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Christina's LIS Rant
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
  Review of "Framing the Scholarly Communication Cycle"
Boettcher, Jennifer (2006, May/June). Framing the Scholarly Communication Cycle. Online, 30 (3), 24-26. Available f/t in ABI/Inform and Academic Search Premier (subscription required).

I was reading this article at the end of the day yesterday and I have to say that I respectfully disagree with the entire thing from definition to application. She starts with, "SCHOLARLY communication is evolving from a buzzword into a discipline" -- excuse me, but the study of scholarly communication as a discipline has been active since the late '50s - early '60s. Look at Menzel, Hagstrom, deSolla Price, Garfield... and the whole APA-JHU project in the late '60s and '70s with very important work by Garvey, Griffith, Lin, Nelson, Tomita...

Next, she has scholars using "search and discovery tools" as part of the research process -- I would disagree with this because in most fields, that's only done for literature reviews or to get ideas and place the research in context, not as part of the research. I guess I would go along with this if it were stated differently.

Continuing, she says,
"The next step is putting fingers to keyboard and Writing the manuscript. This is done by scholars when they are ready to submit their works to a print or electronic publication. At this stage, they have complete control over their intellectual properties. All their sweat and hard work in the creation of their articles or books becomes a commodity called copyright, which has an economic value and can be traded."
I would argue that a significant part of scholarly work is owned from conception by the funder as well as the researcher (she does mention this much later). Also, intermediate reports have been written as well as delivered orally so the journal paper won't be the first written step.

She says that scholarly journals *document* scholarly communication -- journals *are* scholarly communication!

She says "Printed journals and books were the primary media of scholarly communication," -- they were not primary in many senses. Members of the invisible college were quite aware of the results of research by informal communications. Also, conference presentations and technical reports were very important as informal communication. The gold standard, the journal publication, is most important for reputation and reward structures, but not for the actual progress of science in many cases (this hasn't changed). I'll put my article online after I'm done with quals on Friday. I would also argue that scientists don't necessarily care about the price of the journals. They will get pre-prints and e-prints if necessary.

She continues, "increasingly, commercial publishers see intellectual property as a commodity. They have created tighter restrictions, affecting the flow of scholarship, which result in publishers punishing authors for posting on the authors' own Web sites" -- publishers have always seen IP as a commodity, I think. That's how they stay in business. Societies, like ACS, use their publishing arm to sponsor society activities, so they, too, use IP as a commodity. I'd also like to know who she's talking about in particular about punishing -- almost all of the big commercial publishers have allowed some posting of preprints because of the pressure from librarians and scientists (even Elsevier and Springer).

I totally agree with this statement, "Nevertheless, some nonprofit organizations have outsourced their publishing logistics to the commercial publishers and don't even know if their publishers are predatory or reasonable." I also agree that scholars need to be much more cognizant and protective of their copyright, but as she said, there are many factors that go into decisions on where to publish.

As for "OAJs are accessed primarily by directed searches rather than by traditional browsing" -- I think that's actually true of e-only journals vs. e and print. For example, we get a print copy of PLOS and researchers do browse that. PNAS has some open access articles, too. I think getting TOC alerts by e-mail or RSS is actually browsing, not directed searching but I'd be willing to accept arguments against that.

She ends with discussion of disaggregating the journal article and some statement about scholars not being able to do more publishing on the same topic because of rules about derivative works. Huh. Don't get that at all, because scientists have been sharing data and notes (in certain tightly integrated research areas) forever. Also, we all know many cases in which you see basically the same article in a conference proceeding, journal article, and then book chapter over the course of a few years; so in science, at least, this has not been a concern. Copyright is not the same as patent, by far, and even when publishing in traditional commercial journals, there's no problem doing and publishing more research on the same topic -- or else all PhDs would be out of business from the start.

So, as you can see, I've been pretty hard on this article here. I'm also not sure it was appropriate for its venue or that it's really a complete thought. She has much more on her web site, but it still looks like a work in progress. Maybe she just simplified her framework for publication in this magazine, but in doing so she really muddied a few points. IMHO.

BTW- I love Online and it has quite a few really interesting articles this month.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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