Chapter 1 – The Contours and Challenges of e-Research

Nicholas Jankowski

Abstract
This chapter serves as introduction to volume and elaborates on the historical development of e-science, first in the natural and physical sciences, and then in the social sciences and humanities. The concerted governmental and technological push for application of e-science principles and practices to the latter domains of scholarship is examined. This examination is illustrated with examples of the kind of projects being piloted and promoted. One of the observations emerging from this review is that much of what is being propagated as new and revolutionary is frequently application of good research organizational practices within an Internet environment. The announced transformation in the scientific enterprise, it is suggested, is more reflective of gradual change than a revolutionary break with the past, and is highly dependent on discipline and other contextual aspects of scholarship.


Introduction

Every so often major shifts emerge in the way society is imagined. Historical periods have acquired labels, albeit debated and disputed, that reflect such shifts: Reformation, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, Information Age. The scholarly enterprise has been integral to the formulation of these shifts and that enterprise itself has been the subject of transformation. Introduction of the experimental method is associated with such a shift, as is evolutionary theory; the switch from Newtonian physics to general acceptance of Einstein’s theory of relativity also reflects such transformation. During the past few years, discussions in policy and academic circles suggest yet another move is underway, some claim revolutionary in scope, impacting the full breadth of the scholarly enterprise. This latest shift is attributed to the widespread availability and incorporation of high-speed computers and electronic networks, particularly the Internet, into the research enterprise, making very large volumes of data available that provide opportunity for addressing new questions in new ways. Reflection on this transformation of scholarship, particularly within the social sciences and humanities, is the concern of this book.

The signals suggesting such transformation are many: blue-ribbon committees have been mandated to explore changes and to recommend policy initiatives; national offices have been established to fund research and development; reports, proceedings, papers, and journal articles are appearing, as well as a handful of edited volumes such as this one. These signals span the spectrum of scholarly disciplines and are evident around the globe: in North America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. The signals are, understandably, stronger for some disciplines and countries than for others. Still, the overall strength of the indicators is substantial and reinforces need for a considered examination of the transformation.

This introductory chapter sketches the development of this transformation and begins with examination of competing terms currently in vogue that are meant to describe the change. The issues and challenges associated with these transformations constitute the substance of the contributions to this book but one issue, scholarly communication, is of overriding importance and is sketched in this chapter. Next, the organizational structure of the book is elaborated with short introductions to the chapters in each section of the book. Finally, a few remarks on further research directions are made in a concluding note.

 

CONCEPTUALIZING Scholarly Transformation

A small coterie of terms reflects current changes in the conduct of science and, more generally, of scholarship. The most prevalent of these are: ‘e-science’, ‘cyberinfrastructure’, and ‘e-research’. These terms have historical antecedents and competitors for prominence. Beginning with the past, one alternative conceptualization is ‘Big Science’ which initially described weapons-related research during World War II, particularly the Manhattan Project mandated to construct an atomic bomb. Big Science continued through the Cold War and reflected government-sponsored research generally oriented towards weapons development and national security.[i] Subsequently, non-military projects, such as those associated with high-energy physics laboratories like CERN in Geneva and initiatives to unravel DNA like the Human Genome Project, took on the characteristics of Big Science. All of these projects require a need for large-scale instrumentation, budgets running in the billions, and personnel numbering in the thousands. In some cases, as with experiments involving particle accelerators like those at CERN, distant collaboration among scientists is commonplace, often crossing national borders. The transformation of science as reflected in these features was identified relatively early by Alvin Weinberg (1961) in a Science article eulogizing the passing of small-scale, solo scholarship.[ii]

A more recent conceptualization is cyberscience, elaborated by Michael Nentwich (2003) who provides a comprehensive overview of the transformations of science and scholarship, reflected in the subtitle of the volume: ‘Research in the Age of the Internet’. Nentwich’s definition of cyberscience is broad: “…all scholarly and scientific research activities in the virtual space generated by the networked computers and by advanced information and communication technologies in general” (Nentwich, 2003: 22). Tracing the genealogy of the term, Nentwich (2003: 22, note 41) suggests that it originated in an article by Paul Wouters (1996) and subsequently surfaced in various papers and conference panels.[iii] Use of the term has since been mainly limited to publications and projects emerging from Nentwich’s institutional home, the Austrian Institute of Technology Assessment. In addition, it appears in the title of a recent study by Christine Hine (2008), Systematics as Cyberscience. Otherwise, the term seems to have faded into disuse. Of more durability, however, has been the fundamental feature present in both Nentwich’s study, as in Wouters’ initial formulation: an all-encompassing approach that acknowledges the importance of computers and electronic networks, but that is grounded in a broad vision of the scholarly enterprise. The inclusion of scholarly communication and publishing within that approach resonates with the formulation of another conceptualization, e-research, which is outlined shortly.

