What’s wrong with scholarly publishing? Your feedback – Why should journals exist?

One of the features of blogging is that you get immediate feedback – some positive, some not. ALL feedback is welcomed and will be treated professionally. In conventional scholarly publication we are expected to assemble other relevant work, prior art, conflicts, etc. The blog makes this easy. If I have omitted a significant opinion or piece of work then I am likely to be informed of this. Here's an example – I'll reproduce the first part as it is essentially a scholarly publication, but in the form of a blog post… (Daniel Mietchen is active in OKF and ran the Open Theses earlier this year.) Thanks to Adrian Pohl (Open Bibliographic Principles fame)…

Mietchen, Pampel & Heller: Criteria for the Journal of the Future



The internet changes the communication spaces in which scientific discourse takes place. In this context, the format and role of the scientific journal are changing. This commentary introduces eight criteria that we deem relevant for the future of the scientific journal in the digital age.


The debate on the future of scholarly communication takes place between researchers, librarians, publishers and other interested parties worldwide. Perhaps appropriate to the topic, the debate has seen relatively few contributions via traditional scholarly communication channels, whereas blog posts like "Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted?" by Michael Nielsen (2009) received a lot of attention.

In light of this debate, a discussion emerged during the Open Access Days 2009 between Lambert Heller and Heinz Pampel about the changing landscape of scholarly communication in the field of library and information science (LIS). In the following months, both discussed their views with different stakeholders, including the LIBREAS editors.

In autumn 2010, Heller and Pampel started beyondthejournal.net – a blog, in which they document their thoughts on the current system and on the future of scientific discourse in LIS. [1] As a result, they summarised their analysis in a paper (Heller & Pampel 2010) presented at the annual conference of the German Society for Information Science and Information Practice (DGI). The core of the work is a collection of eight criteria for the future of the scientific journal in LIS.

In connection with a conference talk by Daniel Mietchen on large-scale collaboration via web-based platforms at the conference "Digitale Wissenschaft 2010" in Cologne (Mietchen 2010a), Mietchen and Pampel discussed the possibility of a transition of the criteria in a general and interdisciplinary form.

In the following, Mietchen translated the criteria into English and started an editable copy thereof at Wikiversity, a wiki for the creation and use of free learning materials and activities (Mietchen 2010b).

After a further joint discussion, the following version [2] of the criteria was formulated, with contributions from other discussants at Friendfeed [3] and Wikiversity.


Dynamics: Research is a process. The scientific journal of the future provides a platform for continuous and rapid publishing of workflows and other information pertaining to a research project, and for updating any such content by its original authors or collaboratively by relevant communities.

Scope: Data come in many different formats. The scientific journal of the future interoperates with databases and ontologies by way of open standards and concentrates itself on the contextualization of knowledge newly acquired through research, without limiting its scope in terms of topic or methodology.

Access: Free access to scientific knowledge, and permissions to re-use and re-purpose it, are an invaluable source for research, innovation and education. The scientific journal of the future provides legally and technically barrier-free access to its contents, along with clearly stated options for re-use and re-purposing.

Replicability: The open access to all relevant core elements of a publication facilitates the verification and subsequent re-use of published content. The scientific journal of the future requires the publication of detailed methodologies, including all data and code, that form the basis of any research project.

Review: The critical, transparent and impartial examination of information submitted by the professional community enhances the quality of publications. The scientific journal of the future supports post-publication peer review, and qualified reviews of submitted content shall always be made public.

Presentation: Digitization opens up new opportunities to provide content, such as through semantic and multimedia enrichment. The scientific journal of the future adheres to open Web standards and creates a framework in which the technological possibilities of the digital media can be exploited by authors, readers and machines alike, and content remains continuously linkable.

Transparency: Disclosure of conflicts of interest creates transparency. The scientific journal of the future promotes transparency by requiring its editorial board, the editors and the authors to disclose both existing and potential conflicts of interest with respect to a publication and to make explicit their contributions to any publication.

If you read the criteria they are fairly similar to mine two days ago (I think the first are concerned with the how? Rather than why?). Bjoern Brembs (whose talk at OKF has informed me on Impact Factors) has just posted:

July 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm  (Edit)

I'm with you on journals needing to go extinct. The only reason they're still around is history. So back to history they ought to go.

So I take MPH's points on board but think they should be part of the "publication of the future", not the journal.

So, champions of journals (I assume there are some) please let us have your arguments PRO journals. If the reasons are branding and competition, please say so. They will be given equal space on this blog.


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One Response to What’s wrong with scholarly publishing? Your feedback – Why should journals exist?

  1. Finally managed to update the presentation on slideshare to contain the most up to date info I could find: http://www.slideshare.net/brembs/whats-wrong-with-scholarly-publishing-today-ii

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