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Re: Random thoughts on scholarly communication

I do find that what Colin writes is (as usual) thought provoking and I
agree with much of his analysis but I am puzzled by his emphasis on
"public good". Scholarly communication is about communication between
scholars. Scholarly publication is the formal part of scholarly
communication (or at least part of the formal part) and involves scholars
writing messages to one another and to scholars in the future, which are
composed in such a way that very few members of the public can understand
these messages. It is not the purpose of this exercise.

Scholars know this. The CIBER survey (mentioned by Colin) uses the term
narrowcasting in commenting on the results from one of the questions
specifically aimed at elucidating this point. The URL for this survey
seems to be moving around but currently I can reach it at
http://ciber.soi.city.ac.uk/ciber-pa-report.pdf. I would guess that most
scholars are keen on the "public" understanding what they are doing but
this is a different business from scholarly communication. It requires
explanation and interpretation and there is more of this about than there
once was - at least that it my impression.

To my mind the "public good" is best served if scholars are allowed to get
on with their scholarship and not have "solutions" foisted on them by
those who serve them and facilitate what they are doing. If you asked
almost any scholar I am certain that they would rather librarians spent
their money on materials than on educating them. Does anyone disagree?

I know that I shall have ordure heaped on my head when I suggest (as I do)
that the purpose of the journal as we know it is not to give access to the
general public and that there is no moral imperative (as Colin seems to
assume without question) to provide this access.

Anthony Watkinson

----- Original Message -----
From: "Liblicense-L Listowner" <liblicen@pantheon.yale.edu>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 5:53 AM
Subject: Random thoughts on scholarly communication

> From: Colin Steele <Colin.Steele@anu.edu.au>
> Subject: Random thoughts on scholarly communication
> Some random thoughts on a Saturday afternoon from Down Under.
> I know that much of the debate focuses on specific issues, for example,
> with the self-archiving option. I have no disagreement with this but I
> believe in the long-term that we have to work within and focus on a
> holistic approach to scholarly communication, see for example,
> http://www.dest.gov.au/highered/respubs/changing_res_prac/exec_summary.htm
> which looks at the framework of scholarly creation and knowledge. I accept
> however that I am not sure however how long long is! In the meantime,
> however, various people/groups are working on component parts such as the
> OSI Working Group mentioned by Peter Suber.
> A wider framework has to be placed within the political environment, so
> that change comes not only at the individual level but also through a
> framework that provides incentives to change scholarly communication
> patterns. Not easy I know.
> The Australian Research Universities, G08, have recently released a
> statement by the Vice Chancellors. See Peter Suber's summary here.
> "Today Australia's eight leading research universities (the Group of
> Eight) released a Statement on open access to scholarly information! . In
> the statement, the Group of Eight Vice-Chancellors "record their
> commitment to open access initiatives that will enhance global access to
> scholarly information for the public good." They pledge to support OA
> initiatives at their respective universities, to support "digital
> publishing practices" that provide high-quality scholarship at lower cost,
> and to examine their "criteria for promotion" in light of the new OA
> publishing models. (5/25/2004 11:44:02 AM)"
> Similarly, the Australian National Scholarly Communication Forum is
> attempting to place activity within research frameworks with hopefully
> outcomes that will trickle down in due course to the individual academic
> (see attached program). This conference has attracted the four major
> Academies, the Chief Scientist, leading representatives of the Australian
> Vice Chancellor's Committee and the Australian Research Council, so we
> hope that we can bring issues to the attention of the community in a way
> that the UK House of Commons Committee has done, although it's public
> platform has been much wider and certainly very helpful in raising general
> consciousness of the issues.
> As a number of commentators have mentioned, such as Fred Friend and
> Stephen Pinfield, the current issue with institutional repositories is to
> increase their population. The issues are political and social rather than
> technical. Institutional repositories in my opinion are far more than
> simply the STM post-prints, so to speak, and this is reflected in the
> depositing of material at ANU, both in the e-prints and D-Space
> repositories. A way to proceed, which we are pursuing, and I know the
> Dutch are also following up with, is to link with the research offices and
> the research assessment exercises, which universities undertake. It is
> relatively simple to link the metadata and the full text across, from such
> exercises, into institutional repositories.
> Until the academic community have the time and inclination to deposit
> material automatically then someone else must be the catalyst. Why should
> the library not take the lead and allocate staff time to this process? We
> collectively spend large amounts of time and hundreds of millions of
> dollars acquiring research information, considerable amounts of which are
> still little used electronically, so why can't we spend a small proportion
> of staff time on working with the academic community to place material in
> institutional repositories? As the amount of material increases, so will
> the spin-offs within an institutional setting, apart from the
> opportunities for new metrics in terms of citation/impact.
> The Elsevier ruling is undoubtedly welcome but will be somewhat cumbersome
> to implement in the context of each individual academic and the library
> may need to be the facilitator with them. The vast majority of the
> academics surveyed in the recent UK City University Report, while
> "troubled" by publishers, continue to be unaware of a lot of the issues
> that we debate - what I have termed the sound of one hand clapping:
> http://www.lub.lu.se/ncsc2004/
> If the global research libraries purchase material at an input level, at
> vast expense for the "public good" of their university, then the new
> models of e-press, e-prints and D-Space may well be early examples of the
> universities funding "public good" output of their institution. This is a
> different attitude to the way that university presses have been regarded
> in the past and subsequently closed down.  The CIC Report on Scholarly
> Publishing, issued earlier this year, also reflects on the need for new
> modes of scholarly communication and interrelationship.
> There is no simple solution, it's going to be hybrid and in the near
> future, messy and confusing, with a variety of models emerging and being
> tested and being vigorously fought over. Let's not forget as a background
> to specific debates, however, that we are working within the big picture
> of scholarly communication and that change will be built upon the
> composite building blocks of the research knowledge process, all of which
> need to be examined but for which the research author and their
> administrative "masters" are the crucial catalysts.
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> Colin Steele
> Email: colin.steele@anu.edu.au