The term e-science is basically a European version of the American term ‘cyberinfrastructure’. Rooted in British initiatives, John Taylor, then Director General of the Office of Science and Technology in the U.K., is credited for coining it at the launch of a major funding initiative in 1999. The focus of e-science then, as now, was on the natural and biological sciences and was designed to facilitate the processing of very large volumes of data with the aid of grid computer networks. Euphoric statements about transformation of the scientific enterprise marked the launch and subsequent promotion of e-science.[iv] Shortly thereafter, in 2001, the National e-Science Centre (NeSC) was established, which has since become the main governmental body for coordinating and allocating funding for e-science projects in the U.K. One of the pages on the NeSC Web site sketches the anticipated trajectory of science:

In the future, e-Science will refer to the large scale science that will increasingly be carried out through distributed global collaborations enabled by the Internet. Typically, a feature of such collaborative scientific enterprises is that they will require access to very large data collections, very large scale computing resources and high performance visualization back to the individual user scientists. (NeSC, n.d.)

In this description, as elsewhere, e-science is closely associated with grid computer network architecture that enables the global collaboration considered basic to e-science.[v] These features are expected, in turn, to spurn development of new, specialized Internet-based tools for conducting research.

One of the spin-offs of the e-science development in the U.K. involved initiation of a government-sponsored office to stimulate and coordinate e-science in the social sciences (Jankowski & Caldas, 2004). Called the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) and launched in December 2004, it involves a decentralized structure of ‘nodes’ engaging universities across the U.K. Most of the projects emphasize incorporation of grid computer architecture into the infrastructure of social science. An exception to this accentuation is the Oxford University node of the NCeSS, which takes a social-shaping approach (OeSS Project, n.d.). Although an exception, this node is embedded in the Computing Laboratory of Oxford University and, in that respect, reflects the original core concerns with e-science on computation and computer networks.

Another conceptualization, cyberinfrastructure is primarily rooted in initiatives based in the United States and was initially promoted in a commission report funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2003, subsequently known as the Atkins Report (2003): ‘Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure’. This title reflects the promotional and visionary language present throughout the document: “A new age has dawned,” (p. 31), “The time is ripe,” (p. 12), “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lead the revolution” (p. 32). Basically, the term cyberinfrastructure refers to an infrastructure of distributed computer, information, and communication technologies. The development is seen as parallel to the infrastructures already integral to modern societies: roads and railways for transportation; water, gas, and power networks for basic services and resources.[vi] In the words of the Atkins Report, “If infrastructure is required for an industrial economy, then … cyberinfrastructure is required for a knowledge economy” (Atkins, 2003: 5).

Not unsurprisingly, the first waves of cyberinfrastructure initiatives were situated in the natural and biological sciences where large volumes of data are involved in research endeavors requiring high-speed computer processing: particle physics, astronomy, meteorology, and DNA research. These initiatives typically involve collaboration with staff at supercomputing research centers.[vii] Christine Borgman, (2007: 23), among others, argues that there has always been space within initial conceptualizations of cyberinfrastructure for the entire breadth of scholarly endeavor. And in a keynote NCeSS conference presentation, Noshir Contractor (2007) suggests that the components of cyberinfrastructure can be seen as spanning the gambit of university services: from high-performance computing, libraries, referral services, through training, outreach and mentoring services. Little is left out in the cold from such formulations of cyberinfrastructure, but they misconstrue where emphasis has been historically and is currently: in the fields of science and engineering that are engaged in processing large volumes of data with the aid of grid computer networks and related software.

The Atkins Report, it should be stressed, is not so much a scientific publication, but a manifesto and, as such, is less concerned with conventional scholarly concerns such as qualification, criticism and evidence. The report can be easily dismissed for lacking such features, but Hine (2003: 2) reminds us that such perfunctory discarding of visionary statements misses opportunity for a potentially valuable scholarly enquiry into how these statements are translated into initiatives and, possibly, how some changes in the scientific enterprise may be impacted by the ideas and funding related to such visions. Although perhaps premature to assess the definitive contribution of the Atkins Report, it is fair to note that the concerns expressed in the document have found considerable institutional and disciplinary resonance. The NSF has established an Office of Cyberinfrastructure, suggesting a serious form of institutionalization. Various disciplines have established their own committees producing reports and initiatives to investigate ways to consciously take advantage of both the features and the funding being made available for cyberinfrastructure initiatives.[viii]

These initiatives have not remained restricted to the natural and biological sciences. The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS, 2006), for example, issued a report on cyberinfrastructures for the humanities and social sciences. Other efforts to integrate the social sciences are reflected in the introduction of social network analysis as a tool with which to study science communities (SNAC, 2005) and in many of the initiatives introducing Internet research and digital studies into university curricula and research programs (see, e.g., Nissenbaum & Price, 2004).

