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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines


Since 2005, the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been conducting research to understand the needs and practices of faculty for in-progress scholarly communication (i.e., forms of communication employed as research is being executed) as well as archival publication. This report brings together the responses of 160 interviewees across 45, mostly elite, research institutions in seven selected academic fields: archaeology, astrophysics, biology, economics, history, music, and political science. The overview document summarizes the main practices we explored across all seven disciplines: tenure and promotion, dissemination, sharing, collaboration, resource creation and consumption, and public engagement. We published the report online in such a way that readers can search various topics within and across case studies. Our premise has always been that disciplinary conventions matter and that social realities (and individual personality) will dictate how new practices, including those under the rubric of Web 2.0 or cyberinfrastructure, are adopted by scholars. That is, the academic values embodied in disciplinary cultures, as well as the interests of individual players, have to be considered when envisioning new schemata forthe communication of scholarship at its various stages. We identified five key topics, addressed in detail in the case studies, that require real attention:(1) The development of more nuanced tenure and promotion practices that do not relyexclusively on the imprimatur of the publication or easily gamed citation metrics,(2) A reexamination of the locus, mechanisms, timing, and meaning of peer review,(3) Competitive, high-quality, and affordable journals and monograph publishing platforms(with strong editorial boards, peer review, and sustainable business models),(4) New models of publication that can accommodate arguments of varied length, richmedia, and embedded links to data; plus institutional assistance to manage permissionsof copyrighted material, and(5) Support for managing and preserving new research methods and products, includingcomponents of natural language processing, visualization, complex distributed databases, and GIS, among many others.Although robust infrastructures are needed locally and beyond, the sheer diversity of scholars’ needs across the disciplines and the rapid evolution of the technologies themselves means that one-size-fits-all solutions will almost always fall short. As faculty continue to innovate and pursue new avenues in their research, both the technical and human infrastructure will have to evolve with the ever-shifting needs of scholars. This infrastructure will, by necessity, be built within the context of disciplinary conventions, reward systems, and the practice of peer review, all of which undergird the growth and evolution of superlative academic endeavors.

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