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Roger Clarke and Danny Kingsley **
Version of 11 August 2007
Preprint of Clarke R. & Kingsley D. (2008) 'e-Publishing's Impacts on Journals and Journal Articles' Journal of Internet Commerce 7,1 (March 2008) 120-151
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The primary vehicle for formal communications in most disciplines and research domains is articles published in journals. The digital era as a whole has had many impacts on the activities of article creation and use. Of particular significance is the availability of the Internet as a distribution mechanism. This is bringing about significant changes in the economics of journal publishing. The dimensions of those changes are examined within the context provided by models of the roles of journals in the mid-to-late twentieth and the early twenty-first centuries. Several early indicators of fundamental changes in the process and product of the journal are considered. Tensions between for-profit and open-access publishing are identified. The new potentials for community-based endeavour create the likelihood of upheaval in what has been a highly profitable industry sector.
This paper uses the term electronic publishing or 'ePublishing' to refer to "electronic commerce in digital goods and services that are intended for consumption by the human senses" (Clarke 1997). Since 1993, the Internet has become the primary vehicle for transmission of digital materials. This paper focusses on the impact of Internet-based ePublishing on the business of publishing refereed journals.
Various literatures have been abuzz for years with proposals and counter-proposals about how the new opportunities should be exploited, and more recently with reports on both experiences and studies of pilot and pioneer implementations. Articles in the librarianship and document management disciplines and professions include Bailey (1994), Fjällbrant (1997), and recently Houghton 2004, Steele at al. (2006) and Houghton et al. (2006). The computer science discipline has also been active, including Harnad (1992), Harnad (1995), Odlyzko (1995), Kling & Covi (1995), Kling & Lamb (1996), Odlyzko (1999) and Kling & McKim (1999).
The eCommerce and Internet commerce communities, on the other hand, have paid only limited attention to ePublishing and even less to its applications to the academic endeavour. They have instead had a sustained focus on applications in the Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) spaces. See, however, the cumulative literature in Turoff & Hiltz (1982), Clarke (1994), Watson (1994), Clarke (1997), Loebbecke & Butzbach (1998), Lee (1999), Weber (1999), Loebbecke (1999a, 1999b), Loebbecke & Powell (1999), Hars et al. (2000), Hovav & Gray (2004), de Moor & van Erp (2004), Davison et al. (2005) and Gray et al. (2006).
This paper seeks to bring an Internet Commerce perspective to developments in refereed journals. The patterns in research monographs and academic books are rather different, but the analysis is likely to be generally applicable to refereed conference papers and conference proceedings, particularly conference series. The approach adopted takes the form of a literature review that spans multiple disciplines and research domains, and is supplemented by observations of the journal publishing industry and developments in open access.
The paper commences with a discussion of scholarly communications, identifying the role of refereed journals within that framework, and tracing developments in the area through to the early years of ePublishing up to about 1995. Developments associated with the 'open access' movement are then identified, and recent adaptations to the role of the journal discussed, including the responses of for-profit publishers to the challenges that the open era presents. Impacts on the processes of research and review are considered, and on the nature of the article and of the journal. Implications of the analysis are drawn, for both practice and research.
This section outlines the manner in which researchers communicate with one another. After establishing a framework, it focusses on the channel of greatest significance in most disciplines - the refereed journal - and identifies its history and functions. The discussion in this section is limited to the state prior to the widespread availability of electronic tools. In most disciplines it would be reasonable to consider this as having been about 1990, although in a few areas, particularly physics and computer science, the changes began much earlier.
This paper uses the term 'scholarly communications' to refer to activities related to the disciplined study of phenomena or ideas and/or the development of new knowledge. The individuals concerned are in most cases employed by organisations with a focus on research and/or tertiary education. The term 'scholar' is used here in its broad sense. It is not restricted to those who perform 'armchair', contemplative research or conduct 'secondary research' based on pre-existing materials, but also extends to those who undertake original empirical research.
A wide variety of groupings exist within academe. The dominant form is the discipline, but in many cases individuals identify more closely with a sub-discipline or disciplinary specialisation than with their discipline as a whole. In addition, many individuals focus strongly on one or more research domains, and interact with people from multiple disciplines. In order to encompass all such variants, this paper adopts the term 'scholarly community' to refer to the group within which scholarly communication is undertaken. Institutionalised forms of scholarly community are usefully referred to as 'learned associations'.
A great diversity of behaviours is exhibited by scholarly communities, and by individuals focussing on particular domains of study (Fry 2003, 2006). To avoid the hazards of overly general statements, the authors have chosen to restrict their focus in two ways. Firstly, the concern is with fields that are oriented towards instrumentalism rather than contemplation. Secondly, the emphasis is on activities that are imbued with the values of collaboration and openness rather than corporate competitiveness and hence secrecy. Openness has long been a mainstream value in research, and it remains so, despite challenges.