Elsewhere, a different approach has been taken where the term e-research is seen as more reflective of the work of both social scientists and scholars in the humanities, a terminological development also observed by Borgman (2007: 20). The contribution by Anne Beaulieu and Paul Wouters in this volume sketches this approach, as developed in the Netherlands, formally initiated in October 2006 and called the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences (VKS). It can, in fact, be seen as successor to Wouters’ earlier notion cyberscience, and as one more amenable to the conceptualization of scholarship in the social sciences and humanities. Moreover, the term e-research acknowledges forms of scholarship that do not primarily emphasize use of high-speed computers for processing large datasets, but that place weight on incorporation of a wide variety of new media and electronic networks in the research process; see Chapter 3.

Terminology in a terrain as dynamic as this one is difficult to pin down with precision. Undoubtedly, much more energy will be expended in the coming years on refining the ideas underlying the various conceptualizations. For the purposes of this volume, however, a broad pluralistic approach is more suitable than one narrowly formulated. Such an approach is better able to accommodate the diversity of disciplines and approaches under consideration, particularly given interest in a perspective inclusionary of both the social sciences and humanities. The following list can be construed as the seeds for a Web 2.0 ‘cloud’ of e-research features, and concurrently reflects the concerns addressed by the contributors to this volume. Taken as a whole, these features suggest that e-research is a form of scholarship conducted in a network environment utilizing Internet-based tools and involving collaboration among scholars separated by distance, often on a global scale. Although the ‘weight’ and priority of these features varies by context and discipline, they nevertheless suggest areas where scholarship is undergoing transition:

  • Increasing computerization of the research process, often involving high-speed, large capacity machines configures in a networked environment;
  • Reliance on network-based virtual organizational structures for conducting research increasingly involving distant collaboration among researchers, often international in scope;
  • Development of Internet-based tools facilitating many phases of the research process including communication, research management, data collection and analysis, and publication;
  • Experimentation with new forms of data visualization, such as social network and hyperlink analysis, and multimedia and dynamic representations;
  • Publication, distribution and preservation of scholarship via the Internet, utilizing traditional and formal avenues (e.g., publishing houses, digital libraries) as well as those less formal and less institutionalized (e.g., social networking sites, personal websites).


Figure 1.1 illustrates the interrelatedness of these features of e-research, situated within three clusters of activities associated with many forms of scholarship.[ix] The context of these clusters is the networked environment mentioned above, typically the Internet, and may involve high-speed computers linked together via grid construction. In the figure this environment is suggested by the unconnected dashed lines at the top and bottom. The broken features of the lines suggest the porous nature of the network: not everyone and everything is connected to and operating within a networked environment all of the time; research activities occur both within and outside this environment. The network infrastructure is very often (as in employment of email) taken-for-granted; in other cases, as when grid computer architecture is used, involvement of specialists (e.g., computer scientists) may be required; see Chapter 16 for an illustration of such cross-disciplinary engagement.

The cluster situated in the upper-left of Figure 1.1, Research Organization, consists of the various divisions and tasks associated with managing an academic research project, often involving a principle investigator, senior academic participants, post-docs and Ph.D. candidates, administrative and technical staff. In an e-research environment a ‘virtual organization’ is established to coordinate the tasks associated with these divisions, employing a variety of communicative tools that supplement face-to-face exchange for conducting business: email, instant messaging, video conferencing, wikis. Perhaps the key component of such a virtual organization is collaboration at a distance among project participants. Several contributions to this book examine collaboration, notably Chapters 7 and 8. Some of the activities of the Research Organization may relate to externally oriented concerns such as accountability exercises required by a funding body or for ethical issues as formulated by an Institutional Review Board. Ethical concerns in an e-research environment, however, are different from those more conventional studies and require particular attention (see, e.g., Ess & AoIR Ethics Working Group, 2002; Jankowski & Van Selm, 2007).

