August 21, 2007

The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure

That's the title for the collection of essays in the most recent CTWatch Quarterly v3i3. There's an incredible array of essays on the future of scholarly publishing, all of them very interesting and worthwhile (I've not read all of the essays yet, but I will). Authors include such notables as Clifford Lynch, Paul Ginsparg, Timo Hannay, Stevan Harnad, Peter Suber and others. This is must-read stuff for everybody in science and libraries as changes to the way scholarship is published will affect virtually everything we do.

From the Introduction (which also has author bios) by Lee Dirks and Tony Hey of Microsoft:

By now, it is a well-observed fact that scholarly communication is in the midst of tremendous upheaval. That is as exciting to many as it is terrifying to others. What is less obvious is exactly what this dramatic change will mean for the academic world – specifically what influence it will have on the research community – and the advancement of science overall. In an effort to better grasp the trends and the potential impact in these areas, we’ve assembled an impressive constellation of top names in the field – as well as some new, important voices – and asked them to address the key issues for the future of scholarly communications resulting from the intersecting concepts of cyberinfrastructure, scientific research, and Open Access. All of the hallmarks of sea-change are apparent: attitudes are changing, roles are adjusting, business models are shifting – but, perhaps most significantly, individual and collective behaviors are very slow to evolve – far slower than expected.

And the complete TOC, with brief excerpts from the articles:

  • The Shape of the Scientific Article in The Developing Cyberinfrastructure by Clifford Lynch, Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)
    For the last few centuries, the primary vehicle for communicating and documenting results in most disciplines has been the scientific journal article, which has maintained a strikingly consistent and stable form and structure over a period of more than a hundred years now; for example, despite the much-discussed shift of scientific journals to digital form, virtually any article appearing in one of these journals would be comfortably familiar (as a literary genre) to a scientist from 1900. E-science represents a significant change, or extension, to the conduct and practice of science; this article speculates about how the character of the scientific article is likely to change to support these changes in scholarly work.

  • Next-Generation Implications of Open Access by Paul Ginsparg, Cornell University
    The technological transformation of scholarly communication infrastructure began in earnest by the mid-1990s. Its effects are ubiquitous in the daily activities of typical researchers, instructors and students, permitting discovery, access to, and reuse of material with an ease and rapidity difficult to anticipate as little as a decade ago.

  • Web 2.0 in Science by Timo Hannay, Nature Publishing
    Over the last 10 years or so, much of the discussion about the impact of the web on science – particularly among publishers – has been about the way in which it will change scientific journals. Sure enough, these have migrated online with huge commensurate improvements in accessibility and utility. For all but a very small number of widely read titles, the day of the print journal seems to be almost over. Yet to see this development as the major impact of the web on science would be extremely narrow-minded – equivalent to viewing the web primarily as an efficient PDF distribution network. Though it will take longer to have its full effect, the web’s major impact will be on the way that science itself is practiced.

    The barriers to full-scale adoption are not only (or even mainly) technical, but rather social and psychological. This makes the timings almost impossible to predict, but the long-term trends are already unmistakable: greater specialization in research, more immediate and open information-sharing, a reduction in the size of the ‘minimum publishable unit,’ productivity measures that look beyond journal publication records, a blurring of the boundaries between journals and databases, reinventions of the roles of publishers and editors, greater use of audio and video, more virtual meetings. And most important of all, arising from this gradual but inevitable embracement of technology, an increase in rate at which new discoveries are made and exploited for our benefit and that of the world we inhabit.

  • Reinventing Scholarly Communication for the Electronic Age by J. Lynn Fink and
    Philip E. Bourne, University of California, San Diego
    Cyberinfrastructure is integral to all aspects of conducting experimental research and distributing those results. However, it has yet to make a similar impact on the way we communicate that information. Peer-reviewed publications have long been the currency of scientific research as they are the fundamental unit through which scientists communicate with and evaluate each other. However, in striking contrast to the data, publications have yet to benefit from the opportunities offered by cyberinfrastructure. While the means of distributing publications have vastly improved, publishers have done little else to capitalize on the electronic medium. In particular, semantic information describing the content of these publications is sorely lacking, as is the integration of this information with data in public repositories. This is confounding considering that many basic tools for marking-up and integrating publication content in this manner already exist, such as a centralized literature database, relevant ontologies, and machine-readable document standards.

