Jankowski, Presentation, Scholarly Publishing And The Web, Final Version, Single Spaced, 24feb2010


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Lecture, Web-based seminar, 'Scholarly Publishing and the Web', 24 February 2010

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Jankowski, Presentation, Scholarly Publishing And The Web, Final Version, Single Spaced, 24feb2010

  1. 1. Nicholas Jankowski Adjunct Professor, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences Visiting Fellow, Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities & Social Sciences (VKS) nickjan@xs4all.nl 24 February 2010 Public Lecture [The Powerpoint slides complementing this text are available here. Scholarly Publishing & the Web: Considerations, Illustrations, Challenges [Slide 1: introduction, opening slide] Thank you, Slavko. I am pleased to be in Ljubljana again for a few days, and pleased to launch the seminar ‘new media and society’ with this presentation that is open to the larger academic community at the University of Ljubljana. I am also pleased that several of my colleagues in the Netherlands and one in Chicago have joined us here via the Elluminate platform. [Identify Elluminate attendees] [Slide 2: Agenda] Since we are not all in the same geographic space, it might be valuable to establish basic ‘operating procedures’ and a time line for the session. I propose that I begin with a relatively short presentation for a maximum of 30 minutes, and then open the session to interventions. I suggest that I first invite those persons ‘far away’ to begin with whatever comments or questions they may have. Then I suggest opportunity be made for ‘on site’ interventions; anyone wishing to make comments or queries in this classroom in Ljubljana may then do so. During that part of the discussion, attendees outside the room may respond and use the Elluminate ‘hand function’ to gain attention, or write a short note in the ‘instant message function’. One of the technical limitations we may face is inadequate amplification of the voices of persons in this room through the computer microphone. In that case, I will try to summarize any comments and questions in the style often done in large meeting halls without mikes. Many of the people in this classroom and in the various rooms with which we are connected via Elluminate are professional scholars involved to a greater or lesser degree in publishing research. Many of us are, in that respect, authors, and some of us also serve as editors of journals and books. We are, as the jargon goes, in the business of creating and making public new knowledge. 1
  2. 2. I would be willing to predict that most of the persons in this room and those joining us via Elluminate, publish their contributions to new knowledge in the form established for hundreds of years, in a printed scholarly publication and not in one of the electronic or digital platforms available in increasing degree – in blogs, institutional repositories, public venues for sharing documents, and on personal or institutional Web sites. Although my prediction may bear out, it would be difficult to claim stability in publishing or, for that matter, in any field of endeavor that is in contact with the digital world, the Internet or, more specifically, the Web. I am intrigued by the changes, sometimes considered revolutionary, across the spectrum of scholarship, and in particular across one of the subareas of scholarship: publishing. [Slide 3: Steve Jobs] Dispensing with the niceties of defining what constitutes publishing and what merits the label ‘scholarship’ let me suggest the range of transformations ongoing. Perhaps no easier place to begin is the announcement a few weeks ago delivered by Steve Jobs of a new Apple product, the iPad. I suspect some persons in the room watched the showmanship Jobs displayed at the launch and some have already made comparisons between this new product and the other e-readers already on the market, the Kindle and the Sony reader, to name the two major competitors. [Slide 4: iPad & NYT] Electronic or digital or networked delivery of published material has, of course, been developing for a good decade, if not longer. Some present may remember Nicholas Negroponte’s promotion of a Media Lab research project back in the mid-1990s of a roll-up screen that would display the newspaper, the Daily Me. That project never really made it out of the laboratory, but some of the current e-readers resemble strikingly the essence of that Media Lab project: replacement of paper by a computer screen and retention of the portability and addition of constant and immediate consultation of one’s preferred sources of news. [Slide 5: Thompson] Observers like John Thompson in his volume Books in the Digital Age argue that the real revolution in publishing has been quietly occurring in the back 2