The cluster located in the lower section of the figure, Research Process, reflects the tasks most often associated with the ‘research act’: problem formulation with a context of theoretical relevancy; construction of a research design with attention to data collection and analysis; and data preservation. In the e-research environment Internet-based tools are utilized for: instrument design and deployment (e.g., Web survey tools, Web site annotation tools); data analysis, qualitative and quantitative; and data preservation, often termed archiving, usually in a form suitable for long-term retention and access by other researchers. See especially Chapters 9 and 10 on data visualization and Chapters 11, 12 and 13 on archiving and data reuse.

The third and final cluster of research activities in the figure is termed Scholarly Communication and has similarities with the activities often associated with science communication (see e.g., Garvey, Lin, Nelson, & Tomita, 1972). Like constructions of science communication, scholarly communication in an e-research environment involves two overlapping forms of communication, both directed at parties external to the research project: informal and formal. Informal scholarly communication is reflected in blog postings, contributions to discussion lists maintained by individuals, institutions, disciplines, and scholarly associations; and specialized wikis. Formal scholarly communication, often considered synonymous with academic publishing, may involve preparation and distribution of conference papers, institutional working papers, journal articles, chapters in edited books and single-authored monographs. All of these forms of external, formal scholarly publication can transpire in a networked environment through the posting of manuscripts on personal Web homepages, to placement on pre-print and post-print article repositories, through publication of manuscripts in on-line journals and on the sites of Web-based book publishers. These forms of scholarly publishing are illustrated in more detail in the next section; see also Chapters 14 and 15 for discussion of access and intellectual property.

At the bottom of the figure are indications of the e-research tools related to each of the activity clusters. This indication of tools is incomplete, as are other features of the figure. For example, the figure suggests a relational form between the three clusters of research activities by the two-directional arrows. The exact nature of that relation – at what points in time with what intensity and regarding which specific facets of the clusters – is not specified. Important as such concerns are, they go beyond the general purpose of this figure within the context of this anthology, which is to suggest a place for the topics addressed in the book chapters. In addition, the figure is meant to suggest a framework for the previously specified characteristics of e-research: computerization, networked environment, virtual organization, collaboration, tools, visualization, and issues related to publication. This last characteristic is part of the cluster Scholarly Communication. Although attended to in the book, particularly in Chapter 14, the cluster merits further elaboration, which is provided in the following section.

 

SCHOLARLY COMMUNICATION

A thread running through e-research – any form of research, for that matter – is communication. This thread has come to be termed the ‘communication turn’ in some circles (Leydesdorff, 2002).[x] The centrality of communication is perhaps so self-evident that it is taken for granted, considered an unconscious and natural given. Scholarly communication, a subunit of this communication turn, is very broad and can be delineated differently.[xi] Microsoft External Research (2008), for example, suggests the ‘Scholarly Communication Life Cycle’ consisting of four cyclic phases of knowledge production: data collection and analysis; authoring; publication and distribution; and archiving and preservation. In some of these areas, like authoring, much development has already taken place and the resulting tools are well integrated into scholarly work: word processing software, sometimes in a networked environment (e.g., Google Docs) and referencing and annotation tools (e.g., EndNote, Citeulike, and Zotero). In this chapter, however, scholarly communication is viewed as the presentation of research findings to an audience external to the research project, home department or institution of the researcher, for the purpose of sharing and contributing to knowledge. As noted in the previous section, such communication may be informal or formal in character. Traditionally, emphasis rested with, and importance was attributed to, formal communication as reflected in journal and book publications. Such tradition is still prominent across the social sciences and humanities, but changes are appearing with the emergence of e-research.

Change there is, but determination of intensity, duration, and extensiveness are difficult tasks, and these aspects are not the objectives of this modest introduction. Instead, the purpose is to present a range of illustrations related to ongoing concerns in scholarly communication. Using the previously suggested division, the illustrations are framed according to informal and formal types of scholarly communication, a division adopted in other studies, particularly in the field of science communication (e.g., Garvey et al., 1972; Hurd, 2000).

Informal scholarly communication

Depending on the academic environment in question, use of informal Web-based communication seems to be exploding: wikis; Web sites for sharing photos, videos and slides; blogs; social network sites; Web meeting tools and platforms allowing variants of instant messaging. Precursors of contemporary social media are email lists, newsgroups and electronic bulletin board systems that became prominent in the 1980s. These early systems have since been refined and now it is commonplace for many scholars to subscribe, and occasionally contribute, to a range of discussion and mailing lists focusing on specific disciplines and themes. Blogs are also regularly maintained by scholars in particular fields; research centers and less formally organized research groups often maintain group blogs designed to perform a similar function: provision of a virtual outlet for sharing information and reflections on topics of interest.[xii] Wikis have become standard venues for projects and research groups. Some social networking sites like Facebook offer group pages and organizations such as the Association of Internet Researchers maintain a space on this site; others like LinkedIn are designed to cultivate professional networks, and SlideShare is illustrative of a venue where Powerpoint presentations, optionally including an audio overlay, can be stored and shared; YouTube is the repository for some academics wishing to share videos of their own presentations, occasionally achieving thousands of viewings.[xiii] Perhaps the pinnacle of such informal scholarly communication venues is the rapid growth of research and educational institutions with a presence in Second Life, ‘places’ supporting instruction and research projects (e.g., Shepherd, 2007).[xiv]

