The Future of Scholarly Communication

Mar 2013 | 224pp

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The Future of Scholarly Communication

Edited by Deborah Shorley and Michael Jubb

Global thought-leaders define the future of research communication.

Governments and societies globally agree that a vibrant and productive research community underpins a successful knowledge economy but the context, mechanisms and channels of research communication are in flux. As the pace of change quickens there needs to be analysis of new trends and drivers, their implications and a future framework. The editors draw together the informed commentary of internationally-renowned experts from all sectors and backgrounds to define the future of research communication.

A comprehensive introduction by Michael Jubb is followed by  two sections examining changing research behaviour and the roles and responsibilities of other key actors including researchers, funders, universities, research institutes, publishers, libraries and users.

Key topics include:

  • Changing ways of sharing research in chemistry
  • Supporting qualitative research in the humanities and social sciences
  • Creative communication in a ‘publish or perish’ culture
  • Cybertaxonomy
  • Coping with the data deluge
  • Social media and scholarly communications
  • The changing role of the publisher in the scholarly communications process
  • Researchers and scholarly communications
  • The changing role of the journal editor
  • The view of the research funder
  • Changing institutional research strategies
  • The role of the research library
  • The library users' view.

This is essential reading for all concerned with the rapidly evolving  scholarly communications landscape, including researchers, librarians, publishers, funders, academics and HE institutions.

Readership: Researchers, librarians, publishers, funders, academics and HE institutions.

Introduction: Scholarly communications – disruptions in a complex ecology – Michael Jubb


1. Changing ways of sharing research in chemistry - Henry S. Rzepa
2. Supporting qualitative research in the humanities and social sciences: using the Mass Observation Archive - Fiona Courage and Jane Harvell
3. Researchers and scholarly communications: an evolving interdependency - David C. Prosser
4. Creative communication in a publish or perish’ culture: can postdocs lead the way? - Katie Anders and Liz Elvidge
5. Cybertaxonomy - Vincent S. Smith
6. Coping with the data deluge - John Wood
7. Social media and scholarly communications: the more they change, the more they stay the same? - Ellen Collins
8. The changing role of the publisher in the scholarly communications process - Richard Bennett


9. The changing role of the journal editor - Mike McGrath
10. The view of the research funder - Robert Kiley
11. Changing institutional research strategies - Ian M. Carter
12. The role of the research library - Mark L. Brown
13. The library users’ view - Roger C. Schonfeld

"This collection expertly outlines the key areas of flux and uncertainty in scholarly communication."
- Research Fortnight

"I would recommend this book to the people who want to know more about scholarly communication and to those who know quite a lot about it and would like to expand their understanding. All the chapters are written in an accessible style and most of them have a moment of intrigue and surprise in them."
- Information Research

"In The Future of Scholarly Communication - editors Shorley and Jubb capture the sense of "ferment" that currently exists on this topic through the voices of contributing disciplinary researchers, publishers, and librarians…The volume is important because it demonstrates that changes taking place now are likely affecting all scholars in every field and will greatly affect academic and research libraries worldwide."
- Technicalities

"While admitting the complexity of the field and key uncertainties, this work nevertheless explores both current issues in scholarly communication and some likely futures. The growth of open access (OA) and simultaneous difficulty in preserving peer review are just two of the subjects which receive attention here, within the context of the "publish or perish" framework. Shorley (scholarly communications advisor, Imperial College) and Jubb (Research Information Network) deliberately chose contributors from a broad range of specialties and perspectives."
- Reference and Research Book News

"The collection is comprehensive and noteworthy for the clarity and readability of its contributions. The authors come from different backgrounds in science and information science."
- Australian Academic and Research Libraries

Deborah Shorley was until 2012 Director of Library Services at Imperial College, London. An active member of her profession, Deborah frequently contributes to national and international conferences and in 1998 was awarded the Library Association's Charter Centenary Medal. She has been head of UKRR (UK Research Reserve) since 2007 and was until Chair of MIMAS, a member of JISC Collections Board, on the Board of LIBER (Ligue des Bibliotheques Europeennes de Recherche - Association of European Research Libraries) and a member of the Conseil Scientifique of ABES (Agence Bibliographique de l'Enseignement Superieur). She was elected to the Research Libraries UK Board in 2008. She currently acts as Scholarly Communications Adviser to Imperial.

Michael Jubb is Director of the Research Information Network (RIN). He has a long-standing background as an academic, archivist and senior research manager and has been Deputy Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He has been responsible for over 30 reports on key aspects of the changing scholarly communications landscape.