  3. 3. of the shop, in the production process, in the business monitoring and marketing of the products of the publishing enterprise. We as consumers of those products are generally not able to see those changes so clearly as in the case of the device with which we may read a new e-book, but the changes have been, indeed, substantial and span the steps in publishing from the receipt of a manuscript, through review of it, through copy-editing and formatting, through page-proof checking by an author, through printing on paper or on a Web-based platform, through promotion and regulation of access to the digital versions of such publications archived in the databases of the publisher, and ultimately through establishing a point of sale of the publications on the publisher’s own Web site. The scope and intensity of this seeming transformation of publishing can easily blind us into thinking that all is, indeed, in flux and that publishing, whether directed at a scholarly or a more popular audience, is not what it used to be and is undergoing radical change. My critical and skeptical side makes me suspect that the changes are more superficial than substantial, that the essence of what scholarship entails – the contribution to understanding and to new knowledge, to scientific breakthroughs – is really what it has always been: a long and tedious craft-like process hardly influenced by gadgetry in the laboratory or in the library, by increases in efficiency and in speed, or by the network-based marketing strategies publishers have finely honed. So, to speak metaphorically, the ‘left side of my brain’ remains highly critical of the claims, while the right side reacts in awe at what seems to be happening across the spectrum of scholarship, now frequently termed e- scholarship and e-research. In this presentation I want to share a bit of both perspectives, of revolutionary change ongoing and of traditional stability. I will conclude with a modest collection of suggestions as to how we as scholarly players in this drama, might engage. Let’s begin with the stable. [Slide 6: New Media & Society] I could begin almost anywhere to demonstrate stability, but allow me to go no further than a journal I know well, New Media & Society. A small group of us launched this title with Sage Publications a little more than a decade ago; Steve Jones and I were part of that group, and the first issue of the journal looks almost identical to the issue just released, both in terms of external appearance, the cover, as well as in features less immediate such as editorial policy and the nature of the scholarship published. Ten years down the road, it seems as if we are doing the very same thing regarding our 3
  4. 4. object of study, new media, as at the very beginning, although the object of study has hardly remained still during that period. If we were to conduct an analysis of the journal content, we would see a continued emphasis on theoretical discussion in the articles. We would find considerable representation of empirical exploration reflected in the genre known as the ‘research article’, with occasional wide-ranging essays with a more humanities orientation. But even in the essays theoretical discussion remains central, coupled to an analytical presentation, an ‘argument’. That analysis, if coupled to data about duration of manuscript processing, would suggest that the editors are not particularly concerned with immediacy and rapidity, two of the features of much Web-based publishing; nor would it seem that we are enamored by a particularly attractive design, by visuals accompanying the text, by intertextuality extending beyond the accepted conventions for footnotes and references. There are few hyperlinks in the print versions of contemporary articles and in the online pdf files of those articles, available via Sage Online. The links that are included are anything but ‘hot’, which would facilitate a richer version of intertextuality common in a Web environment. [Slide 7: overview of (new) media oriented journals] I could go much further with this description, but I think most of you get the picture I am trying to sketch of a traditionally prepared and presented journal. This sketch of New Media & Society could be repeated for any number of scholarly periodicals operating in the arena of new media developments. I know there are differences in the titles displayed on this slide, but I believe there are more similarities than differences, and this is particularly reflected in the following opening page of an article. [Slide 8: page from Internet Science] All of the journals just noted value the same features of scholarship: they all prefer some mix of theory with empirical work conducted around on a topic of societal relevance, culminated by reflections that suggest a path for further exploration. They rely on and reflect text-based argumentation presented in a conventional and accepted template, with little attention to visualization, no utilization of dynamic presentation, no opportunity for reader-author exchange, few internal or external hyperlinks, no availability of datasets. In sum, these articles reflect the dominant paradigm for social science and humanities journal publishing. Still, there are differences, and perhaps the most evident is that some of the titles like this one, the International Journal of Internet Science, are 4
  5. 5. available only online and are freely accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Such open access titles are proliferating across the spectrum of scholarship, partly in reaction to the sometimes ruthless financial policies of publishers that have drained the scarce resources of research libraries. This ‘robber baron policy’ has been limited to a small group of publishers and mainly evident among titles in the science, technology, and medicine (STM) sector; still, it left its mark across the spectrum of scholarly publishing and in the relation between authors, editors, librarians and publishers. There is, however, another driving force for open access, and that is grounded in principles related to the first of that two-word phrase, to openness, to the notion of public-making of new knowledge, to the notion of scholarly discourse and the relation of such discourse to a more general conception of public sphere. Other scholars are relating these theoretical notions to the transformation of scholarly publishing and scholarly communication, some