Recent Ithaka Study on Scholarly Communcation

An ARL-commissioned study run by Ithaka was recently published identifying new models for scholarly communication. In addition to identifying digital resources on which scholars are relying, the study shows that significant changes are occurring in the way scholars approach their communicative practices. Naturally, libraries will need to address and adapt such changes. The full report may be read here.

From the executive summary:

The final report identifies eight principal types of digital scholarly resources:

  • E-only journals
  • Reviews
  • Preprints and working papers
  • Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and annotated  content
  • Data
  • Blogs
  • Discussion forums
  • Professional and scholarly hubs

This report profiles each of these eight types of resources, including discussion of how and why the faculty members reported using the resources for their work, how content is selected for the site, and what sustainability strategies the resources are employing. Each section draws from the in-depth interviews to provide illustrative anecdotes and highlight representa­tive examples. Among the findings of this study were:

  • While some disciplines seem to lend themselves  to certain formats of digital resource more than others, examples of innovative resources can be found across the humanities, social sciences, and scientific/technical/medical subject areas.
  • Traditions of scholarly culture relating to estab­lishing scholarly legitimacy through credential­ing, peer review, and citation metrics exert a powerful force on these innovative online proj­ects. Almost every resource suggested by the interviewed scholars incorporates peer review or editorial oversight. Though some born-digital journals are beginning to experiment with open peer review, the examples we observed were still in early stages.
  • Many digital publications are directed at small,  niche audiences. There appears to be a very long tail in the field of digital scholarly re­sources with many tightly-focused publications directed at narrow audiences and capable of running on relatively small budgets.
  • Some of the resources with greatest impact  are those that have been around a long while. Given the importance of longevity in establish­ing scholarly reputation, the necessity of build­ing an audience to attract high-quality content, and the time it takes to fine-tune a digital re­source, even excellent new digital publications may need years to establish their place in their scholarly community.
  • Innovations relating to multimedia content and  Web 2.0 functionality appear in some cases to blur the lines between resource types. We observed “video articles,” peer-reviewed reader commentary, and medieval illuminated texts coded as data – all evidence of the creative for­mat mash-ups that challenge us to re-think the definitions of traditional content categories.
  • Projects of all sizes are still seeking paths to  sustainability. For open access sites – the vast majority of the resources studied here – the challenges can be great, since subscription fees are not an option. Nearly all of the publications that emerged in our survey are experimenting to find economic models that will support their work.
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