Katie Anders, consultant at the Postdoc Development Centre, Imperial College, London

Richard Bennett, Vice President for Institutional Sales at Mendeley

Mark L. Brown, University Librarian, University of Southampton

Ian M. Carter, Director of Research and Enterprise, University of Sussex

Ellen Collins, Research Consultant, Research Information Network

Fiona Courage, Special Collections, University of Sussex Library

Liz Elvidge, Head of the Postdoc Development Centre, Imperial College, London

Jane Harvell, Head of Library Academic Services, University of Sussex Library

Robert Kiley, Head of Digital Services, Wellcome Library

Mike McGrath, retired, remains active in document supply matters

David C. Prosser, Executive Director of Research Libraries UK (RLUK)

Henry S. Rzepa, Professor of Computational Chemistry, Chemistry Department, Imperial College, London

Roger C. Schonfeld leads the research and consulting efforts at Ithaka S+R

Vincent S. Smith, cybertaxonomist, Natural History Museum, London

John Wood, Secretary-General, Association of Commonwealth Universities and honorary professor at Imperial College, London

Introduction: scholarly communications - disruptions in a complex ecology - Michael Jubb

The introduction outlines some of the underlying issues and developments that are shaping the changes in the complex ecology of research and communications in the second decade of the 21st century. It thus highlights some of the key themes that are covered by the succeeding chapters in the book, and the different roles, perspectives and interests of the key stakeholders in the scholarly communications system: researchers, universities, funders, libraries, publishers and learned societies. It moves on to examine the key dimensions and shifts in the patterns of research activity in the UK and globally;  the rise of collaboration between researchers across institutional, disciplinary and national boundaries; and the challenges as well as the opportunities created by the rapidly- rising volumes of data and other kinds of outputs that are being generated by researchers. The changing volumes and roles of publishers, journals and individual publications are examined, including the critical importance of peer review, and changes in the way it is conducted; the growth of new forms of publication; and come of the key changes in business models. Some of the key dimensions of the growth of both open access  journals and of repositories are outlined, before introducing some of the core developments in the infrastructure of services for both authors and readers, including citation, indexing and navigation services, as well as services that help researchers to gather, organise and analyse published and unpublished sources more effectively, to manage their workflows, and to collaborate and share their work with others. The introduction ends by stressing the importance of continued innovation in the search for greater efficiency and effectiveness both in generating and in disseminating new knowledge.

1. Changing ways of sharing research in chemistry - Henry S. Rzepa

The challenges of sharing research in chemistry are introduced via the molecule and how its essential information features might be formalized. The review then covers a period of around 33 years, describing how scientists used to share information about the molecule, and how that sharing has evolved during a period that has seen the widespread introduction of several disruptive technologies. These include e-mail and its now ubiquitous attachment, the world wide web and its modern expression via blogs and wikis. The review describes how digital documents have similarly evolved during this period, acquiring in some cases digital rights management, metadata and most recently an existence in the cloud. The review also describes how the dissemination of digital research data has also changed dramatically, the most recent innovation being data repositories, and speculates what the future of sharing research via the latest disruptive technology, tablets, might be.

2. Supporting qualitative research in the humanities and social sciences: using the Mass Observation Archive - Fiona Courage and Jane Harvell

This chapter uses the Mass Observation Archive (MOA), a vast collection of qualitative data on many subject themes, as a case study to examine how the availability of new technologies and tools for research has changed the way in which information professionals can support the use of data of this nature in the humanities and social sciences. It explores the different ways in which research in these disciplines can be supported through digitization, and outlines how important it is to ensure that there is a ‘curatorial voice’ for the researcher in digital material, showing how this adds value to the resource. The chapter also details the various projects with which Mass Observation has been involved to open up and enhance the usability of the Archive. These include the JISC-funded Observing the 1980s Open Educational Resource project, which offers opportunities for the reuse of newly digitized material under a Creative Commons licence, and the SALDA project which produced sets of openly available Linked Data extracted from the records of the MOA Catalogue. By working closely with academics and information professionals on projects such as these, the authors of this chapter argue, they have been able to offer many new ways for researchers in the social sciences and the humanities and other disciplines to use and manipulate the collection.

3. Researchers and scholarly communications: an evolving interdependency - David C. Prosser

Scholarly communication is not just about communication. It is not the final stage of the publication process, solely a means of providing the ‘minutes of science’. Rather, it is a vital part of the research process itself, inspiring researchers along new avenues of discovery and enabling the creation of connections between concepts and people. The ways in which researchers disseminate their research have changed and developed over the four centuries since the launch of the first scientific journals. But it can be argued that scholarly communication has in turn affected the way in which researchers behave. This chapter explores some of the interaction and interdependencies between researchers and scholarly communication. It also describes how the move to online, electronic publishing might further influence the research process.

