is not solely
about communication; it is also about
maintaining a historical record, so that
future generations of scientists can
learn and build on the work of the past.
Whether new forms of scholarly communication pass this second test is far
A common misconception about
the “dead tree” model of scholarly
communication is that it is antithetical to speed. This is only true to a certain extent, but almost certainly not to
the extent that most believe.
Scott Delman, ACM’s Director of
Group Publishing, commented that
“The current system of peer review
is the single largest bottleneck in the
scholarly publication process, but this
does not mean the established system
can simply be thrown out in favor of
new models just because new technology enables dramatic improvements
in speed.” Establishing a new model
for scholarly communication will involve experimentation, trial and error,
and most likely evolution instead of
revolution. Proclamations of the death
of scholarly publishers and scholarly
publishing as a result of the rise of the
Internet are no longer taken seriously
by those working in the publishing
industry. What we have seen is a slow
but steady evolution of print to online
publication and distribution models
instead of an overnight upheaval.
Delman adds, “I believe strongly
that there is a need for a new model,”
but then goes on to refute the notion
that digital-only publishing—and the
elimination of print—would quicken
the publication of scholarly articles.
“The most substantial component in
the time delay related to the publica-
tion of articles in scholarly journals is
the peer-review process,” and a digital-
only model won’t change that, he says.
Nor will it reduce article backlogs or
remove page limitations. “Eliminat-
ing print will not have the dramatic
impact that most assume will occur if
print publications go away,” he says.
Importantly, ACM readers and sub-
scribers “look for high-quality content
delivered in multiple formats, and
they still want print.”
Adding to the complexity of the
challenge is the fact that while science
is global, scientific publication mod-
els are often socially or geographically
[CoNtINUeD fRom P. 16]
influenced, so there is no single solution that can be identified to improve
the speed or efficiency of scholarly
communication. Ed Chi, of the Palo
Alto Research Center, described some
of the difficulties of modernizing
peer-review publishing in the Blog@
CACM at ( http://cacm.acm.org/blogs/
blog-cacm/100284). “In many non-U.S.
research evaluations, only the ISI Science Citation Index actually counts
for publication. Already this doesn’t fit
with many real-world metrics for reputation,” Chi said via email. Some well-known ACM conference publications
are excluded from the SCI (http://bit.
ly/iaobEa), “even when their real-world
reputation is much higher than other
‘dead-tree’ journals.” Technology may
provide opportunities to facilitate and
accelerate the discourse, but there is
no guarantee the academic establishment around the world will move as
quickly in accepting new media and
ways of communicating.
Paperless publishing will happen
gradually, but “only if there are ways to
manage the publication process,” Chi
says. “Open source journal publication management systems will enable
journals to go somewhat independent
of traditional paper publishers, but we
will also need national scientific institutions to establish digital archives.”
Other challenges he notes include
handling an increased number of submissions and managing potentially
larger editorial boards.
As an organization with the stated
mission to advance computing as a
science and profession, ACM could
“lead the charge” in experimenting
with new digital publishing models
for computing scholarship, says Chi.
“This might include creating usable
software, digital libraries, or archival standards.” A particularly important area of research would examine
how to make socially derived metrics
a part of reputation systems, so that
the number of downloads, online
mentions, citations, and blog discussions can be measured for influence.
Then, according to Chi, ACM “should
work with national libraries to actively
change the publication models of other professions and fields.” This will
not be a revolution. ACM can help to
drive the change in a positive way for
the scientific community.