Trends in Scholarly Communications in Seven Disciplines (report)

For all those interested in academic libraries and how scholars work, a recent study from UC Berkeley will be of interest: Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines. The disciplines covered in the work are: archaeology, astrophysics, biology, economics, history, music and political science. Overall trends found include a tendency toward conservative publishing (i.e. publishing articles in famous journals is highly desired), recognition of non-textual communication (e.g. curation activity, designs and multimedia work) exist but these are generally accorded little weight and there is a general lack of interest in sharing ideas or circulating drafts inĀ  social media or Web 2.0 forums. Another finding of importance for librarian is that academics often poorly organize their data and research; this could be an opportunity to provide training or other supports for scholars.

The authors of the report explain that traditional modes of scholarly communication are likely to persist for quite some time as academic work environment tends to be conservative:

In all fields, many young scholars, and particularly graduate students, are especially leery of putting ideas and data out too soon for fear of thefy and/or misinterpretation. Given these findings, we caution against assumptions that “millenials” will change the social landscape of scholarship by virtue of their facility with cell phones and social networking sites. There is ample evidence, once initiated into the profession, newer scholars – be they graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or assistant professors – adopt the behaviors, norms and recommendations of their mentors in order to advance their careers.

These are difficult questions to face if you are generally enthusiastic about the sharing ethic. The very unpopularity of putting ideas out there makes examples of it all the more interesting. For example, you can read all the papers, data and other materials that Chris Blattman, professor of political science at Yale, produces (sidenote: his website is also very well designed and appealing). Ultimately, it looks like not much will change until tenure decisions are modernized to recognize other forms of worthwhile academic activity besides publication in a high prestige periodical. Change will come but it may take a long time and it will likely be very uneven. Academic librarians need to understand the current environment and identify ways to improve it. I expect I will come back to this report several times to read it through more deeply.

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