Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, May 26, 2008

OA journals as social networks

Jon McGlone, Open Access Journals, a paper for a graduate seminar published online with CommentPress, May 8, 2008. 

From Chapter 8, Towards the Revolution: Open Access Journals as Social Networks:

In the world of scholarly journal publishing, the Public Library of Science, a non-profit publisher of several peer-reviewed open access journals, is already beginning to establish [a social networking] environment for scholars in the scientific community. On the social network level, users can create free accounts that include professional profiles, including areas of interest and research, school affiliation, and other professional details. Once a profile is created, the user is then able to “contribute” responses to articles. These usually take the form of advanced commenting, where a respondent can compose a reply that challenges or supports a statement in the article, always using citations in support of their arguments. Responses are moderated, and usually appear within a week of submission. Such types of responses mirror those conversations often found in the back pages of journals that are a type of post-publication review. Yet, as part of the digital environment, benefit from the cumulative participation of others and are not limited to two opposing voices.

Some of the journals at the Public Library of Science (PLoS) increase the user’s ability to comment on articles and contribute to the post-publication review of an article. In their publication on genetics, post-publication review manifests itself in three separate categories: notes, comments and ratings....

The implications of social network technology is yet to be fully harnessed by PLoS, but it appears that an initial framework of user accounts and profiles, rating and commenting is available. It would be interesting to see open access journal publishers begin to merge the social technologies of Facebook with the publishing and post-print review technology of PLoS, allowing users to connect with one another, and represent their real-world connections in the virtual environment and connect to relevant peer-reviewed scholarly material. Creating these types of services for scholars can add tremendous value to open access journals, and make them viable competitors to for-profit journals that are publishing only in the digital environment....

From the conclusion:

While it does not appear that open access journals will overturn the for-profit publishing industry, open access journal publishers do stand a chance to compete in the digital environment by harnessing the talents of their greatest ally and supporter, the library. In the past, the research library emerged in a brick and mortar sense to provide a knowledge commons for scholars, housing and preserving print journals. Today, similar type of action needs to be taken by libraries to ensure the growth of a new type of knowledge commons. This paper has looked at the rise of journals in the scholarly environment, their privatization, and how open access can help restore the open system that benefitted scholars of a distant past. It also has discussed the links between human modes of producing knowledge, and how revolutions to production of knowledge can stand to change humans. In today’s digital environment, where social networks increasingly become an integral part of life for many, such an application to scholarly communication seems rather necessary and increasingly fitting. Yet it is only through the continued support, advocacy and technical research into open access publishing, coupled with the conceptual thinking of scholars like Harnad that scholarly skywriting—or the fourth revolution of the production of knowledge—can truly be actualized.