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  • Transforming Scholarly Communication


    The Transforming Scholarly Communication workshop was largely the brainchild of Lee Dirks, of the Microsoft Research "Connections" group. Lee passed away in August 2012, and we hope that all of the good outcomes of this workshop serve forever as a tribute to Lee.


    Funds from Sloan Foundation grant B2011-35 were employed, in concert with additional support from the Moore Foundation and Microsoft Research, to organize and host an invitation-only workshop on the future of scholarly communication entitled Transforming Scholarly Communication. Hosted by Microsoft Research and Harvard University's Seamless Astronomy Group, the workshop took place on October 23rd-25th, 2011 at Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, MA. The workshop hosted 75 experts in scholarly communication from across the academy, the publishing industry, scholarly and learned societies, as well as funding agencies worldwide. Rather than focusing on policy, the workshop focused on practice: existing and newly developed technologies designed to enhance scholarship and scholarly communication we discussed in order to determine factors for their success and their potential. The workshop was organized into six thematic themes: #resources #review #literature #media #recognition #platforms. Participants were assigned to one of these themes based on their expertise. Each group prepared a final report which summarized: a) most important changes that need to occur in the research ecosystem, specifically in the context of the group theme, and b) what projects, tools or programs of research can be adopted to ensure they are enacted. The full official reports from the workshop can be found at the website:

    Highlighted Outcome: Authorea

    The document you are reading was created in a new online scholarly publication authoring system, called Authorea, inspired by the Sloan-supported workshop. It offers many features that discussions at the workshop deemed desirable, including:

    • easy system allowing many co-authors to work collaboratively online, all at once
    • support for markup languages (LaTeX) and Markdown
    • flexible handling of image formats
    • option to make work private or public, and the opportunity to make initially "private" work public
    • provenance-aware authoring (github backend used for version control)
    • transparency of author contributions (thanks to github backend)
    • easy citation insertion, using extant repositories (e.g. ADS)
    • export to "standard" formats for Journal article submission

    Authorea was co-founded by Alberto Pepe, a postdoctoral fellow in the Seamless Astronomy group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (Alyssa Goodman serves as Pepe's postdoctoral sponsor, and as scientific consultant to the Authorea project.) Pepe, who is also now a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center, was a key member of the organizing committee for the "Transforming Scholarly Communication" workshop. Pepe set up this workshop's tumblr site, and Authorea was, in-part, inspired by the frustration tumblr users experience when trying to work collaboratively online. Further inspiration came from looking over all that was learned at the workshop, and from experiences beforehand, which showed that even though systems with desirable properties existed (e.g. github for provenance, Markdown for easy ascii authoring), they had yet to be combined into an easy-to-use tool for scholars.

    Today, Authorea has more than 1000 users, even though it is still in a very early stage of active development. The near-term future of Authorea will see:

    • dynamic image formats
    • additional output file format options (for increased compatibility across fields and publishers)
    • expanded commenting and annotation options
    • access to works for referees, as non-authors
    • links to the Dataverse project
    • general expansion of the model so as to include projects that bear less resemblance to scholarly articles (e.g. inclusion, easy access, to more file types in the "Folder" view)
    • collaborations with publishers, foundations, and other organizations