  • Interoperability for the Discovery, Use, and Re-Use of Units of Scholarly Communication by Herbert Van de Sompel, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Carl Lagoze, Cornell University
    One major challenge to the existing system is the change in the nature of the unit of scholarly communication. In the established scholarly communication system, the dominant communication units are journals and their contained articles. This established system generally fails to deal with other types of research results in the sciences and humanities, including datasets, simulations, software, dynamic knowledge representations, annotations, and aggregates thereof, all of which should be considered units of scholarly communication.

  • Incentivizing the Open Access Research Web: Publication-Archiving, Data-Archiving and Scientometrics by Tim Brody, University of Southampton, UK, et al.
    The research production cycle has three components: the conduct of the research itself (R), the data (D), and the peer-reviewed publication (P) of the findings. Open Access (OA) means free online access to the publications (P-OA), but OA can also be extended to the data (D-OA): the two hurdles for D-OA are that not all researchers want to make their data OA and that the online infrastructure for D-OA still needs additional functionality. In contrast, all researchers, without exception, do want to make their publications P-OA, and the online infrastructure for publication-archiving (a worldwide interoperable network of OAI -compliant Institutional Repositories [IRs]) already has all the requisite functionality for this.

  • The Law as Cyberinfrastructure by Brian Fitzgerald, and Kylie Pappalardo, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
    In the realm of collaborative endeavour through networked cyberinfrastructure we know the law is not too far away. But we also know that a paranoid obsession with it will cause inefficiency and stifle the true spirit of research. The key for the lawyers is to understand and implement a legal framework that can work with the power of the technology to disseminate knowledge in such a way that it does not seem a barrier. This is difficult in any universal sense but not totally impossible. In this article, we will show how the law is responding as a positive agent to facilitate the sharing of knowledge in the cyberinfrastructure world.

  • Cyberinfrastructure For Knowledge Sharing by John Wilbanks, Scientific Commons
    Despite new technology after new technology, the cost of discovering a drug keeps increasing, and the return on investment in life sciences (as measured by new drugs hitting the market for new diseases) keeps dropping. While the Web and email pervade pharmaceutical companies, the elusive goal remains “knowledge management:” finding some way to bring sanity to the sprawling mass of figures, emails, data sets, databases, slide shows, spreadsheets, and sequences that underpin advanced life sciences research. Bioinformatics, combinatorial drug discovery, systems biology, and an innumerable number of words ending with “-omics” have yet to relieve the skyrocketing costs and increase the percentage of success in clinical trials for new drug compounds.

  • Trends Favoring Open Access by Peter Suber, Earlham College
    While it’s clear that OA is here to stay, it’s just as clear that long-term success is a long-term project. The campaign consists of innumerable individual proposals, policies, projects, and people. If you’re reading this, you’re probably caught up in it, just as I am. If you’re caught up in it, you’re probably anxious about how individual initiatives or institutional deliberations will turn out. That’s good; anxiety fuels effort. But for a moment, stop making and answering arguments and look at the trends that will help or hurt us, and would continue to help or hurt us even if everyone stopped arguing. For a moment, step back from the foreground skirmishes and look at the larger background trends that are likely to continue and likely to change the landscape of scholarly communication.

(via STS-L and others)


Brock Tice said...

Thanks for posting this! I've been pushing for more open access in my field (cardiac electrophysiology), and it's good to see a comprehensive review of the trend toward open access.

John Dupuis said...

You're welcome...on the other hand, Star Wars was followed by The Empire Strikes Back...