Scholarly Communication: Symposium Panel & Journal Theme Issue

Members of the eHumanities Group Enhanced Publications (EP) Project are involved in two panels scheduled in the iCS / OII Symposium A Decade in Internet Time, at the University of Oxford, 21-24 September 2011. One of the panels deals with changes in scholarly communication, including issues related to enhanced publishing; the second panel includes editors and authors associated with the book Virtual Knowledge, one of the four volumes in the EP Project.   The symposium schedule is available here.

Contributions to the panel on scholarly communication are also earmarked as contributions to a theme issue of New Media & Society. The proposal for that theme issue is, in actuality, a mirror image of the original proposal for the symposium panel. Because the NM&S  issue and symposium panel are ‘deliverables’ of the EP Project, text from the document is excerpted below.

Scholarly Communication: Changes, Challenges & Initiatives

New Media & Society Theme Issue

Co-editors: Nicholas Jankowski & Steve Jones

For many years, a broad range of stakeholders – publishers, editors, authors, librarians, university administrators, funding agencies – have been concerned with the ‘crisis in scholarly communication’ and, relatively recently, have been exploring ways to incorporate the potentials of the Web into the enterprise. Although concerns vary, five thematic clusters are prominent:

  • Integrating formal (e.g., journal article) and informal (e.g., social media) modes into scholarly communication;
  • Incorporating features of the Web into scholarly publishing, including: hypertext, multimedia, color and dynamic visualizations, accessibility to data and supplementary materials, and author-reader interaction;
  • Searching for new models of financing scholarly publishing in an environment of declining resources;
  • Increasing access to scholarship and developing digital repositories;
  • Exploring alternatives to conventional double-blind peer review assessment procedures.

These concerns are complex and there is limited agreement as to how they should be addressed. Disciplines across the sciences and humanities are facing different challenges because of their respective cultures and resources; consequently, a wide range of reactions to these challenges is appearing, some of which appear reactionary while others seem innovative. Peer review, for example, continues to be the ‘gold standard’ for determination of quality in many disciplines, but whether the process should be blind and confidential is increasingly being questioned; experiments are being undertaken with alternative, open review procedures. Further, the added communicative features of Web publishing like those noted above come at an economic price and it is uncertain which of the parties involved in scholarly publishing are in a position to finance such features. Advocacy of open access may be attractive in principle, but it is often unclear how implementation can be achieved when academic departments encourage their staff to publish in high status periodicals, which because of price are frequently restricted to (institutional) subscribers.

The above concerns suggest the panorama of topics to be addressed by contributions to a theme issue of New Media & Society (NM&S). The issue stems from a panel prepared for the symposium A Decade in Internet Time and includes contributions from scholars involved in that and related events. Contributors are associated with initiatives in Web-based publishing and are engaged in the study of changes in scholarly publishing and communication. Some have been involved in on-going discussions about scholarly publishing in other venues, such as the Journal of Electronic Publishing theme issue on ‘Reimaging the University Press’ and a roundtable at an Association of Internet Researchers conference, Digital Scholarship. Other contributors have been concerned with long-term exploration of changes in scholarly publishing and communication, such as those undertaken at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at UC Berkeley. Yet other contributors are affiliated with a pan-European investigation (ACUMEN) of assessment procedures across domains of scholarship, including procedures for peer review of research and publications. This theme issue of NM&S provides opportunity to continue discussion and exploration of new directions for scholarly publishing and communication.

The co-editors of NM&S plan to prepare this issue in collaboration with the contributors and to experiment with alternatives to conventional double-blind peer review and traditional print-based journal publishing. Following the procedures initiated by Shakespeare Quarterly in a special issue ‘Shakespeare and New Media’, possibilities will be explored with MediaCommons allowing for a form of open and blind review of contributions. Building on recent initiatives with ‘enhanced publications’, the editors will explore with the publisher of NM&S, SAGE Publications, regarding a manner in which features of the Web can be included in a complementary version of the print journal.