AOIR 6.3.1:  Scholarly Communication in the Age of the Internet

It’s taken me since yesterday evening to be able to post this, first because the presentations were so inspiring for me that I took notes that were more copious than organized, and second, because I went from these two panels into the general meeting with a dying battery and no more wireless access (and then from there onto a lovely, long dinner, after which I was too tired to do anything productive at all.

In any case, yesterday afternoon I attended a fabulous two-session panel on, as the title suggests, scholarly communication in the age of the internet. My notes follow, in pretty raw form, and actual thoughts will follow in the next couple of days, as I’ve had time to ponder what this might mean for my own projects.


Introduction from Susan Kretchmer — brief history of the academic journal; new challenges and responsibilities of academics in the age of electronic journals

Presenter 1: Mary Case, University Librarian at UIC

Overview: the dream of the internet; the nightmare of reality; reclaiming the dream; making the dream a reality — case study of academics who attempted to take full advantage of the internet in scholarly communications, and the problems they faced

group = biomedical and life scientists; saw in internet means to transform their work, accelerate discovery, and save lives

if you could free journal article from print and pdf, you could open new possibilities for data mining, navigating, integrating, etc.; envisioned open, free access

group was already interdisciplinary, working in fields where datasharing was already the norm; was already intensive computer users

wanted sophisticated full text searching; linking among articles and to databases, etc

issues with the state of electronic publishing: decentralized databases; proprietary software; limited in scope — citations and abstracts only, in many cases; limited linking — reference linking useful, but not sufficient; privately owned

achieving the dream: a centralized archive of life sciences literature with standardized formats and extensive linking; would include both peer-reviewed and “screened” pre-prints; authors would submit their works directly to the central server as soon as possible; copyrights would be retained by the authors; users could download and reproduce

response was immediate, vehement, and negative; primarily from publishers, but also from those in the community who were editors (gatekeepers of traditional journal); proposal was revised; Jan 2000, PubMed Central launched — only peer-reviewed content; publishers decide what to submit and when; copyright remains with publisher or author; after 10 months, publishers still reluctant to participate

scientists were mystified: this is our work, and our colleagues’ work, done to advance science, often with public funds — why can’t we disseminate the info the way we want

what they didn’t realize, but came to understand: their role in a larger system, comprising faculty authors, publishers (to whom they transferred copyright, creating a monopoly), who sold to libraries — a market economy

didn’t realize what a huge industry scientific, technical and medical publishing is — close to $10 billion today

price of content has gone through the roof since mid 1980s, especially in sciences

example: Reed Elsevier (bajillions of imprints, including LexisNexis, Harcourt, Reed Business Info, Elsevier Science, etc. etc. etc.) — phenomenal profits: operating margin is around 40% in science division; much less in other divisions — monopoly content

how this translates: one Elsevier journal sells for the price of a Toyota Corolla (~$13K/year)

analysis of price per page in publishing in for-profit v. not-for-profit publishing industries; amazing charts and graphs on increases in journal prices, etc.

increases in expenditures on journals in research libraries: +274%; staying even in numbers of serials purchased; dip in number of monographs purchased

reclaiming the dream: SPARC (library related initiative: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) — trying to encourage non-profit publishers to work competitively against for-profits encouraging the development of low-cost, high-quality alternatives; somewhat effective; promoting open access/digital repositories

Public Library of Science — founded in Oct. 2000 by research scientists, when they realized the PubMed wasn’t going to work; circulated open letter ultimately signed by 34,000 scientists in 180 countries, asking them to stop submitting their material to for-profit journals if publishers didn’t sign onto PubMed; publishers called their bluff — scientists founded their own open access publishing company (got $9 million grant to launch) — have launched PLOS Biology, Oct 2003, plus several since

model: authors retain copyright; articles deposited in PubMed at point of publication; electronic access if free; small fee for print subscription; publication fees charged to authors, paid from institution, grants ( — set aside funds for scientists from countries who could not afford to pay fees