based here in Ljubljana, some in Amsterdam, and I personally welcome their forthcoming contributions. For the purposes of this presentation I merely wish to point towards such theoretical notions that might facilitate understanding the changes, and lack of changes, ongoing in scholarly publishing. [Slide 9: Sage Online] I would now like to take a different tack and suggest a range of areas where change seems evident. The first involves the contemporary form of presentation of the published article. Yes, there is, by and large, still a printed copy of the issue, but the primary form of publication – and of archiving – is inclusion in a database maintained by the publisher. Sage Online is illustrative of this relatively recent change where the publisher provides a Web-based version of its print-based journals. Most major publishers have such an online variant of their print journals now, although the details of the business models differ. Some, like Sage, make the full article content available to persons affiliated to subscribing institutions, although the search function and article abstracts are fully accessible to anyone. Sage, like most other publishers, allows individuals to purchase single articles; other publishers provide the option to purchase a ‘day pass’ , and a few give full free access for those articles for which the authors paid a fee prior to publication, covering the costs of open access. [Slide 10: Online First] More recently, Sage introduced a service known as ‘Online First’ and New Media & Society became part of that initiative last autumn. The service essentially means that once an article is accepted for publication it appears 5
  6. 6. in the online version of the journal before appearing in a printed issue, which can make as much as a half-year difference in availability of the article because of the backlog of articles accepted for publication and the subsequent queuing for a place in the print version of the publication. [Slide 11: Television & New Media] Some of the titles in the stables of major publishers like Sage and Routledge are experimenting with inclusion of some audio and/or video component to accompany online issues of a journal. For example, last year the editor of Television and New Media prepared a rather long podcast in which he interviewed the contributors to the 10-year anniversary issue of the title. [Slide 12: Journalism practice] In a similar fashion, also since last year, the editor of Journalism Practice now regularly prepares a video editorial, available on YouTube, sketching the content of issues. [Slide 13: In Media Res] Now I want to ‘shift gears’ and share a few examples that go much further than podcasts and editorial videos. The first example is an initiative that has as its core feature author-reader discourse. Called In Media-Res, this initiative is supported by the Institute for the Future of the Book and is the ‘brain child’ of Kathryn Fitzpatrick who a couple of years ago composed an extensive critique of the state of publishing in a series of blog postings. She was invited to work out her ideas, and CommentPress is one of the results of that exercise. Essentially, the site allows readers to comment on preliminary versions of a text, paragraph by paragraph, and these comments then become visible to others visiting the site, and allow yet another layer of comment. At some point the exchange is ‘locked down’, preventing further comment, and the original text with comments becomes the finalized, published version. [Slide 14: Peered Obsolescence] Fitzpatrick has applied this feature to a recently completed manuscript that is under consideration for publication by New York University Press, Peered Obsolescence. She has made the entire book-length manuscript available in the platform of CommentPress and is soliciting open review of the work. The 6
  7. 7. site also includes a full review of the manuscript similar in form to those conventionally solicited from publishers – essentially a lengthy critical and constructive essay on the manuscript. Note that both this conventional manuscript review and the more detailed paragraph and section comments are illustrations of open review procedure, not the more common blind peer review procedure. The book is, I understand, scheduled for publication as a conventionally printed monograph in the next few months. [Slide 15: Dan Gillmor] A variant of what Fitzpatrick has been doing is what a growing group of scholars is trying out through initially making-public and soliciting commentary on a preliminary book manuscript in the form of a blog. Dan Gillmor is presently doing this with a title he is preparing on media activism. There are many illustrations of this practice and the opening up of the conventions of blind peer review to a procedure that is open and much more encompassing than the standard review practice. [Slide 16: Univ. of Michigan Press] Another innovation that merits more consideration than possible in this brief presentation is the announcement last year by the University of Michigan Press to ‘go digital’ in a very big way: not abandoning print but assigning it secondary status to the digital version of the scholarly monograph. Joe Turow at the Annenberg School of Communication has a series with the press, applying this formula, which includes making the digital version, the pdf files, available free on the publisher’s Web site. [Slide 17: IJLM] I have two more illustrations that I want to share, each suggesting a different form of innovation in scholarly publishing. The first is an online-only title launched by MIT Press, the International Journal of Learning and Media, IJLM, in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation. The maiden issue, published a year ago, is available online for free and can still be examined. IJLM has a number of the conventional characteristics of a scholarly journal, including a stellar group of editors and editorial board members, and peer review of submissions. One difference in approach of this initiative is that the content is intended for both practitioners and academics, and as a consequence the content is more diverse than the usual categories for published material found in titles only targeted at academics. IJLM is soliciting contributions to a range of five categories: Keywords, Missives, Formulations & Findings, Knowing & Doing, and News. Although such 7
