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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Scholarly communication from an eCommerce perspective

Roger Clarke and Danny Kingsley, ePublishing's Impacts on Formal Scholarly Communications, a preprint submitted to the 20th Bled eCommerce Conference, February 11, 2007. 

Abstract:   The dimensions of change in formal communications among scholars are considered from the perspective of eCommerce researchers. The primary vehicle for formal communications in most disciplines and research domains has been articles published in journals. The digital era has brought with it major changes in how articles are accessed and in the economics of journal publishing. The new potentials for community-based endeavour create the likelihood of upheaval in what has been a highly profitable industry sector.

From the body of the paper:

For-profit corporations that have grown rich through exploitation of their multiple mini-monopolies are unlikely to permit the open access movement to undermine their wealth and power without a spirited defence. To some extent their fightback is based on enhanced services, but the scope available to them appears to be limited. So exercise of their market power and the lobbying of legislatures appear the more likely approaches for them to adopt. This is confirmed by the hiring of a very aggressive lobbyist by journal-publishing corporations with the intention of projecting the false messages that peer review is performed by for-profit publishers, and that open content approaches represent censorship (Giles 2007).

Another, contrary tendency may, however, prove to be stronger than the technology driver. The governments of a number of countries, under the sway of rationalist economic ideology, have significantly reduced the funding provided to universities. This has led to universities having to go through rapid adaptation. Their governance model has been transformed from collegiality to managerialism. Their objectives and strategies now favour profit-motivated behaviour over their longstanding goals of advancing knowledge through the conduct and support of research, and transmitting knowledge through instruction and supervision. One likely result of these changes is a reduction in the collaborative nature of research, as universities seek to commercially exploit the new knowledge they develop, suppress publication, impose competitive behaviour on their staff, and wrest control from scholarly communities....

The nature of the article has been fairly stable for generations, and the nature of the journal for several centuries. This stands in stark contrast to the substantial disruptions since about 1995, and the possibility of a complete discontinuity during the ensuing decade. Scholarly publishing has been the subject of study by librarians and computer scientists. To date, however, it has lacked attention from eBusiness researchers.