A guest post from Amanda Briggs, Director of new scholarly publisher, GSE Research
Scholarly publishing has probably gone through more changes in the last 10 years than in the previous five centuries. For the scholars of the Renaissance, moveable type and cheap paper were the revolutionary technologies enabling the spread of ideas, theories and information in the sciences, philosophy, politics and humanities. From the learned (and often subversive) treatises coming out of the great universities to the scandal sheets and incendiary pamphlets that circulated in the coffee shops, printed text was the great enabler of intellectual exchange for 500 years. And then came the web and user-friendly internet interfaces and the very notions of information and scholarly discourse got shaken to their core.
These technologies were revolutionary and everyone in the orbit of scholarly publishing acknowledges as much. Forward-looking organizations also recognize that this revolution, far from being over is actually gathering pace. As publishers we need to be always pushing the boundaries and thinking ahead to the next generation delivery mechanisms and technological developments.
But is the scholarly publishing industry changing as rapidly in other dimensions as it is technologically? Yes, the phenomenal rise of online publication has had some impact, but the philosophical underpinnings of disseminating academic research sometimes seems to be more firmly rooted in the 17th century than in the 21st. The online structures of peer reviewed journals – the primary engines for publishing scholarly research – are indistinguishable from their historical paper predecessors; a fixed number of papers is organized into volumes (usually on an annual basis) and issues with page layouts which mirror the print equivalent of the journal. Many publishers today use sophisticated electronic submission and review systems but the process of peer review remains unchanged and the proxy measures used to evaluate the quality of published research are still broadly those imagined for a paper-based world.
This seems to us at GSE Research to be a terrible missed opportunity, which is why, as a brand new research publisher, we want to try and break through some of those constraints and find new and interesting ways of exploiting the potential of developments like the semantic web, social networking, data mining and the vast virtual spaces of the internet to host an almost infinite volume of information, and why we are turning to switched on, forward-thinking technological innovators like Publishing Technology to work with us to help unlock that potential.
We believe that online publishing offers myriad possibilities to both creators and consumers of research to choose for themselves how they wish to disseminate, discover and respond to academic papers; even to move away from concepts like ‘academic papers’ and to invent new formats more appropriate for the delivery of new knowledge. We don’t know what all these will be yet. Some will stem from technological developments we haven’t even seen, yet more will emerge almost randomly from individuals’ choices about how they interact with technology.
GSE Research is working with Publishing Technology because we want to be in the front line of discovering those developments and offering as much choice as we can to our communities. With cutting edge technology and an open minded publishing philosophy, we believe that we can help shape the future of scholarly publishing for the 21st century.
Follow us @gseresearch to watch our journey take shape.
Image credit: nuttakit