Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley has released a 728-page report, Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication. Here are some excerpts from the executive summary:

We describe here the results of our research conducted between 2007 and 2010. In the interest of developing a deeper understanding of how and why scholars do what they do to advance their academic fields, as well as their careers, our approach focused on fine- grained analyses of faculty values and behaviors throughout the scholarly communication lifecycle, including career advancement, sharing, collaborating, informal and formal publishing, resource generation, and engaging with the public. The report is based on the responses of 160 interviewees across 45, mostly elite, research institutions in seven selected academic fields: archaeology, astrophysics, biology, economics, history, music, and political science. We concentrated on assessing scholars' attitudes and needs as both producers and users of research results...

...

We found no evidence to suggest that "tech-savvy" young graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or assistant professors are bucking traditional publishing practices. In fact, as arguably the most vulnerable populations in the scholarly community, one would expect them to hew to the norms of their chosen discipline, and they do. Established scholars seem to exercise significantly more freedom in the choice of publication outlet than their untenured colleagues, although in the sciences, high-impact publications remain important for garnering research grants throughout a career...
...

Scholars must balance concerns about prestige and impact factor with considerations of audience and the technical affordances of particular media when choosing a publication outlet. The inherent diversity in publication practices makes precise terminology absolutely imperative. Such precision includes being clear about what is meant by "open access" publishing (i.e., using preprint or postprint servers for archival scholarship published in prestigious outlets versus publishing in new, untested, open-access journals, or the more casual individual posting of working papers, blogs, and other non-peer- reviewed work). Although there is a universal embrace of the rapidly expanding body of digital "primary" sources and data, there is an equally strong aversion to a "glut" of unvetted secondary publications and ephemera. The degree to which peer review, despite its perceived shortcomings, is considered to be an important filter of academic quality, cannot be overstated.
...

In all fields, many young scholars, and particularly graduate students, are especially leery of putting ideas and data out too soon for fear of theft and/or misinterpretation. Given these findings, we caution against assumptions that "millennials" will change the social landscape of scholarship by virtue of their facility with cell phones and social networking sites. There is ample evidence that, once initiated into the profession, newer scholars--be they graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or assistant professors--adopt the behaviors, norms, and recommendations of their mentors in order to advance their careers. Of course, teenagers eventually develop into adults. Moreover, given the complex motivations involved in sharing scholarly work and the importance of peer review as a quality and noise filter, we think it premature to assume that Web 2.0 platforms geared toward early public exposure of research ideas or data are going to spread among scholars in the most competitive institutions. These platforms may, however, become populated with materials, such as protocols or primary data, that established scholars want to disseminate in some formal way but without undergoing unnecessary and lengthy peer review. It is also possible, based on our scan of a variety of "open peer-review" websites, that scholars in less competitive institutions (including internationally), who may experience more difficulty finding a high-stature publisher for their work, will embrace these publication outlets. Time will tell.

P.S.: Diane Harley has made available the slides of a presentation on the report.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/2772

Leave a comment