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Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An In-depth Study of Faculty Needs and Ways of Meeting Them

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Abstract

The Center for Studies in Higher Education, with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is conducting research to understand the needs and desires of faculty for in-progress scholarly communication (i.e., forms of communication employed as research is being executed) as well as archival publication. In the interest of developing a deeper understanding of how and why scholars do what they do to advance their fields, as well as their careers, our approach focuses on fine-grained analyses of faculty values and behaviors throughout the scholarly communication lifecycle, including sharing, collaborating, publishing, and engaging with the public. Well into our second year, we have posted a draft interim report describing some of our early results and impressions based on the responses of more than 150 interviewees in the fields of astrophysics, archaeology, biology, economics, history, music, and political science.

Our work to date has confirmed the important impact of disciplinary culture and tradition on many scholarly communication habits. These traditions may override the perceived “opportunities” afforded by new technologies, including those falling into the Web 2.0 category. As we have listened to our diverse informants, as well as followed closely the prognostications about the likely future of scholarly communication, we note that it is absolutely imperative to be precise about terms. That includes being clear about what is meant by “open access” publishing (i.e., using preprint or postprint servers for work published in prestigious outlets, versus publishing in new, untested open access journals, or the more casual individual posting of working papers, blogs, and other non-peer-reviewed work). Our work suggests that enthusiasm for technology development and adoption should not be conflated with the hard reality of tenure and promotion requirements (including the needs and goals of final archival publication) in highly competitive professional environments. 

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