This paper's primary focus is on publication of the results of research. To some extent, however, it is also necessary to consider research itself. Of particular relevance are the many different forms of communication among scholars, which enable the sharing of information about results and methods, the generation of new insights, speculation on new directions, and the formation of collaborations.
Informal communications include face-to-face conversations, letters, faxes and emails. What might be termed semi-formal presentation encompasses seminars, poster sessions and abstracts-only conferences. More considered, but still informal venues for publication include unrefereed articles and unrefereed conference papers, and the important mechanism of working papers and research monographs that are forwarded by authors to colleagues for information and informal review.
Beyond informal communications, formal publishing is engrained into the modus operandi of most disciplines. This arises from the need for assurances about quality and integrity (Fjällbrant 1997. See also Peek & Newby 1996, Kling & McKim 1999, Whitley 2000, Borgman 2000, Liu 2003 and Houghton 2004). Formal publishing encompasses many categories of documents, including letters, notes, book reviews, conference papers, journal articles, responses and academic books. The common feature is that they have been subjected to formal review prior to publication, and hence carry some form of imprimatur recognised within the relevant scholarly community.
Some scholarly communities use book-length publications as a major communication form. In most fields that are oriented towards instrumentalism, on the other hand, the focus is heavily on relatively short works of 3,000-15,000 words. The term 'article' is used in this paper to refer to written expression of current and extended information about some specific topic within a discipline or research domain. This definition is intentionally broad in scope, in order to encompass various forms of review and essay, as well as reports on the process and outcomes of empirical research projects. This paper focusses heavily on articles in refereed journals, but because of their close similarities it also has an eye to refereed conference papers.
The motivations for researchers to publish articles reporting the outcomes of their work include at least the following:
The following sub-sections focus on the primary channel whereby articles are delivered within scholarly communities.
Articles have been published for many years in what are commonly referred to as 'refereed journals'. The 'Philosophical Transactions' of the Royal Society (Oldenburg 1665) is generally considered to be the first publication recognisable as a refereed journal. Prior to that, the dominant forms of communication among 'philosophers' (as people interested in learning were then called) were books and letters, complemented by face-to-face conversations. The journal represented a formalisation of the mechanism of letters being sent to a 'clearing house', for copying and dissemination to interested parties.
By the nineteenth century, the volume of articles had increased, and the topics, dialects and readership had become specialised, resulting in the proliferation of journals (Meadows 1980, Kronick 1991). Many have been short-lived, but some have survived over many decades, and a few over centuries.
The role of the journal in the scholarly communication process has changed over the years. Early journals were publications of works-in-progress, and subsequent monographs were considered the final stage of the published work. Over time, the journal has become for many disciplines the ultimate version of a scholar's work, "thus the fundamental purpose of the journal has changed. In no small measure, scholarly communication has changed to become publishing" (Peek & Newby 1996). Authors have specific requirements of the journal system: "they want the ability to target a very specific group of key readers, ... and they want the imprimatur of quality and integrity that a good peer-reviewed, high-impact title can offer, together with reasonable levels of publisher service" (Rowlands et al. 2004, p. 273).
Many criticisms have been levelled at the notions of the journal, and of the article, particularly the resource-intensiveness of review and the delays inherent in it. Various proposals have been put forward for alternative approaches to formal communications among scholars (e.g. Phelps & Herlin 1960, Piternick 1989, Kingsley 2007a). Despite this, the journal has not merely survived, but has become engrained in most disciplines.
The numbers of citations that articles accumulate is highly skewed, with many articles only ever being cited once or twice. This has led to a long-prevailing assumption that most are very little read (e.g. Odlyzko 1995, contested in King et al. 2006). Despite this, there is little doubt that the article is the primary communications mechanism among scholars in most instrumentalist disciplines (Tenopir & King 1998).
The substantive editorial work involved in journal publishing is generally performed by senior members of the relevant scholarly community. Many other aspects, on the other hand, can be performed by other people. During the three centuries of hard-copy journal publishing, these aspects have included printing and distribution, the selling of subscriptions, the maintenance of customer lists, and the periodic collection of subscription fees. Production and administrative resources grew up around journal editors, initially within learned associations, and later within what is referred to in contemporary business as 'outsourced service providers'.
The later sections of this paper consider the role and nature of the journal in the new era. To facilitate that examination, it is necessary to identify the functions that a journal performed in the mid-to-late twentieth century.
Kling & McKim (1999) identified "three dimensions of scholarly publishing as a communicative practice - publicity, access, and trustworthiness". Roosendaal & Geerts (1997) and Van de Sompel et al. (2004) distinguished respectively four and five elements: registration (of the author's claim of priority for the content); certification (based on 'peer review' - Roberts 1999, Rowland 2002); awareness (discovery, supported by both 'push' and 'pull' mechanisms); archival (ensuring long-term retention); and reward (point-scoring for appointment and promotion) (Steele et al. 2006).
