Review: Scholarship in the Digital Age
Borgman, C. L. (2007). Scholarship in the digital age: Information, infrastructure, and the internet
. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
This book is one of the many I'm reading for my comprehensive exams. Borgman does an excellent job distilling numerous research streams and large bodies of work into a well-written book. I highly recommend this book for librarians, computer scientists, domain scientists (and researchers in the humanities or social sciences), and anyone else who is interested in (or works to support) the present and future of scholarly work.
There were some overarching themes that she comes back to repeatedly over the course of the book:
- disciplinary or subdisciplinary differences in scholarly work are incredibly important but there are some common issues with scholarly communication and scholarly work that transcend these differences
- while e has changed a lot, the underlying social and cultural practices have not changed that much
- scholarly publications, whether journal articles for scientists or books for humanities researchers, are well organized and findable. For a price anyone can read these and there are many people devoted to providing access. There is no similar framework for data, even though data is becoming an end product in some areas of research.
- scholarly infrastructure needs attention to support e-research - most of the funding and attention has gone to the technical building of the infrastructure and not the understanding of use, the policies, or the information organization. Funding for these repositories is not stable, either, so there really is no parallel or other function similar to what libraries and archives do (and libraries and archives are not really doing this for data)
- there's no link through the "value chain" of science. There needs to be a link from the data set to the journal article and vice versa - but this is difficult because things are murky and the lines are fuzzy
- scholarly publications perform these major tasks: legitimization; dissemination; and access, preservation, and curation. Changes to the scholarly system need to account for and still support these tasks, whether if it's for data or for open access or for e-whatever. Repositories that don't certify and show priority and whose contributions don't go toward tenure and promotion, will not gather a lot of submissions.
A few other nice bits:
- comparison of STS with information science and social informatics, and information systems
- definitions of information (Yes, there is more than Shannon!)
- the appreciation of the importance of the shift in the balance between public and private wrt informal scholarly communication.
- appreciation of the fact that scholars are not depositing their work in institutional repositories
- that norm of open sharing/posting of journal articles does not seem to correlate with the sharing of data (this is interesting and a little counter-intuitive but in physics, arXiv is the norm but sharing data isn't while in biotechnology sharing data is the norm, but not sharing articles)
- Europe's Database Directive - holy cow! I had no idea, how horrible!
- data has many different stages and levels - at which stage or when is it best to share
When (hopefully someday) I teach the reference in science and technologies class, I'm going to assign Chapter 4 on scholarly communication. This was a review for me because I've done a lot of reading in the area, but it's a nice summary.
Unfortunately, some of the later chapters seem really redundant. Also, it doesn't seem like she really suggests any concrete ways forward. More research is needed, and she suggests a research agenda, but no way out. (I was hoping - because I don't see how we can do anything revolutionary here vs. evolutionary).