August 2007
The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure
Lee Dirks, Microsoft Corporation
Tony Hey, Microsoft Corporation


Lynn Fink and Phil Bourne’s “Reinventing Scholarly Communication in the Electronic Age” is an especially compelling article in that it lays out examples of research and projects currently in progress to enact Web 2.0 principals. Echoing the irony from Hannay’s paper, the authors note that scientific and scholarly articles have not evolved at the same pace as other developments on the Internet. In an effort to change that, the University of California, San Diego is undertaking two projects to catalyze developments in this space: (1) the “BioLit” project relating to the semantic mark-up of journal articles enhanced during the authoring stage – not after the fact – and, (2) the launch of “SciVee.com”, a new online resource for augmenting scientific papers with brief video presentations. Also striking is that the article raises a theme that appears in several of the other papers related to the “generational change” that is a crucial underlying factor to the success of these types of projects. There is clearly agreement among the authors that the newer, younger generation is going to carry the scientific world forward in a way that the existing, established community cannot. So, changes that are being implemented now will begin to have greater and greater impact as this new generation of scientists and scholars shift the behavior of the community. It is an exciting prospect – but the groundwork to ensure this occurs is only being laid now with enabling research projects such as these from UCSD.

Herbert Van de Sompel and Carl Lagoze’s “Interoperability for the Discovery, Use, and Re-Use of Units of Scholarly Communication” is an exciting look at the seminal work now underway related to the Open Archives Initiative’s “Object Reuse & Exchange” (ORE) project. Building upon a concept initially referenced in Hannay’s paper, they point out the need to understand “the change in the nature of the unit of scholarly communication” – meaning we can no longer effectively think about an article or paper as the primary vessel of conveying knowledge within the academic world or across scientific disciplines. The transmission of knowledge has grown, broadened, and now spans a range from atomic data to entire datasets, from a single paragraph to a series of articles about specific concept, to presentations, videos, or other modes/formats related to the dissemination of a given concept. Since our ability to communicate information has exploded, we must likewise evolve our effort to describe, find, and utilize these new “compound objects.” This paper is an in-depth “nuts-and-bolts” presentation, and Van de Sompel and Lagoze explain why there is a crucial need to re-architect scholarship on the internet and how they propose to enact this to ensure that we maximize the intent and the value of what is made available for scholars and researchers. Accompanying their article is an illustrative, online demonstration of their prototype ORE implementation in the form of a [screencast] referenced in the Appendix of their article; this companion piece provides useful context and a quick overview with examples of their work in progress.

In the article by Stevan Harnad et al. entitled “Incentivizing the Open Access Research Web: Publication-Archiving, Data-Archiving and Scientometrics,” we see a bold proposal for employing a new application of research metric across multiple sources (defined as “scientometrics” – the collection, measurement and analysis of full-text, metadata, download and citation metrics) to drive author self-archiving, encourage data-archiving, and enhance research quality overall. Similarly referenced by other articles in this publication, this piece also notes that behavior and current practices of researchers and scholars need to change to match the potential that technology has provided academia. Namely, the authors propose a system to help accomplish this systemic and behavioral change – and a substantial transformation this would be. The system they present is based around three core components: (1) functionality of a network infrastructure, (2) established and agreed upon metrics to provide the necessary incentive(s), and (3) mandates from authoritative organizations that promote publishing into an Open Access system that maps directly into #1 and #2. In an effort to provide concrete examples of how such a system could evolve, the authors point to Citebase and the UK’s “Research Assessment Exercise” (RAE) as tangible case studies that could be modeled/expanded to achieve a vision of complementary components meshing together. Indeed, the tenet here being that, with this system in place, the “Open Access Impact Advantage” can be realized – where self-archiving driving citation impact becomes a virtuous cycle delivering more value than publication into closed/proprietary journals.

Brian Fitzgerald and Kylie Pappalardo’s important review of the legal options for treatment of open access implications is a focused piece honing in on how the law is working in a positive way to enable knowledge sharing in this new world of Open Access – which is made possible by the “collective endeavor through networked cyberinfrastructure.” Addressing the larger issue of “open licensing” models – Fitzgerald and Pappalardo provide multiple case-studies/examples of how legal concepts have been applied to complex issues to produce simple tools (like Creative Commons licenses) to enable researchers and academics to protect themselves and their work. The easier the system is, the more likely it is to be used and promulgated. Based on the uptake of the Creative Commons license – it is clear that scholars are leveraging this resource to protect their intellectual property – but with the spirit of sharing it as broadly as possible in the process. This is certainly a welcome trend and one that promises to further encourage others in the process.

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Reference this article
Dirks, L., Hey, T. "Introduction," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 3, August 2007. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/08/introduction/

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