Other, broader contributions include a nucleus for a scholarly community (Paul & Matasar 1993, p. 171); infrastructure to support quality assurance and accreditation; a means of creating or defining a new scholarly community, or consolidating its reputation (Paul & Matasar 1993, p. 171); a means to achieve revenue-generation, in order to offset costs; and a means of generating a surplus that can be applied to other activities of a scholarly community. The extraction of surplus as a return to investors is discussed in the following sub-section.
It is important to disentangle the roles that a journal inherently plays from the uses to which others put it. Exhibit 1 focusses on those functions that, in the authors' view, were the core functions of journals during the period 1950-1990, on which other functions depended.
In Exhibit 2, these functions, the actors, and the relationships among them are depicted graphically. The flow is from the researcher/author via the editorial board into a journal and onwards to the rest of the scholarly community and to research funders, mediated to a considerable extent by libraries.
There was dramatic growth in journal-numbers from about 1950. In Eonomics alone, the count has increased from 120 journals in 1980, then evenly split between commercial and not-for-profit, to almost 300 in 2000, but with two-thirds owned by commercial publishers (Bergstrom & Bergstrom 2001). Currently Ulrich's Periodicals Directory lists more than 22,000 peer-reviewed journals.
The effort involved in the later stages of copy-editing, type-setting, printing and distribution, combined with the growth in volume, exceeded the capacity of volunteer editors; so the dependence on service providers exploded. In many cases, the copyright in the journal's content originally lay with, or came to be acquired by, the service provider. It is understandable that editors working within the unstructured and largely unfunded context of an unincorporated association would be pleased to trade away copyright ownership in return for the service-provider taking responsibility for the investment and the risks; but even some large, incorporated learned associations failed to appreciate the significance of doing so. As a result, a great deal of the control over the channel and content-accessibility has been ceded by not-for-profit scholarly communities to for-profit corporations.
From about the end of the 1970s, journal-publishing corporations utilised their multiple monopolies to achieve extraordinary profitability. Between the mid-1980s and 2002, the average price of a journal rose by 215% and that of science journals increased by nearly 600% (bepress 2006). By 2000, the largest publisher, Reed Elsevier, was making annual profits of US$ 290million, with margins of nearly 40% on its core journals business (Gooden et al. 2002). Springer (including Kluwer), Taylor & Francis, Blackwells and Wiley also controlled substantial lists.
Significant costs are involved in hardpcopy publishing and distribution (Odlyzko 1997, King & Tenopir 1998), and even with ePublishing, marketspaces for copyright objects are complex (Clarke & Dempsey 1999, Clarke et al. 2000). For-profit journal publishers have therefore needed to commit considerable strategic and infrastructural investment. This has resulted in significantly higher cost-profiles. Most of these additional costs, however, benefit shareholders rather than the scholarly community. They arise primarily from marketing, brand management, customer relationship management, content-protection, and interest on investment, exacerbated by the expectation of monopoly-based super-profits (Clarke 2006b).
A key mechanism used by the large for-profit journal publishers was the so-called 'Big Deal'. This involved the bundling into a single product of electronic access to very large numbers of journals (at least hundreds, but in some cases thousands). These were offered to individual libraries, and to collectives of libraries. At the same time, however, electronic access to individual journals was either precluded or priced prohibitively. The publishers calculated that university libraries would be forced to subscribe to the bundles, and the total revenue extracted from them would be significantly higher. They were right (Frazier 2001, Nicholas et al. 2003, Edlin & Rubinfeld 2004, Nicholas et al. 2005, bepress 2006). In a recent survey of American research libraries, Wiley, Elsevier and Springer 'Big Deals' had achieved over 70% market penetration, and Blackwell's 60% (Hahn 2006).
The vital resources of scholarly communities had been captured and monetised, to the chagrin of the more activist segments of those communities. But the ePublishing technologies that enabled large for-profit journal publishers to construct the 'Big Deal' harboured potentials for others as well. The maturation of ePublishing since the Web exploded in the mid-1990s has stimulated significant changes in the landscape of refereed journals. These are examined in the following section.
The likelihood of the digital era bringing about significant change in scholarly communications was recognised early (Turoff & Hiltz 1982, Okerson 1991, Harrison et al. 1991, Jennings 1991, Arms 1992, Maddox 1993, Schauder 1994, Clarke 1994, Watson 1994, Okerson & O'Donnell 1995). This section reviews the developments that have occurred in journal publishing during the Internet era, roughly 1995-2005.