  8. 8. categories may be innovative, they are also peculiar and, from a traditional perspective, suspect. That which constitutes scholarship worthy of publication in an academic journal, for example, very quickly becomes a topic for debate. In the first issue this problem already seems evident, at least as I look at one of the published pieces in the category Knowing & Doing. [Slide 18: IJLM, YouTube videos] This contribution to the maiden issue amounts to reproduction of a series of YouTube videos prepared by the author, about a topic of importance, but in a manner devoid of interpretation or context. It is as if the ‘raw data’ were published without analysis, without theoretical grounding, without indication of ‘where next’ in terms of study or policy. Although this may resonate with teachers struggling to find ways for integrating YouTube in the classroom, I doubt that the academic readers of the journal will understand or appreciate the ‘article’. [Slide 19: Article of the Future: 1] The final illustration of innovation is what Elsevier terms the ‘Article of the Future’, an initiative announced with a prototype mid-July last year. Basically, Elsevier is planning, together with its subdivision Cell Press, to totally revamp the journal article. Elsevier terms it an “an ongoing collaboration with the scientific community to redefine how the scientific article is presented online.” The objective of the innovation is to, quote “take full advantage of online capabilities, allowing readers individualized entry points and routes through the content, while using the latest advances in visualization techniques,” end quote. Last month, January 2010, that announcement was ‘made good’ with the launch of a new version of the established biology journal Cell, and pretty much the same functions in the prototype are now available in the January issue. we could easily spend the rest of the time of this presentation clicking through the pages of the single issue freely accessible of Cell, and it would be an interesting exercise. Now, all I will do is show a couple of the features and will use slides from the prototypes rather than the actually published issue, simply because I already had those screen shots at my disposable. On this slide is the opening page of an article, and it should be immediately evident how this page differs from the one I presented earlier of contemporary journal articles. In this mock-up there is not only an abstract, but notice the bulleted highlights from the article, an audio interview with the lead author and, most strikingly, a visual that accompanies the conventional 150-word abstract. 8
  9. 9. [Slide 20: article of the future: 2] This page is from the results section of the article, which can be reached via the tabbed divisions. Here, again, the visual plays a prominent role and the reader can click on it to create a full screen image. Note the considerable use of hyperlinking in the text. [Slide 21: article of the future: 3] This slide shows all of the figures related to the article in a separate tabbed division. And, again, the reader can click on each image for increased size and detail. [Slide 22: article of the future: 4] This slide is from the reference section of the article. In addition to the hyperlinking of entries, information is provided about the citation ranking of each entry. Note the analysis of references provided in the right-hand graph, which provides real-time updating of reference citations regarding the frequency the entries have been cited in the literature. I am not doing justice to the myriad functionalities available in the prototypes, but I hope it is evident that this innovation is essentially eliminating the linear structure of the scientific article and what I earlier called the ‘argument’. Here, emphasis is on the visual, the multimedia, the real-time updating of information. Readers are encouraged to browse, to ‘dabble’ through an article rather than to read the publication from beginning to end. [Slide 23: summary] It is time to draw this presentation to a close. I have tried to suggest that there is stability within an environment undergoing much change. It would be naïve to claim – as so many do – that there is a revolution underway, at least as that word is normally understood, as a major and rapid rupture with previously accepted conditions. It would be equally mistaken to assume all is as it has always been. As scholars in the humanities and social sciences, one of our primary objectives is to understand social life, and in the case of publishing how that component of the ‘research act’ may be changing. With any serious scholarly study, the theoretical perspective requires explication and in this presentation I have hinted at some of the theoretical notions that merit consideration. I am referring to openness and its relation 9