Directory of Open Access Journals — 1800 titles; quality assessments: PLOS Biology is ranked #1 among biology journals; Journal of Postgraduate Medicine: 60% of citations of journal have been to issues since it became open access

advantages of open access: expanded access to research; expanded impact of research; reduced systemic cost; accelerated innovation

public access: NIH Public Access Policy — NIH researchers must (okay, are requested to) deposit material in PubMed within 12 months; Wellcome Trust in UK requires researchers to deposit work in PubMed or UK equivalent within 6 months

digital repositories: infrastructure & services for capturing, disseminating, and preserving the digital resources created by an institution and its members; may contain pre-prints, articles, technical reports, e-dissertations, courseware, audio/video, software, datasets, etc.; can be both disciplinary and institutional; e-publishing software integrated with IRs — may lead to great opportunity for change, creating new communities

mass digitization: Google Print (Google Publisher; Google Library); Yahoo’s Open Content Alliance — will create a demand for and an expectation of free, quality content on the web

making the dream a reality: as an individual faculty member — learn as much as possible about the issues confronting scholarly communication; support junior faculty who choose to publish in non-traditional venues; encourage development of institutional repository

as author, reviewer, editor — look at policies of journals for which one reviews or to which one submits; post work to institutional or disciplinary open access repository; be careful about transfer of copyright

you own the copyright to your work; copyright is divisible; retain rights to use your own work in classroom and coursepacks, and to post it on your website and on publicly accessible online archives

creative commons: copyright for creative work

SPARC — Copyright Resources for Authors (–copy.html)

as member of scholarly society: encourage society to explore alternatives for publishing, to develop alternative revenue sources, to consider making journals open access; to create competitors to expensive titles

as library user: support cancellation of expensive low-use titles; support library’s participation in SPARC and other activities

remember that the dream is speeding results

Presenter 2: Leslie Chan, American Anthropological Association; associate director of BioLine International; AnthroSource Steering Committee

AnthroSource: Transforming Access, Sharing, and Creation of Anthropological Knowledge

AAA: largest professional anthropological association in world; largest single publisher of scholarly journals in anthropology (25 journals); 30% of members are students; mission is to be trustee and steward of much of the historical journal record for the past century (store archival literature, etc.)

pressures of growing costs on journals: not quite as bad as sciences, but as prices of science journals have gone up, libraries have less $ to spend on non-science texts

pressures on publication programs of AAA to keep costs low or even go open access, but costs of production are still increasing

pressures to sell titles (or at least more profitable ones) to for-profit publishers

AAA in process of rethinking publishing program — Mellon Foundation looking for partner to revamp publishing process; generous grant for first stage of creating what is now AnthroSource — also partnership with UC Press — early stage of development of portal for journals

in first phase, taking existing titles and retrodigitizing them; as member of AAA, one gets access to site with all journals; previously, only had access to main journal plus section journal; but no longer get print, and some are upset about that

for library: $1000/year for all journals

journals serve multiple purposes: registration (you did this work then); certification (peer-review); archiving (publication and preservation); reward (tenure & promotion); awareness (dissemination to other scholars)

in early days of transition from print to electronic publishing, question was whether e-journals could achieve these functions — in fact, open access produces higher awareness

in first phase, again, making traditional journals electronic; in later phases, adding other sources of content: blogs, wikis, electronic forums, etc, which create a scholar’s commons — is there a way to make this material “count”? Creating a “community of interest” whose material will be stored in a digital repository, serving the registration and certification functions; creation of electronic-only journals — such “communities of interest” could intersect with other such communities, creating cross-disciplinary conversations

also looking at open access materials that are currently available — many have anthropological content (museums and archives, institutional repositories, open access journals, etc); how can we harvest content from those repositories (standard protocol [OSOAI?]) so that it’s available through the same portal?

now a member or library is no longer paying for content (i.e., one journal) but paying for access — and enormously expanded access;

in the end, trying to produce a lower cost alternative to traditional publishing forms, but acknowledging that there is indeed a cost — we have to chip in, but we’ll be getting so much more for it!

