Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Academic publishing - new models of information sharing?

Looking at the program for the ALIA Information Online conference (which I'm attending next week), I was intrigued by the number of sessions about open access and university-based publishing and research repositories. One in particular caught my eye - John Houghton's "Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models".

Only a few years ago academic blogging was very much frowned upon as a waste of time. However, that appears to be changing. Some academics are experimenting with writing and editing books within communities. Open access platforms are springing up, bringing blogging into the academic world. Check out ResearchBlogging.org, where bloggers discuss peer-reviewed research.

I wonder if universities and academics are experiencing the same struggle I am. Open access and distribution of information is a basic principle of education - but publishing is a necessary source of revenue for academics and universities. And what are the implications of replacing peer-reviewed articles with blogging and open access articles?

This topic is way, way bigger than the stray thoughts I had embarking on this post. But I will leave you with a model that just might become the middle ground - the publisher-provided academic network. Thomson Reuters is already experimenting with this in their new product Law School Exchange. Here's what Westblog had to say about it:

"For law faculty around the country, you might think of Law School Exchange as a combination of Facebook, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and Amazon.com. There’s really nothing like it generally or specifically out there in any market,” says Nickles [Wake Forest School of Law], who helped develop the ideas within Law School Exchange. “It creates an entirely new relationship between faculty, authors and publishers.”

Of course, to participate you must be subscribed to Westlaw. Which makes me wonder - if this is a platform for academics to publish and share information, is it a service for them - or are they providing the content for a new "publication" and should be rewarded accordingly? I would hope the latter (after all, Thomson will get the side-benefits of all members subscribing to Westlaw). In any case, it would be very interesting to see how the revenue model works - and whether academics will embrace this new opportunity to collaborate and distribute their work.