institutional repositories:

… a university based institutional repository is a set of services that a university offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemniation of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. It is most essentially an organizational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organization and access or distribution.

… An institutional repository is not simply a fixed set of software and hardware…. A mature and fully realized institutional repository will contain the intellectual works of faculty and students — both research and teaching materials — and also documentation of the activities of the institution itself in the form of records of events and performance and of the ongoing intellectual life of the institution. It will also house experimental and observational data captured by members of the institution that support their scholarly activities.

Institutional repositories can encourage the exploration and adoption of new forms of scholarly communication that exploit the digital medium in fundamental ways. This, to me, is perhaps the most important and exciting payoff: facilitating change not so much in the existing system of scholarly communication but by opening up entire new forms of scholarly communication….

(Source: Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital Age, by Clifford A. Lynch, Executive Director, Coalition ofr Netorked Information.)

There is currently no comprehensive list of digital repositories. One of the better lists is OAIster, a project of the University Of Michigan, originally funded by a Mellon grant. A directory to directories of other open-access-initiative-compliant archives is maintained by Peter Suber at his website.

Emerging Digital Monographs and Primary Source text

Primary source materials such as novels, poetry, etc., as well as scholarly arguments in print (formerly published as monographs) are making their way into the electronic environment:

There are technical issues in use of monographic information in electronic form that have not yet been addressed, but there are a variety of researchers and companies seeking to find an e-Book solution.

Scholars are increasingly interested in the ease of access and ability to search across material in electronic format. Scholars are also experimenting with new ways of envisioning the process of research and the kinds of connections that can be made in an environment that allows immediate links to outside material, and inclusion of material in other media, such as sound, images, video, etc.

Note: This page is archival in nature and the content will not be updated.

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Last updated 12/10/09. Comments?