Thursday, July 12, 2007

“Creating Scholarly Communities and Fostering Innovation”

Presenter: Gregg Gordon, Social Science Electronic Publishing
Time: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM July 13, 2007. Place: SFUHC Bank of Nova Scotia Lecture Room
Abstract:

Gregg Gordon is one of the founders, the President and acting CEO of the Social Science Research Network . The concept behind this for-profit company is to provide an efficient means to distribute scholarly research; SSNR is funded by Greg Gordon and a small group of scholars. Their motto - Tomorrow’s Research Today, drives what we do every day.

As Gregg Gordon reveals, the focus of the SSRN is generally social science, but, as other presenters have suggested over the course of the conference, there is a noticable rise in demand and participation from the humanities field. As an incorporated network since 1994, SSRN's vision was to create a format where scholars could share and distribute their research on a global scale before their papers worked through journal refereeing and publication processes. As the goal is to maintain the the lowest cost for both authors and readers, SSRN boasts a hybrid model, offering free articles and abstracts, as well as pay for view full text articles.

SSRN holds a number of specialized research networks in each of the social sciences, as well as an e-library featuring an abstracts data base and full text papers. Subscribers can change their profiles to access journals in different domains. The presenter reports that with the current technology, SSRN can create an E-journal in a few days, as they have a large data bank to draw from. At present the network is being accessed at 1 million hits per month.

What does the future of publishing look like?
Certainly electronic access is key. Gregg Gordon maintains the future is in building relationships, and suggests that on-line publishers may be a more sustainable option that depending on university repositories or foundational funding - pointing to issues around the fleeting nature of funding, especially when certain research topics go out of vogue.

He sees that change in scholarly publishing is upon us now and new models are inevitable; as traditional publishers see their authority is diminishing, the need for collaboration and innovation is on the rise. What this means is that publishers need to respond and quckly.
The presenter revealed that every 22 years the number of scholarly journals will double -meaning scarcity of resources is no longer an issue - and as on-line options are increasing, the number of journals will surely rise. This brings the question of having the right tools to deal with the volume of data and conduct research efficiently. As researchers are looking at data and articles from different disciplines, this cross pollination means that authors' work may be accessed with an increasingly interdisciplinary approach; how the work is stored and archived can create issues in both indexing and accessibility.

The presenter reflects on the notion that we have moved from scarcity to abundance and this put demands on the reposititories and on the users. He posits that having too much information is not always a good thing, especially if the tools with which to sort or sift through that information lack the necessary innovative and intuitive features today's users are demanding. Increased access and information require sophisticate tools to facilitate effective navigation and research. Google is a solid example of moving from a fairly simple search framework to one that offers many efficient features designed to refine the ease and usefulness of searching on-line. SSRN works closely with Google with regard to indexing the e-library content.

While we may not be able to predict how traditional publishing will change, it is clear that the need is there. The presenter notes that traditional publishing is slowing innovation and damning up the flow of resources. As innovation is key, Gregg Gordon says we can "create more by being exposed to more." However, he cautions against the potential issues of on-line commons or peer based review process, as identity can not always be proved. As he speaks to the idea that new models will need to be considered, it brings the discussion back to the theme of how authority is both challenged and created.

How will authority be established?
Social networking is certainly a step in building community and establishing authority. The presenter brought us to the current popularity of self-publishing - anyone can create content via facebook, flicr and youtube. This represents a response from the public in wanting to establish voice and community. While this is creative, the presenter reminds us that in the scholarly community, authors and publishers face issues of credibility. SSRN also wants to focus on communities and bringing different scholarly groups together, but there needs to be clear standards and those standards need to be upheld by the community. He cites the example of a professor telling students to download his article (presumably to increase his impact factor) and the chaos that ensued. It is important to keep in mind that in SSRN, multiple downloads from one person or machine, like a search engine, do not count.

With increased communication and open access, connections are becoming easier to create and those collaborations and partnerships help to foster innovation and establish trust. Greg Gordon maintains that building connections and trust is how authority is earned.

The presenter left some intriguing questions for the audience to consider with regard to current publsihing models and platforms. As they stand today, are our journals are sustainable? Are the journals seen as a voice of authority? Do the platforms provide the necessary support for a sustainable presence? Does the software and search features speak to digital natives or to digital immigrants?

Reflections:
Gregg Gordon reveals how the publishing world is responding to the demand for change and the right to knowledge. Keeping current in the new publishing model, SSRN allows authors to retain copyright of materials and they are free to remove their papers or publish elsewhere at any time; authors may also grant reuse rights through a Creative Commons licence or a similar license embedded in an electronic file. Clearly, this publishing option has taken authors' incentives into consideration, including impact factor, citation tracking and intellectual property rights. As this is another example of combining both open access articles and pay for view, we are reminded of the need to address both the indirect and the direct economic models in the publishing world. Open access models vary in degree as do publishers in how they structure their models. As on-line access can result in higher visibility and therefore, increased impact or citation reference, the scholarly community needs to consider future methods. The presenter articulated the demise of the artiface of scarcity, as access to information reaches epic proportions; increased resources and access will generate specialized options for users and publishers. The SSRN model offers a different service in that working papers are available and visible, thereby offering upcoming authors the opportunity to participate and present their work in a reliable, respected forum.

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