  10. 10. to initiatives such as open access publishing; I am referring to publishing as a procedure for public-making, and its relation to concepts such as ‘public’ and, of course, public sphere. Various notions and concepts related to media use and consumption are similarly relevant, such as the conventional notions of media producer and consumer, and conceptual effort to merge them into a single notion, ‘prosumer’, reflecting the interrelation of these two roles in various forms of Web-based social media. [Slide 24: UC Berkeley study] In conclusion I want to make fleeting reference to a report released a couple of weeks ago from the University of California at Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education, relevant to the changes in scholarly publishing. Entitled, Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines. The authors present findings from perhaps the most encompassing examination of scholarly communication prepared in recent times. Over a multi-year period the team of researchers queried scholars at different stages of career development about their publishing practices. The study is mainly based on personal open-ended interviews, a total of 160, across seven disciplines: political science, history, music, biology, astrophysics, and archeology. The respondents represent these disciplines at elite research universities in the United States. The final report of this project is rich in detail for these disciplines and institutions, and totals a daunting 570 pages. The initial reactions to this ‘Magnus Opus’, mainly appearing in individual and institutional blog posts, have been overwhelmingly positive. Those professionals that follow scholarly publishing have known of the work of this team for quite some time through a range of preliminary studies, all available on the Web site of the Center for Studies in Higher Education. It is, of course, impossible to do justice to a report of this magnitude in a presentation like this, but the authors themselves suggest the main findings succinctly: despite all the attention to new Web-based venues and alternative approaches to publishing, the scholars in these fields at these institutions prefer traditional outlets for their manuscripts: high-status journals and, in the case of disciplines where the scholarly monograph is important, publishers with established reputations that actually print the books. Of course there is some disciplinary difference, but the overall picture is one of uniformity and adherence to established standards for assessing scholarly quality, the peer review, and for presenting the scholarship in traditional print formats. 10
  11. 11. One might think that scholars emerging from the ‘born digital’ generation, young scholars at the PhD candidate or post-doc level, would be more innovative and experimental. Just the opposite finding emerges from this report: these persons are the most conservative with regard to where they strive to publish, and concentrate on compiling publications in the high- ranked, peer reviewed journals. It is the senior scholars that venture ‘afield’ and consider Web 2.0 venues or the often less prestigious open access titles. In a sense this finding is not surprising because there is only one route to academic success at elite institutions and that is through development of a portfolio of publications in the best journals of the discipline or field. The conclusion is equally probable when a more community or culture-oriented perspective is taken as opposed to a focus on individual scholars. Socialization into the community of scholars at a particular department or, more broadly, in a discipline means in part contributing to the scholarly endeavors of that community or discipline, and that in part means publishing in the top titles as defined by tenure and promotion commissions and by the measures of scholarly performance. Of all these measures, the most prominent, across the disciplines examined, is publication in high ranking journals. Yes, the scholarly monograph still has a place within some of the humanities and some social sciences, but by and large it is journal articles in high-ranking titles that count towards tenure and promotion. [Slide 25: eScholarship site] As I come to a conclusion, I will restrict myself to three comments. First, the report is in and of itself an interesting innovation in monograph or research report publication. There is no print version available; there is only an online copy of the pdf files of the document. It was released under the banner of an innovation at Berkeley called eScholarship, which is a broader University of California Press effort to publish manuscripts in an online venue. Second, the document has the flavor of a research report more than of a scholarly monograph. By that I mean that the report does short shrift to theoretical concerns, to a thorough review of the literature. Although there is extensive presentation of findings in the discipline-oriented chapters in the report, there is limited comparison across the disciplines and no reflection regarding further research. Finally, although this study is substantial, no indication is given of its shortcomings and no suggestions are made as to how those might be circumvented in future work. There is, in short, much room for extending this important study, and that is the challenge facing those of us concerned about scholarly publishing in a digital environment. Thank you. 11
  12. 12. [Slide 26: Discussion] Now I would like to entertain comments and questions, and suggest we follow the procedures sketched at the beginning of this presentation. Would any of you ‘far away’ wish to take the mike? [Proceed as initially noted] 12