It begins by considering various aspects of the open access movement, showing it to be both an endeavour to exploit the opportunities offered by digitisation and the Internet, and a reaction against the capture and monetisation of journals by for-profit publishers. This is followed by a discussion of the responses of for-profit publishers. Finally, a number of threads are considered that are evident but whose ultimate impacts remain as yet unclear.
Electronic tools have been applied to journal publishing for some time now. For example, documents have been made available at electronic addresses, using FTP, gopher and the Web; and email has been much-used for submission, review, and journal management. The physics discipline was a pioneer in the application of ePublishing. Los Alamos 'eprints', also known as arXiv, started in August 1991, and Physical Review D (published by and for the high-energy physics scholarly community) started in 1996 (Smith 2000). The World Wide Web itself originated at the CERN particle physics laboratory near Geneva in 1991 (Berners-Lee 2000).
Most disciplines started later, and have moved more slowly; but since about 2000 all disciplines have grasped the opportunity to distribute material electronically, and many 'pure eJournals' have emerged. In the Information Systems discipline, of the 565 journals catalogued in (Lamp 2004-) in April 2007, 102 (18%) were eJournals, and a further 423 (75%) were available in both print and electronic forms.
An important application of ePublishing to scholarly communication has been the ePrints / self-archival movement. An ePrint is "the digital text of a peer-reviewed research article, ... before and after refereeing" (ePrints.org 2005). An unrefereed paper, at the level of a working paper, is published as a 'preprint', to enable colleagues to gain access to it (Harnad 2002-). Subsequently, a copy of a refereed article arising from the preprint may also be published by the author as a 'postprint'. The means of publishing preprints and postprints has been referred to by Harnad and others as 'self-archival'. This could be easily misinterpreted (because assured long-term retention is a challenging function that depends on specialist institutions), and hence the term 'self-deposit' is preferable.
Self-deposit can be in the author's own repository (as is the case with this paper). In order to ensure ongoing availability, an institutional repository is preferable (Crow 2002). The term institutional repository is often narrowly applied to repositories run by universities and other research-oriented employers. It is more appropriately used as a broad term to encompass both those and the repositories that have been run by learned associations and other scholarly communities since as early as 1991.
The instututional repository movement has taken great strides in its first few years, but its immaturity is evident in a number of ways. One is the slow uptake by academics, arising from the prevailing assumption of 'build it and they will come', without sufficient effort or resources being applied to marketing of the benefits of self-deposit. Another is the (to date limited) appreciation of the need for a disciplined approach to copyright licensing (Clarke 2005).
These ePublishing elements have changed the political economy of journal publishing and have been consolidated into a political movement commonly referred to as 'open access' (OA). There are several interpretations of OA (Clarke 2006b). What is usefully referred to as 'core OA' requires 'free and unrestricted access' to content without 'price barriers' or 'permission barriers' (Budapest 2002, Suber 2004-). For fuller discussions, see Suber (2002), Willinsky (2003) and Willinsky (2006).
Considerable progress has been made by the OA movement. The degree of openness of the copyright policies of journals generally is documented by the Sherpa Romeo catalogue. Within the Information Systems discipline, of the 565 journals catalogued in (Lamp 2004-) in April 2007, the degree to which OA exists, and its relationship to the eJournal movement, are indicated in Exhibit 3. Subscription access still dominates the remnant paper-only and dual-format journals, whereas open access dominates the electronic-only arena.
The OA movement reflects regret about the loss of control by scholarly communities over their journals. Some important steps have been taken to provide infrastructure for journals run by scholarly communities. Automated tools have been developed in support of the review management process, for both conferences and journals. A comprehensive Open Journal System exists (Willinsky 2005), and its developer claims that over 800 titles were being published using it as at June 2006.
There has been uncertainty about business models to support open access and what is usefully referred as a 'content commons' (Lessig 2004, Clarke 2006c). Despite that, there is increasing incidence of individuals switching their voluntary services from for-profit publishers to the open access arena (e.g. Cladwell 2007). There have also been examples of entire editorial teams 'walking' from long-established journals and investing their largely gratis efforts into alternative, community-based open eJournals. In 1999, the complete 50-member editorial board of the then Journal of Logic Programming took a stand against rising prices and resigned from its Board to launch its own, lower-priced publication Theory and Practice of Logic Programming (Buckholtz 2001). More recently, Open Medicine, an online open access medical journal was launched in Canada with six former editors and ten editorial board members of CMAJ (the journal of the Canadian Medical Association) (Spurgeon 2007).
Another force for change has been reactions against the squeezing of library budgets as a result of the enormous price increases imposed by journal publishers during the period 1980-2000. Prices continue to rise considerably faster than the consumer price index (Worlock 2004). Libraries, and the universities and governments that fund them, have been seeking ways to ease those pressures (HCSTC 2004). Since about 2000, research funding agencies in the U.S., U.K. and Australia have been moving to impose as a condition of grants the deposit in open repositories of at least preprints of articles (Wellcome Trust 2004, NIH 2005, RCUK 2005, ARC 2007).