4. Creative communication in a publish or perish’ culture: can postdocs lead the way? - Katie Anders and Liz Elvidge

Technological advancement has transformed research across the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, leading to the development of new fields of enquiry, as well as novel research tools and methodologies. It has also generated a variety of original media for communicating scholarly research. Yet, despite this, articles in highly ranked, peer-reviewed journals remain – for better or worse – the panacea. Postdocs working at research-intensive universities are required to demonstrate innovation to further their careers. However, the pressure to publish in order to secure a permanent academic post means that the gap for creative research communication is narrow. Most postdocs are accordingly conservative in the way that they report and disseminate their research. This chapter looks at how the ‘publish or perish’ culture affects the ways postdocs understand and make choices about communicating their research. Using a recent public outreach project as a case study, it explores the benefits of participating in creative dissemination projects and discusses the broader value of creative forms of science communication.

5. Cybertaxonomy - Vincent S. Smith

The way taxonomic information is created, tested, accessed, thought about and used is changing dramatically with the application of information and communications technologies (ICTs). This cyber-enabled taxonomy is not only changing the efficiency and work practices of taxonomists, but also changing ways of disseminating taxonomic data, and, arguably, the very nature of taxonomic knowledge. In this chapter I examine some of the major outputs of taxonomic research; how ICTs are affecting their production, dissemination and reuse; and common impediments to further progress, including a lack of incentives to build, sustain and populate appropriate infrastructures.

6. Coping with the data deluge - John Wood

The impact of the data deluge is affecting all disciplines – from the humanities to largescale science. Making data openly available allows us to approach global challenges holistically. In many cases we need to assess human factors alongside the legal, medical and technology issues: for example, in the field of world energy demand. So there is a need for common standards for preservation and access in order to ensure interoperability. Yet the field is developing very fast, with many funders arguing that publicly funded research must be made publicly available. This does not simply mean that the data is dumped somewhere: it must be accessible to other researchers in an intelligible manner. Some large international projects are trying to solve these issues, and there is increasing evidence that governments have woken up to the issues. A key challenge will be for the researchers themselves. Projects in biodiversity, for example, require individual researchers to come together – physicists, space scientists and computer scientists working alongside biologists and environmental scientists. The management of such projects requires skills that few possess at present. Hence the need is urgent to look at how researchers are trained, how they manage such projects and the role of the data specialist. How will democracy work if data is publicly available in the future? This chapter seeks to open up these and many other issues that will affect society in fundamental ways. Informed debate is needed in order to ensure that the immense opportunities offered by the data deluge are not lost for future generations.

7. Social media and scholarly communications: the more they change, the more they stay the same? - Ellen Collins

Social media have been hailed as a significant opportunity for scholarly communications, offering researchers new and effective ways to discover and share knowledge. Tools such as blogs, wikis, Twitter and Facebook, as well as their underpinning principles such as crowdsourcing and the value of enhanced or networked data, have all been explored to varying extents by academics, librarians and publishers in their attempts to improve the efficiency of scholarly communications and to reach new or wider audiences. This chapter examines such use of social media and suggests that all of these groups use social media only where it mimics or reinforces their existing behaviours. For the most part, they adopt those elements of social media that make tasks easier or more efficient, but reshape tools or the way in which they are used in order to avoid challenging traditional cornerstones of scholarly communications, such as journal articles and peer review.

8. The changing role of the publisher in the scholarly communications process - Richard Bennett

The advent of digital communication has created challenges for publishers of scholarly materials; it has threatened to revolutionize the process of scholarly communication and change the fundamentals of the publishing process forever. But has it? This chapter investigates to what extent scholarly publishing has been affected by the transition to digital communication, what opportunities have been created and how the transition is shaping the future of the industry. It breaks down the publishing process into three stages – input, processing and output – to analyse how much each of these areas has been affected and if some areas of the publishing process have been affected more than others. It analyses the changing business models in the scholarly journals market and looks at the effect that the introduction of Open Access (OA) publishing has had on both the subscription business model and the way that the communication of research is being financed. It finds that scholarly publishers have undergone a huge transition over the last 20 years, moving from a slow, print-based model to purely digital delivery in many cases; but for all that change, the process of scholarly publishing (peer review, editorial review and the structure of a scientific paper) has changed very little. What has changed is the way that users are using and accessing the information, and the business models that have now developed for digital media, such as the Big Deal and Gold OA. Many scholarly publishers are still in the middle of a transition to true digital publishing and the mechanisms involved in scholarly communication have yet to take full advantage of many of the technologies available today, and so this industry will have to continue to adapt and change to meet the needs of the next generation of researchers.

