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  • Force11 White Paper: Improving The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship

    Abstract

    Abstract. Research and scholarship lead to the generation of new knowledge. The dissemination of this knowledge has a fundamental impact on the ways in which society develops and progresses, and at the same time it feeds back to improve subsequent research and scholarship. Here, as in so many other areas of human activity, the internet is changing the way things work: it opens up opportunities for new processes that can accelerate the growth of knowledge, including the creation of new means of communicating that knowledge among researchers and within the wider community. Two decades of emergent and increasingly pervasive information technology have demonstrated the potential for far more effective scholarly communication. However, the use of this technology remains limited; research processes and the dissemination of research results have yet to fully assimilate the capabilities of the web and other digital media. Producers and consumers remain wedded to formats developed in the era of print publication, and the reward systems for researchers remain tied to those delivery mechanisms.

    Force11 (the Future of Research Communication and e-Scholarship) is a community of scholars, librarians, archivists, publishers and research funders that has arisen organically to help facilitate the change toward improved knowledge creation and sharing. Individually and collectively, we aim to bring about a change in scholarly communication through the effective use of information technology. Force11 has grown from a small group of like-minded individuals into an open movement with clearly identified stakeholders associated with emerging technologies, policies, funding mechanisms and business models. While not disputing the expressive power of the written word to communicate complex ideas, our foundational assumption is that scholarly communication by means of semantically-enhanced media-rich digital publishing is likely to have a greater impact than communication in traditional print media or electronic facsimiles of printed works. However, to date, online versions of ’scholarly outputs’ have tended to replicate print forms, rather than exploit the additional functionalities afforded by the digital terrain. We believe that digital publishing of enhanced papers will enable more effective scholarly communication, which will also broaden to include, for example, better links to data, the publication of software tools, mathematical models, protocols and workflows, and research communication by means of social media channels.

    This document highlights the findings of the Force11 workshop on the Future of Research Communication and e-Scholarship held at Schloss Dagstuhl, Germany, in August 2011: it summarizes a number of key problems facing scholarly publishing today, and presents a vision that addresses these problems, proposing concrete steps that key stakeholders can take to improve the state of scholarly publishing. More about Force11 can be found at http://www.force11.org. This White Paper is a collaborative effort that reflects the input of all Force11 attendees at the Dagstuhl Workshop 1, and is very much a living document 2 . We see it as a starting point that will grow and be updated and augmented by individual and collective efforts by the participants and others. We invite you to join and contribute to this enterprise.


    1. https://sites.google.com/site/futureofresearchcommunications/home/attendees

    2. Citation: Bourne P, Clark T, Dale R, de Waard A, Herman I, Hovy E and Shotton D, on behalf of the Force11 community (2011).  Force11 White Paper: Improving the Future of Research Communication and e-Scholarship. 27 October 2011.  Available from http://force11.org/ Copyright: © 2011 The authors. License: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (v3.0, unported: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

    About This Document:

    This document contains five sections. Section \ref{sec:vision} presents our vision of the future of scholarly publishing. In Section \ref{sec:issues}, we outline six key problems that prevent scholarly communication from achieving its full potential. Section \ref{sec:strategies} contains six specific recommendations for actions to address these problems. Section \ref{sec:pointers} offers a dynamic list of pointers to relevant research reports and related projects. Finally, in Section \ref{sec:steps} we describe what we are doing to implement these recommendations.

    The problems and recommendations we perceive can be grouped into two groups, each containing three principal themes:

    • Themes 1–3 concern the format and technologies of scholarly publication: how scholarly data, information, and knowledge are (or could be) represented; how readers, users, authors, editors and computers can interact with these representations; and how different knowledge representations could be combined, queried, stored and otherwise treated.

    • Themes 4–6 concern the enterprise of scholarly publishing, including business models and the attribution of credit. In these sections we discuss how scholarship is evaluated, accredited and monetized; current and new models and modes of assigning copyright and intellectual property rights; the financial aspects of scholarly publishing; and the mechanisms for assessing the quality and value of researchers and their research outputs, and of attributing credit and worth to them.

    The problems relating to these six themes are described in Section 2, while our recommendations for their solutions are described in Section 3. These problems and recommendations are summarized in the following table.

    Formats and Technologies
    Problems Recommendations
    \ref{sec:issues-exp} Existing formats needlessly limit, inhibit and undermine effective knowledge transfer \ref{sec:strats-exp} Rethink the unit and form of the scholarly publication
    \ref{sec:issues-inf} Improved knowledge dissemination mechanisms produce information overload \ref{sec:strats-inf} Develop tools and technologies that better support the scholarly lifecycle
    \ref{sec:issues-data} Claims are hard to verify and results are hard to reuse \ref{sec:strats-data} Add data, software, and workflows into the publication as first-class research objects
    Business Models and Attribution of Credit
    Problems Recommendations
    \ref{sec:issues-acc} There is a tension between commercial publishing and the provision of unfettered access to scholarly information \ref{sec:strats-acc} Derive new financially sustainable models of open access
    \ref{sec:issues-bus} Traditional business models of publishing are being threatened \ref{sec:strats-bus} Derive new business models for science publishers and libraries
    \ref{sec:issues-ass} Current academic assessment models don’t adequately measure the merit of scholars and their work over the full breadth of their research outputs \ref{sec:strats-ass} Derive new methods and metrics for evaluating quality and impact that extend beyond traditional print outputs to embrace the new technologies