A further development with potential ramifications for the battle between community-based and for-profit journal publishing is the emergence of Google Scholar. This both complements and competes with for-profit publishers' own sites. It remains to be seen whether Google Scholar will deal even-handedly with both for-profit and open journal sources.
Researchers appear to be making considerable use of open access resources, but have been slower to adapt their publishing behaviour. The reasons for this have been the subject of considerable attention in recent years (e.g. Tenopir 2003, Rowlands et al. 2004, Hess et al. 2007). There has also been considerable debate concerning impact advantages deriving from open access. Initial studies undertaken by Lawrence (2001), Antelman (2004), Harnad & Brody (2004) and Hajjem et al. (2005) concluded that articles that were freely available on the Internet have greater research impact.
One criticism of those analyses is that differences in citation counts reflect differences not only in accessibility but also in quality (Craig et al. 2007). Authors might only deposit their best work in repositories, resulting in 'quality bias' or 'self-selection bias'. Another factor that needs to be controlled for is the 'early view' or 'early access' effect, because open access papers are publicly available more quickly than occurs with traditional closed review processes. Moed (2007) found that papers in the Condensed Matters section of arXiv enjoyed higher citation because of a combination of these effects. A further confounding factor is varying interpretations of 'open access', with one study finding that articles published as an open access article on the journal's site had a higher impact than self-deposited or otherwise openly accessible articles (Eysenbach 2006).
The role of the journal that was depicted in Exhibit 2 has been adapted during the open era to that shown in Exhibit 4. The elements in which change appears to be most significant are shown in bold-faced type.
The following sub-sections consider aspects of the open era that may not yet have worked their way through to completion.
The Internet era generally, and the open movement that was spurred by it, represented an opportunity for scholarly communities, but a threat to for-profit publishers (Clarke 1999). They have accordingly taken steps to protect their highly advantageous position.
Over a decade ago, as observers pondered the impending impact of the digital revolution, one of the authors mused that:
"conventional publishers may be successful in a rearguard action to slow the onrush of electronic publishing, and to attract research institutions to use their distribution channels to bring their data and reports to market. The difficulties of ensuring that revenue is gained from disk-based and electronic publications seems likely to lead to imaginative schemes to offer timeliness and updatedness of data collections, and value-added and support services" (Clarke 1994). See also Odlyzko (1999).
Various enhanced services have indeed been developed, including search facilities, auto-generation of hotlinks to cited works, and notification/alert services. These have offered value, but only within the particular publisher's range of journals - a boundary that, from the perspective of each scholarly community, is artificial. At the date of writing, the ePublishing platforms of the major for-profit journal publishers are Elsevier's Scopus, SpringerLink, Taylor & Francis' Informaworld, Blackwell's Synergy, Wiley InterScience and Emerald Insight, from relatively recent arrival MCB.
Another approach publishers have tried is trials of the 'author pays' approach. This has involved some journals permitting authors to pay to make their articles available open and gratis on the Internet. As noted in section 2.4 above, the cost-profiles of for-profit publishers are far higher than those of not-for-profits. As a result, the fees demanded for 'author pays' publishing by for-profit publishers are far higher than those required by not-for-profit publishers who use the same model - around US$ 3,500 cf. US$ 1,750 or US$ 750 - depending on the model used (King & Tenopir 2004, Clarke 2006b). Some contrary evidence exists in the form of a report that the Public Library of Science (PLoS) needs to increase its fee from US$ 1,500 to US $ 2,500 (Butler 2006). Cost-profiles appear set to fall, however, not least because large-volume print-runs of journals may be replaced by print-on-demand variously as a publisher service and as self-service.
A particular application of the 'author pays' notion is what are commonly referred to as 'hybrid journals'. The author has the choice of paying an up-front fee, permitting open access to that article, or paying no fee, in which case it is only accessible by subscribers. Springer launched the first such scheme in July 2004 under the title 'Open Choice', at the price of USD$ 3,000. This was followed by the American Institute of Physics (Author Select) at USD$ 1,500-2,500 depending on the journal. During 2005, these were followed by Blackwell (Online Open), at USD$ 2,600, and Oxford University Press (Oxford Open) at Euro 800-2,250, depending on the journal, the author's country and whether their institution is a subscriber. A further 12 publishers followed suit during 2006 (Suber 2003-). It is not yet clear whether many authors will muster the motivation or the funding to utilise the option.