9. The changing role of the journal editor - Mike McGrath

Drawing on ten years’ experience as a journal editor, the author of this chapter looks at the key drivers for change in the journal market-place: the drive for profit by the large commercials and the impact of rapidly developing technology which is enabling different access and publishing models to be explored. These drivers are leading to changes in the editorial function, in particular the role of peer reviewing moving from pre- to postpublication review. The exaggeration of the added value contributed by publishers may be a matter of debate. The very significant impact of Open Access (OA) is assessed and some predictions are made, including the likely demise of the Big Deal, at least in its present form, because of the impact of OA. The chapter concludes by arguing that publishers have contributed greatly to increasing access to the academic literature but are now acting as a brake on further developments through their exploitation of copyright law and digital rights management constraints. All these factors will see the role of the journal editor change dramatically in the next five to ten years, more quickly in the fields of science, technology and medicine, and more slowly in the humanities and social sciences.

10. The view of the research funder - Robert Kiley

This chapter considers the benefits of Open Access (OA), the challenges that still persist – especially in terms of compliance with funders’ policies – and the costs and sustainability of OA publishing, with particular reference to the work of the Wellcome Trust since 2005. To provide context to the Trust’s initiatives, a brief analysis of the OA landscape in the UK, Europe and beyond is also provided. The chapter also discusses the rationale behind the development of eLife, the new OA journal developed by the Wellcome Trust in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society.

11. Changing institutional research strategies - Ian M. Carter

University research strategies make statements about research ambitions, but rarely speak directly about scholarly communications. At the same time, communication of all sorts has become central to a university, whether to support recruitment, present a public profile or respond to events. This chapter seeks to explore the relationship between institutional research strategies and scholarly communications and to see how each may have affected the other and how they might do so in the future. It describes the purpose and structure of an institutional research strategy, and how these are changing. It highlights the linkages between strategy, implementation plans and policies, where the latter encourage desired behaviours. In the context of scholarly communications, the research strategy is the public document in which an institution states its commitment to such forms of communication: that discovering new knowledge and sharing that discovery in meaningful ways are at the heart of the institution. The discussion then moves to the changing nature of scholarly communications, including the Open agenda, and questions how scholarly communications fits into the wider spectrum of institutional communications. The chapter concludes that there has probably been little direct connection between research strategies and approaches to scholarly communications, but that this is changing. Both institutions and individual researchers wish to demonstrate the quality, relevance and accessibility of their research, in order to be attractive to collaborators, funders and employers. Successful institutions will ensure that strategy and scholarly communications activities are mutually supportive, to the benefit of both their researchers and the organization.

12. The role of the research library - Mark L. Brown

Research libraries see themselves as being in the forefront of moves to extend, exploit and promote new forms of scholarly communication. The advent of the digital environment has created new opportunities for librarians to act as protagonists, advocates and innovators. The role of research librarians now extends beyond being facilitators, brokers and guardians, to working as champions of change for the benefit of the whole research community. Nationally and internationally, libraries are engaged in collaborative initiatives to find the best ways to support the research process and extend affordable access to the rapidly growing volume of resources that is now available. This chapter reviews the role of research libraries in responding to an increasingly complex research environment, and the response of libraries to the acceleration of digital publishing, escalating costs and the long-term preservation needs of research outputs, as well as their positioning in the debates on Open Access and research data management. Research libraries are bringing knowledge and professional expertise to the task of enhancing the effectiveness of the research environment, which is placing them in the role of advocates and service integrators. The success of this activity has been underpinned by a strengthening of the natural tendency of research libraries to form strong collaborative networks that can share knowledge, pursue joint initiatives and work co-operatively.

13. The library users’ view - Roger C. Schonfeld

This chapter focuses on scholars, rather than on all library users. In it I examine some of the key changes in scholarly practices and associated attitudes in recent years. What are some of the key aspects of the relationship between the academic library and those scholars who may make use of its collections and services? Against a shifting background of significant increases in the accessibility of a variety of information sources and services, how is that relationship changing? I will attempt to examine what it might mean to think of scholars as having the identity of ‘library users’, ultimately arguing that there has been a structural readjustment in the nature of the user’s relationship with information services providers, including the library. The perspective presented in this chapter is rooted to some degree in the US higher education community. There, it has become clear in recent years that the principal differentiator among faculty members’ attitudes and practices is discipline, far more than institutional type, years in the field or other characteristics. In 2012, Ithaka S+R is conducting research programmes with components in both the USA and the UK. So far, these have identified no evidence of any essential differences in the views of academics in the UK and the USA that would bear substantively on the issues covered in this chapter.