Thursday, September 07, 2006

Official Description:

Deeds to Words: The Changing Relationship Between Scholars and Their Publishers
Charles Watkinson, Director, ASCSA Publications, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Moderator
Christopher Greer, Cyberinfrastructure Advisor, Office of the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences, National Science Foundation
Mark McCabe, Professor of Economics, Georgia Institute of Technology
Brent Shaw, Faculty Coordinator, Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics Repository

As "open" technology has moved downstream, scholars have become empowered users. The availability of software tools and institutional infrastructure has made it possible for authors to create their own publishing venues and to set the terms of engagement with their readers. But with this new authority comes responsibility and confusion. What role do traditional publishers play in the professional lives of scholars? Do new modes of publishing satisfy authors' needs to have their scholarship registered, to have its quality certified, to see it disseminated to a relevant audience, and to ensure that it is archived for posterity? What conventional values are still relevant, and what new competencies are needed by both publishers and authors in this emerging "Publishing 2.0" environment?

My Live Blogging Notes (Society for Scholarly Publishing Top Management Roundtable)

NOTE: There were no powerpoints used in this session. Notetaking tends to be stream of consciousness so therefore this may be incomplete or unclear. Not perhaps the ideal situation for readers....

The intent of this session is to cover what authors want now as well as what they'll want for the future. Charles Watkinson of ASCSA as moderator drew laughter with references to Dr. Phil, the self-help guru, as he talks about the angst of the current environment. He noted a recent University College London study: comparisons in Arts & Human, Economics and Business, and Biochemists. Differences in attitudes towards speed of publication, importance of citation activity, use of a variety of information resources in the library (humanists go to the library; biochemists don't). This will be stressed later in the day in my own session. The point is that one size does not fit all in terms of how various disciplines use and think about content. Impact of the networked information environment will be felt in upcoming users (this refers back to what Kevin Guthrie discussed in his opening keynote in likening this impact to an oncoming asteroid hurtling towards Earth in the 1951 sci-fi thriller, When Worlds Collide). Watkinson references as well the conflict between hoarding data and sharing of data

4 secrets of relationships success between authors and publishers (functions performed by publishing environment)

  • Registration - priority of claim and recognition
  • Certification - recognized as value
  • Dissemination - awareness of the community of the content
  • Archiving. - record of research left for posterity, version control and final version that can always be discovered across time and therefore cited.

Chris Greer, NSF

Perspective of a funding agency. Talk briefly about a small case study and then move on to what publishers might do. Phil Born (PloS Structural Biology) at UC, Co-director of Protein Databank (repository of 3D biological structures) and works with Biolit to match structure image with that referenced in specific literature. Brings in related materials - other molecular structures, other articles written. Publication itself becomes a form of metadata (Exactly! This is the type of metadata that Cory Doctorow referenced in his 2001 essay, Metacrap! Seven Straw Men of Meta-Utopia . Behavioral metadata as it were). Interdependency and reciprocal relationship between the literature and the data.

Finding in the funding realm that the output of research being funded is digital in format. Microarray studies generating lots of data. The four needs of authors still apply to the datasets. How will this relationship play out? Two separate arenas

(1) Digital environments- discussions of required deposit of the material in these repositories. References the Corwyn-Lieberman proposal.

(2) Wide variety of international and domestic initiatives

Videostreams, audiostreams, algorithms, published text, etc. need to be included in this digital data framework. Routinely collected and formated data -- registration of contributions w/ reliable attribution -- data readily discovered and understood by professionals and laypersons alike -- data properly protected and reliably preserved. The digital data framework has to address all of these

Not the responsibility of a single sector to provide this environment; a social responsibility for the good of all. Everyone has a role in this. Libraries exist and can play a role as print repositories and may be turned to as foundation for digital. Given that libraries have different business models, a variety of funding models -- they may be able to offer a conceptual model for this digital data framework.

Greer insists that authors want publishers to be a part of this. Question to the audience is what part do publishers feel they are ready to assume in this? Note that the discussion that followed this segment of the program didn't generate a response to this question.

Mark McCabe, GA Tech

Picture of the economic framework of serving authors and readers. Delineation of differences in objectives and expectations between non-profits and for profit organizations recognized when he began his work; technology has driven changes in how publishers are expected to fulfill those objectives and expectations. How to analyze the functions of journals in this changing environment? Socially determined outcomes vs. privately determined outcomes. Readers want to have as many authors as possible and authors want to have as many readers as possible. Zero costs on either side satisfies both ends of that market but can't cover the associated costs. Price doesn't really operate as anticipated in a market of authors and readers. Externalities that each provide to the other side and the costs/distribution of fees needs to be balanced. Publishers no longer perform as a smooth intermediary between the two ends of this marketspace.

Introduction of competition and impact of technologies. Fiddling w/ the cost of dissemination and archiving drives different results (those outcomes that are desired by both ends of the market). Our current model assumes the publisher as a locus. Slow inefficient processes can be supplanted by new technologies. RCDA (the four functions referenced by Charles Watkinson above) can be handled via other channels. References the Russian mathematician recipient of the Fields medal who didn't go through usual channel yet still accomplished the various required functions in RCDA.

Researchers don't need publishers to perform these functions in current environment. Means that publishers have to re-evaluate their value-add, their roles in this environment. They will be forced by these changes.

McCabe, Schonfeld (Ithaka) et al. about to embark on study as to whether all of the changes will perform in the same way across the spectrum of disciplines. Hopefully, next spring results will be published (on the Web).

As an author,he would rather like to see something like a Consumers Report for authors (where can he publish and get the most bang for the buck ie. the fullest result of RCDA functionality.

Brent Shaw, Princeton,

Discussing the Princeton-Stanford Working Papers in Classics Repository -- the use of the working paper approach (popular in the STM arena) in the humanities environment. The timelag between submission of a paper and the final publication was significant in this field (the Classics) and the desire was to shorten the time lag and elicit a wider response from the community (Main aims of the site). Faculty from only two sites are depositing content, but participation has doubled within the community over the course of the year with a desire that the platform be opened to a wider set of contributors from other institutions. They'd like to construct an environment for the humanities that more closely mimics the functionalities found in electronic journal environments in the sciences. Their site is getting well over a thousand hits a day. These were coming from all over the globe.

He touches on the difficulty of eliciting participation by those researchers who have not yet achieved tenure. Contributors to the working papers site are largely those tenured individuals who have nothing to lose by putting work in progress out for examination.

Results of circulation and/or dissemination of research -- no attempt has been made to publicize the availability of the site. Electronic delivery of content is proving popular and he expects this to continue.

Archival role of the site wasn't a particular priority as these were working papers and the intent was to refer the reader to the final printed publication for purposes of citation. This is clearly not going to be the way that works out because the world readership is actually citing the working paper version found at the site rather than the final certified version. Even in the humanities, the pattern of adoption based on electronic resources currently available, the humanists will be driven to expect the level of service and functionality currently found in the STM sector. New generation of students will also drive that long-term effect.


The question that I posed to the panel during the discussion segment was whether or not they were aware of any movements by the relevant heads of academic and research facilities (provosts and the like) to change the reward structure that was so closely tied to the publication process. This to my mind would be an easy way to drive the transition that these scholars seem to be seeking. None of the responses by the panelists indicated awareness that any specific discussions were taking place (indeed one panelist told me later privately that he didn't think that the provosts had gotten that far along in the thinking process). However they did note incremental shifts in attitudes on the part of the academic community in thinking about how they might benefit from adopting the electronic platform for publishing.

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