A range of alternatives lies between the extremes of gratis, open access on the one hand, and monopoly profit-making on the other (Rowland 1999, Clarke 2004). Unless for-profit publishing corporations can create new barriers to the open economy, the era of gross monopoly profits may be coming to an end, and new hybrids may emerge offering the benefits of the digital era at much more reasonable cost (Bergstrom & Lavaty 2007). For example, the Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress), founded by academics in 1999 as an alternative journal publisher, has implemented an intermediate form it refers to as 'quasi-open access'; and both Proquest's Digital Commons and Ingenta/Vista's Ingenta Connect appear to adopt more service-oriented and less rapacious strategies.
In combination with cheaper travel, email enabled an increase in the incidence of dispersed teams of researcher/authors. But beyond basic email communications and Web publication, the digital era appears to be only slowly having substantial impacts on the research activities themselves. Despite the volume of email traffic, the service's features have been static for quite some time, and no heir has appeared.
During the early years of the new century, blogging volumes exploded. However, at least from the viewpoint of scholarly communications, the infrastructure is weak in terms of content, coherence, discovery, re-discovery and citation. It is suited primarily to loose, semi-random idea-formation and expression, and much less well to disciplined assessment and structured expression. Hence blogs and the patterns of behaviour that go with them appear to be primarily applicable to the brain-storming phases of research, which is only a small part of the cycle.
There is scope for collaborative document maintenance, such as wikis, to be applied by academics to both research and publication. They offer an opportunity for collaborators to maintain a communal collection of ideas prior to the structuring and formalisation of a paper, and are currently being put to this use in at least one discipline (Kingsley 2007b). On the other hand, there is an apparent conflict between the amorphousness of wiki-authorship and the reward function to which refereed publications are applied. Whether the contribution quantum of authors can be controlled and audited in such contexts is likely to be of concern to employers and research funders.
The most substantial changes in research process may be occurring in dispersed scholarly communities whose work centres on some common object, most commonly a shared collection of data. The human genome project of the 1990s is regarded as the first major initiative of this kind, because of the openness of the resulting data; but the Web is currently being used as the vehicle for applying the idea within many science disciplines and research domains.
One example us GenBank - an annotated collection of all publicly available DNA sequences. Another is the Research Collaboratory for Structural Bioinformatics (RSCB) Protein Data Bank which provides a variety of tools and resources for studying the structures of biological macromolecules and their relationships to sequence, function, and disease; and yet another is ArrayExpress, a public repository for microarray data, a database of gene expression and other microarray data. Recently, the Encyclopedia of Life project was launched to create a public resource describing all known species, to "provide a compelling example of the value offered by new kinds of information resources that harness the collective activity of scholarly communities and make the results freely available to advance research and scholarship as well as public policy and public education".
The nature of the act of submission to a journal may have begun to change. Some computer science conferences ask for the paper to be placed in a repository, with submission comprising the transmission of a URL and a request for review. An example of a journal that has adopted this policy is Advances in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics.
The management of reviewers, the review process and the resulting reviews is already supported by a range of tools, as is the management of lists of reviewers. It could be feasible for automated tools based on text-analysis techniques to support the selection of potential reviewers and the solicitation of reviews (Rodriguez et al. 2006 p. 504).
Another potential for change is the emergence of interaction among the members of the review team, and even between them and the author. There are already instances of open review processes, which are also referred to as 'interactive public discussion' (e.g. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics). Weber (1999) not only proposed such a mechanism within the IS discipline, but also suggested a Web archive of rejected manuscripts.
A further possibility is that broad scholarly communities might create central submission-points, with journal editors making claims for papers that they want to consider for publication. Watson (2005) refers to this as "a market for articles". See also Rodriguez et al. (2006 p. 504). This would be effective in what is popularly referred to as a 'seller's market' i.e. where there is a shortage of supply, such as quality papers on suddenly-attractive topics.
A more radical proposal is for the inversion of the publishing process, with review taking place after publication rather than before it (Esposito 2004). In effect, 'preprints' would be the primary publication, and both informal and formal reviews would be appended to them. If editorial-board approval is forthcoming, most likely for a revised version, the paper's details would be entered into the relevant journal's contents-page, with a link to that accreditation added to the preprint. Under this model, the journal 'goes virtual'. Effective version management is essential.
A contrary tendency noted by Kling et al. (2002) is self-accreditation of articles by Departments and Centres. (The authors used the expression 'the guild model', but this is misleading because the concept of 'guild', rather than being represented by a university department or centre, corresponds to a scholarly community). This would appear to be an option available only to large and prestigious institutions. For most academics, scholarly communities are likely to remain the arbiter of quality.
In the new context of ePublishing, journal articles are much more readily discoverable and accessible. This appears to have resulted in very substantial increases in the extent to which articles are actually accessed. A deep log analysis of the 'fingerprints' left behind by readers searching the OHIOLink digital library showed that 99% of journals available in a given month were viewed in that month (Nicholas & Huntington 2006). The majority of citations, however, come from a small number of articles, with one substantial study showing 92% of articles were only cited once or twice (Doyle & Julian 2005). Citation counts are now being complemented by page-access and download statistics.
