Whither Science Publishing?

[from The Scientist, August 1, 2012]

Whither Science Publishing?

Bob Grant

As we stand on the brink of a new scientific age, how researchers should best communicate their findings and innovations is hotly debated in the publishing trenches.

[…] Over the intervening centuries, academic publishing has morphed into a sprawling international industry that, on the one hand, rakes in revenues of more than $19 billion in its scientific, technical, and medical segment alone, according to one 2008 analysis (Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 9, ISSN 1704-8532, 2008). On the other hand, a constellation of open-access (OA) publishers, producing nearly 8,000 OA journals (according to statistics kept by the Directory of Open Access Journals) has grown up, paralleling the rise of the Internet as the primary mode of gathering, communicating, and sharing information both inside and outside the scientific community.

Today, researchers stand on the brink of a new age in scholarly publishing. Never before has science been so inundated with new findings, or have technical advances generated such mountains of data. Innovations sprout from labs the world over as humanity’s understanding of our universe grows. But that growth is only as robust as the system used to share disparate bits of knowledge, test and challenge reported advances, and remotely collaborate in scientific efforts. To keep up with the blistering pace of scientific and technological advances, publishers are getting creative. In recent years, new concepts such as post-publication peer review, all-scientist editorial teams, lifetime publishing privilege fees, and funder-supported open access have entered the publishing consciousness.

But open access and other newer publishing modalities are still dwarfed by the traditional subscription-based model. Will open access eventually become the dominant mode of publishing science? Are there unseen challenges that await such a dramatic shift? Are there ways to improve the traditional system of peer review, a practice introduced nearly 350 years ago to vet articles published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society?

The Scientist asked these questions and more of publishers, researchers, information scientists, and others to get a sense of where scientific publishing stands today, and where it’s going.

… continue reading at The Scientist

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