Effecting change in academic publishing
- academics' free labour is exploited by publishing houses for profit;
- universities, libraries, and other similar institutions are funnelling millions in taxpayers' money to private publishing houses in order to access knowledge their own employees or peers produced;
- the peer review process is BS (and, and, and, and, and, and, and) and the social web is doing a grand job;
- academia is elitist and knowledge is inaccessible;
- metrics for measuring scientific impact and quality are BS;
- reusing data or building on other peoples' work and ideas is hard with the existing tooling;
- physical-paper-based methods of knowledge dissemination (like PDF) and the tools to produce them are missing out on the potential of modern technology (particularly the Web);
- given low to zero cost of publishing thanks to the Web, it is even more ridiculous that access to these resources costs so much;
- ... I could go on.
People have been writing about this stuff for literally decades. The Open Access movement isn't much younger than the Web itself. And yet.
Don't worry, people aren't only writing about it. People are building things too. Things like:
- Tools for creating and editing academic-style documents and data on the Web, so you're less constrained by paper-based formats.
- Repositories for publishing 'papers' (research reports, articles).
- Systems for web-comment-style peer-review, feedback, and commentary.
- Open access, web-based journals (aggregations of selected articles, as approved by a knowledgeable committee).
- Mandates to publish research and data openly.
- Archives of publications or data, despite the terms of service of other publishers or copyright holders.
- Ontologies for describing scientific contributions and the connections between them.
- Open standards for social-like interactions in general.
- Systems providing researchers with unique identifiers and profiles.
- Alternative metrics and other informal engagement initiatives.
There are so many different angles to approach this from, and so many things that need to change in sync. We need:
- to make research outputs digestable and learnable;
- to connect ideas and people;
- to chain things together - provenance, derivation, inspiration;
- to connect people and make collaboration easy;
- for people to not be afraid to publish work in progress, or share half-baked ideas;
- ways to ascertain quality of scientific output - repeatability, verifiability, and qualifications of the researcher - to know if something is good;
- to acknowledge people for their labour, particularly peer-review; to encourage quality reviews and ongoing conversations;
- to give researchers control over their work;
- to make research discoverable;
- to aggregate relevant progjects and publications;
- to congregate communities for discussion and development;
- to preserve work for the future.
A puzzle that needs piecing together
There are many pieces to the puzzle. There are many people working on these pieces, or components which could be part of a piece. Maybe not even in the context of improving academic publishing.
Are you one of them? If you count yourself amongst the academic community and you're frustrated by the state of publishing - or working to change it - or just working on something that could be applied to improve it - there are some things you can do right now to help roll this ball...
- Write about your experiences.
- Write about your ideas for change.
- Write about your action for change.
Then: show up in Portoroz, Slovenia, at the end of May and talk about it with other people who care.
The big picture is big
The big picture is big. We need lots of people with broad and niche expertise to address this properly. No one research group, project, or even discipline (and certainly not individual person) is going to be able to shift this alone.
The first workshop for enabling decentralised scholarly communication, is co-located with the 2017 Extended Semantic Web Conference (but by no means limited to SemWeb people, or even computer scientists).
We're eschewing the formal conference proceedings and encouraging you all to publish contributions online, at a domain of your choice (but ideally one you trust or control). Specifically, write about (any or all of):
- Why you don't publish all of your work on the Web, open access, today (a few paragraphs, like a blog post).
- What you're working on that might plug into a future ecosystem for academic publishing (even if you're not finished or not sure how it fits yet - that's what we'll discuss in person).
- Challenges (or solutions!) specific to your discipline or field regarding open access or online publishing of research and results.
See you in Portoroz!
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