Changes in patterns of use are also arising. The expression of articles in digital form creates the possibility of interactivity between a publication and its user, e.g. through the re-running of an animation, or the variation of a parameter in order to see the impact on the data in a table or on a presentation graphic.
The scope also exists for interaction between a publication's readers and its author. This may be facilitated by the journal publisher. For example, the British Medical Journal's Rapid Response service enables 'electronic letters to the editor' to be appended to an article. Readers can sign up to receive alerts for rapid responses as they are posted, and so too, of course, can the author.
Email commentaries within the scholarly community are likely to be generally welcome; for example, this article has benefited from responses to a targeted email Request For Comments on the preprint. On the other hand, authors whose work is either very popular or highly unpopular are likely to shield themselves from continual interruptions, e.g. by ignoring email-messages, or implementing software agents to perform auto-response and filtering functions of various kinds.
A further potential impact of open access is widening of the catchment area from which comments are received. People outside academe and research establishments are no longer faced with the old access barriers based on place, time and affiliation. There could be a resurgence of 'amateur' participation in scholarly communities, which in turn would be likely to lead to the openness being partially closed down again, for both good reasons and bad.
At the level of individual articles, a large number of changes are afoot, ranging from the superficial to the substantive.
It is feasible to offer customisation of the article's presentation, e.g. of the page-size, the point-size of the text, or the file-format. The paper can be delivered with or without hot-links, and they may be visible or concealed. Hot-links can be automatically generated for citations, at least within the scope of particular collections. They can also be generated to point to glossaries, dictionaries and encyclopaedias - although the Web's limited hypertext capabilities places limitations on what can be offered.
More significantly, constraints on the length of an article based solely on publishing costs have dissipated. Further, the limited attention-span of most readers, and their varying degree of interest in the detail, can be addressed by providing a selection from among short abstract, extended abstract, article-length exposition, working-paper or book-length exposition, and appendices, with hyperlinks used to provide readers with convenient 'drill-down' capabilities. A particular application of this would be the invocation of descriptions of well-known research methods - usefully described as 'methodology guides' (Watson 2005) or 'research technique practice guides' (Clarke 2006a).
Another change wrought by ePublishing is that it is now straightforward to make the underlying data available, enabling independent audit of results, comparisons with other sources, and further analyses. The term 'grey literature' is applied to such supporting material. Provision of on-line access to 'electronic supporting information' is standard practice in the chemistry discipline (e.g. Wiley 2005, Kingsley 2007b). An approach involving a centralised database is reported on in Marks & Hannay (2004). It is likely that pressure will build in many disciplines for researchers to expose their data and procedures more widely than was previously feasible. In conventional, open sciences that is likely be widely welcomed; but tension is inevitable in areas that are more heavily influenced by for-profit competitive behaviour.
A digital work need not be restricted to static text, images and tabular data. The scope has long existed for the incorporation of non-print media within compound documents, particularly sound, video / moving image, and animation (e.g. Ytterstad et al. 1996). A related development has been the article as a living reference work, rather than one fixed in its originally-published state. This has brought with it the need for an automated form of revision management and tracking, perhaps along the lines of the wiki History feature. A special case of a living document is the auto-update of data through real-time look-up of, or enquiry into, the current state of a particular database or search-engine index.
The suggestion has also been made that the digital era will lead to more radical change, because it enables the emergence of alternative 'units of transaction', such as the statement or the idea, as complements to articles, special issues, edited collections and learned books, or even as replacements for some of them (Rodgers 1993 p. 75). Future generations might perceive the article to have been a phenomenon largely restricted to the period 1650-2050.
Whereas the nature of the article appears at this stage to be merely evolving, the notion of the journal may be facing more substantial change.
Electronic publication calls into question the original conception of a Volume as a separately bound collection of Issues. Some electronic-only journals have chosen to retain the concept in order to appear compatible with the old scheme, whereas others have dispensed with it.
Similarly, in electronic-only contexts, or where print-on-demand is implemented and paid for directly by the purchaser, the original constraints of printing and distribution that gave rise to the concept of an Issue are no longer significant. The page-count-per-Issue constraints that used to be set for financial reasons also cease to be relevant. With that, the publication delays that used to arise from queuing are no longer necessary. For example, publishing an article as soon as it is ready for release has been the practice for Physical Review D since 1997 (Smith 2000), and for the Journal and the Communications of the Association for Information Systems (JAIS, CAIS) since their inception in 1999.
Editors now have the choice of gathering articles into Issues, or into Volumes, or into Issues within Volumes, or none of the above. Where the old Volume and Issue identifiers disappear, it would seem necessary to assign article-identifiers, perhaps reflecting the sequence of publication. The purely electronic JAIS and CAIS have chosen to retain annual Volumes and periodic Issues, but also number articles.
