August 2007
The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications & Cyberinfrastructure
Peter Suber, Earlham College

  1. New and effective tools for collaboration are triggering adoption and excitement, e.g., social tagging, searching by tags, open peer commentary, searching by comments, social networking, community building, recruiting collaborators, facilitating work with collaborators you already have, following citation trails backwards and forwards, following usage-based "similar to" and "recommended" trails, open APIs, open standards, and mash-ups. Collaboration barriers are becoming almost as irritating and inimical to research as price and permission barriers. A new generation of digital scholars is deeply excited by the new collaboration services that presuppose and build on OA.

    To focus on social tagging and folksonomy tools for a moment; when applied to research literature (Connotea, CiteULike) and combined with OA and search engines, they do more than OA alone, or OA plus search engines, to enhance the discoverability of OA literature. Because tags are added retroactively to open content by uncoordinated users, they stimulate the imagination of creative developers; once we have OA to literature and data, we can add layers of utility indefinitely.

  2. Interest in OA and projects to deliver on that interest are growing fast in the humanities. Humanists are exploring OA for books and journals, and exploring the universe of useful services that can be built on an OA foundation, from searching and annotation to text-mining, co-writing, and mash-ups. We already knew that OA was useful to scholars, as authors and readers, in every field. But the humanities are now showing that OA is not limited to fields with high journal prices (to serve as a goad) or high levels of research funding (to pay for it).
  3. Huge book-scanning projects, particularly those from Google, the Open Content Alliance, The European Library, the Kirtas-Amazon partnership, and Project Gutenberg, steadily increase the number of print books available in some free-to-read digital form. We'll soon reach a crossover point when more full-text, public-domain books are freely available online than on the shelves of the largest university library. Apart from lowering the access barriers to a large and uniquely valuable body of literature, the book-scanning projects together create one more large real-time demonstration that useful literature is even more useful when it's OA.
  4. At the same time, the price of book scanning is dropping quickly. The usefulness of book literature and the absence of legal shackles on public domain texts are attracting large corporations, whose investments and competition are driving down the costs of digitization. The repercussions will be felt in every category of print literature, including the back runs of print journals.
  5. Steady decreases in the size and cost of hardware and memory are making possible steady increases in the volume of data people can carry in their palm or pocket. Free offline access to usefully large digital libraries is on the horizon. Every effort for free online access will free up content for portable offline access as well.

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Reference this article
Suber, P. "Trends Favoring Open Access," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 3, August 2007. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/08/trends-favoring-open-access/

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