Presenter 3: Susan Kretchmer

using comm discipline as example of what can result from naivete of discipline and the importance of scholars being aware and proactive

we as scholars have very valuable “product”

NCA — for 85 years was its own publisher; in 2002, sought external publisher both in order to get journals online and in order to reverse decline in subscriptions; requested proposals, chose Taylor & Francis and agreed to include journals in EBSCO database (CMMC)

EBSCO agreement is problematic — pulled comm journals out of other databases & included only in CMMC; also used this deal to persuade other professional organizations to move their journals to CMMC, too

database is great; contains everything back to 1914; NCA members get free access

problem is exclusive nature of agreements; libraries now must subscribe to EBSCO, and must pay whatever they’re asking, because they’ve got all the data

not a problem unique to comm

EBSCO now adding more content to databases, including full-text conference papers; agreement with All Academic — suggests that in the very act of submitting a paper for review by a conference, authors are giving rights to EBSCO and possibly giving up rights to publish elsewhere

AHA, APSA, ASA, ICA, IPSA, L&S, NCA, and many others all participate in All Academic — so organizations we pay membership dues in are having content taken by databases, which charge libraries for access, which our institutions have to pay in order for us to access material presented at conferences where we’ve already paid conference fees to attend

such companies are monetizing our work, pulling us out of the gift economy — able to do this because we don’t think of our work as being a product with that kind of value

approx 2354 comm depts at colleges and universities around the world; if EBSCO sells its product to half the market — CMMC costs between $4K and $8K — make more than $4.7 million a year (okay, they have costs, but only paying out about $320K to journals [$2K per journal] for content), or about $30K per journal

Presenter 4: Leslie Regan Shade

an initiative in Canada — consultation in open access

SSHRCC — major funding body for most social science and humanities work in Canada

different funding structure in Canada; universities are public and fees are low

this summer, SSHRCC released questions about open access: how to make principle operational; how to reshape research programs in new policy context — invited public to respond:

should SSHRCC adopt requirement for depositing in repository?

should this apply to all forms of research results?

should there be exceptions for research outputs where there is an expectation of financial return for researcher?

Leslie posted questions on Canadian Communication Association listserv and got lots of knee-jerk responses; saw as more demands for accountability, that open access would undermine peer review, etc.

positive aspects of system: scholars get paid with public money, so we should ensure that anything is put out there; accountability is here a good thing; provides a way of linking research to larger policy questions

John Willinsky’s open publishing project

Canadian Journal of Communication — paper journal, not affiliated with CCA, but put archived journals online and provide open access to articles more than two years old; top ten articles have been accessed by more than 20K folks in recent months

but there’s complicated copyright reform legislation up for consideration in Canada

such open access extends availability of material to non-western countries

Presenter 5: Steve Jones

disagrees with notion that academia is gift culture; we’re a dues-paying culture, and one in which you can never do enough to satisfy anyone

what we are is trained critics

what is it we do when we publish? not giving gifts — we’re in it for ourselves

look at it in terms of departments and faculty and how we treat one another and what one another of us does when we publish and get cited and so forth

it may not even be a dues-paying culture — it’s a culture of fear, in which we’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop

in context of AOIR: org began eight years ago; org is incredibly multi-disciplinary, and because of this it has never been able to establish standards of its own

if we are to be multi-disciplinary, how are we going to navigate our academic universe in situations where the corporate entities control disciplinary silos of information?

another problem: we don’t want to pay for stuff! expectations of academics are really high when it comes to what we want our organizations to do for us; no matter what dues and conference fees are set at, they’re always too high, and complaints about them being too high are always followed up with complaints about organization not doing enough

contradiction: we think our work is really valuable, but we don’t want to pay for it

AOIR is built on the backs of graduate students and very young scholars, but this is untenable; the organization cannot “resist” with those who run too much risk at its helm — those who can “resist” are senior scholars, but it’s much harder to radicalize senior faculty

how do we get senior scholars to understand these issues? how do we maintain these ideas among junior scholars as they advance through the ranks?

resistance to open conference publishing: publishing in such a system doesn’t “count”

how do we change the ethos of academic from “where’s mine?” to the gift economy?


2 thoughts on “AOIR 6.3.1:  Scholarly Communication in the Age of the Internet

  1. I’m sorry you had to miss it, Anne. In fact, I’m sorry everyone missed it; there were only about five of us in attendance, but the energy in the room was really exciting. I’m not sure I fully captured that energy in these notes, but I hope they’re helpful nonetheless…

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