Within articles, page-numbering may be fixed (e.g. by using a page-oriented format such as PDF as the master-copy), in which case there is a further choice of numbering pages consecutively within an Issue or Volume, or numbering each article from page 1. If purely electronic formats are used (such as HTML or XML), presentation is fluid, pagination is varied, and hence page-numbering is an anachronism.
More radically, there is scope for deconstruction of the journal into what some authors refer to as 'separates', i.e. articles stored in distributed manner, perhaps in authors' own repositories, but preferably in one or more institutional repositories of the author's choosing. The editorial process remains intact, but the product changes. Rather than handing over the approved article for printing and/or posting to a journal-controlled web-site, the editorial team provides a (preferably digitally signed) 'seal of approval' to the author or repository-manager, which is then applied to the article. It is highly desirable for both journal-reputation/brand-management and transparency that the journal continue to provide an index-page identifying the papers that the editorial team has approved, and linking to them. This is discussed in Ginsparg (1994) re arXiv.org, Odlyzko (1995), Smith (1999), Smith (2000) and Kingsley (2007a), but the idea goes back to at least 1926 (Phelps & Herlin 1960).
This paper has identified a substantial set of impacts of ePublishing on journals and articles. Some of them appear to be in the process of becoming established practice, while others represent work-in-progress, or may not come to fruition. There is ample scope for more mature electronic tools to provide better support for scholarly communities. The following sub-sections consider second-order implications for respectively practice and research.
The most apparent implication is that the restrictions that have arisen from the appropriation of formal publications as property are under attack, as digitisation has driven much of the cost out of distribution activities, and enabled a do-it-yourself approach to even quite sophisticated forms of publishing.
For-profit corporations that have grown rich through exploitation of their multiple mini-monopolies are unlikely to permit the open access movement to undermine their wealth and power without a spirited defence. To some extent their fightback is based on enhanced services, but the scope available appears to be limited. So exercise of market power and the lobbying of legislatures appear the more likely approaches for them to adopt. This is confirmed by the hiring of a very aggressive lobbyist by journal-publishing corporations with the intention of projecting the false messages that peer review is performed by for-profit publishers, and that open content approaches represent censorship (Giles 2007).
Another, contrary tendency may, however, prove to be stronger than the technology driver. The governments of a number of countries, under the sway of rationalist economic ideology, have significantly reduced the funding provided to universities. This has led to universities having to go through rapid adaptation. Their governance model has been transformed from collegiality to managerialism. Their objectives and strategies now favour profit-motivated behaviour over their longstanding goals of advancing knowledge through the conduct and support of research, and transmitting knowledge through instruction and supervision. One likely result of these changes is a reduction in the collaborative nature of research, as universities seek to commercially exploit the new knowledge they develop, suppress publication, impose competitive behaviour on their staff, and wrest control from scholarly communities.
The analysis conducted in this paper has demonstrated that ePublishing has had a great deal of significance for formal communications among scholars, and that the changes are far from finished. It is therefore important that the accumulated knowledge and techniques of specialists in the Internet Commerce scholarly community be brought to bear on the topic.
This paper has put forward models of scholarly activities and refereed journals in early 21st century academic life. These require critical consideration, application and enhancement, or replacement. This applies in particular to the model in Exhibit 4 and its successors. Empirical studies are needed of the behaviour of scholarly communities, and of the use by individuals within them of the various tools of the electronic era. Case studies and surveys are needed of the modus operandi and form of journals and conference proceedings, of changes made, and of the success or failure of those changes. Novel features and publishing approaches need to be monitored, and deep case studies undertaken in order to gain an understanding of their nature, successes and failures, and scope of applicability.
Research monographs and academic books warrant separate analysis, along the lines used in this paper. The practices and economics of these outlets are affected rather differently from refereed journals and articles, and the rate of change and the outcomes appear to be quite different.
The nature of the article has been stable for generations, and the nature of the journal for several centuries. This stands in stark contrast to the substantial disruptions since about 1995, and the possibility of a complete discontinuity during the ensuing decade. Scholarly publishing has been the subject of study by librarians and computer scientists. To date, however, it has been given insufficient attention by Internet Commerce researchers.
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Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., a Visiting Professor in the E-Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.
Danny Kingsley is a professional science communicator, and has worked in print, radio, television and online. She is currently conducting doctoral research into the barriers to the uptake of open access to research publication options in Australia.
The content and infrastructure for these community service pages are provided by Roger Clarke through his consultancy company, Xamax.
From the site's beginnings in August 1994 until February 2009, the infrastructure was provided by the Australian National University. During that time, the site accumulated close to 30 million hits. It passed 60 million in early 2019.
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