Although there is clearly much development in the area of informal scholarly communication, little is known beyond anecdotal information; quite basically, it is not known which scholars in which disciplines use which social media for what purposes, with what assessment. Without such information, there may be a tendency to extrapolate from unrepresentative personal knowledge and assume more interest and use than are actually present.

One of the few studies designed to systematically explore informal scholarly communication is, at the time of this writing, on-going, with an interim report released in August 2008. This report suggests much less interest and use of social media for scholarship than implied by the large number of media initiatives noted above (Harley, Earl-Novell, Acord, Lawrence, & King, 2008). The study is based on exploratory interviews with faculty at different stages of career development, mainly located at the University of California Berkeley and distributed across seven disciplines: archaeology, astrophysics, biology, economics, history, music, and political science. Perhaps the overall – and very tentative – observation by the authors of this report is a reserved and discipline-differentiated view: the general enthusiasm for new media “should not be conflated with the hard reality of tenure and promotion requirements…in highly competitive professional environments” Harley et al., 2008: 1).

Although understandably cautious in drawing conclusions at such an early stage in the project, Harley and colleagues (2008: 6) stress the importance of disciplinary culture and tradition, and that these factors may “override the perceived ‘opportunities’ afforded by new technologies, including those falling into the Web 2.0 category”. In fact, innovative scholarship may not necessarily relate to the use of cutting-edge technologies: “More than a few scholars have suggested that technology used indiscriminately and for its own sake can limit the scope of questions asked and therefore lead to detrimental effects on the quality of scholarship” (Harley et al., 2008: 6). Some of the disciplinary differences noted in the report suggest that astrophysicists, political scientists, and economists are more predisposed to sharing scholarship through pre-print repositories and personal Web sites than are scholars in biology, history and archaeology. Nevertheless, there is “universal enthusiastic embrace” (Harley et al., 2008: 12) of Internet-based scholarly materials such as electronic journals, e-books, datasets, and governmental archives.

One factor that may influence future use of social media in informal scholarly communication not specifically addressed in this report is the increasing utilization of these media in the university classroom. Web sites, wikis, and blogs are becoming prominent, and initiatives are being undertaken to incorporate student familiarity and acceptance of social network sites in classroom activities (see, e.g., Salaway & Caruso, 2008).[xv] Considerable and substantive change, in other words, may be forthcoming in the arena of informal scholarly communication as the education setting adopts social media (Maron & Smith, 2008).[xvi]

 

Formal scholarly communication

Formal scholarly communication, sometimes termed traditional academic publishing, is undergoing intense debate among the core groups involved – authors, editors, publishers, librarians – and much of this debate relates to the convergence of four factors:

  • Escalating costs of periodicals, particularly in the fields of science, technology and medicine;
  • Decreasing university resources for library acquisitions and for publication of scholarly monographs by university presses;
  • Mounting revolt by coalitions of research librarians, journal editors, board members, and authors against the pricing practices of commercial publishers;
  • Expanding opportunities for publishing through digitalization, especially through tools for authoring, processing, and distributing scholarship via the Internet.

The fusion of these factors has resulted in an explosion of initiatives on almost all fronts of formal scholarly communication. The amount and rate of change is great and on-going, making reflection difficult and prediction impossible. This section provides, then, a mere snapshot of innovations for journal and book publishing.

Regarding the first three points, various observers have charted the escalating costs of periodicals. Townsend (2003) calculates that science, technology and medicine (STM) journals increased by 600% in the period 1982-2002. Simultaneously, funds for acquisition by research libraries decreased along with the number of subscriptions.[xvii] Buckholtz (2001) compiles stories of academics that have taken a public stand against the escalating prices of journals that essentially confine access to those scholars affiliated with well-endowed research institutions; these academics have refused to write, edit or otherwise serve such titles.[xviii] In some cases like an Elsevier title on computer programming, entire editorial boards have resigned in protest to rising costs. In this case, some of the editors established a new title with Oxford University Press, reducing the subscription price substantially.[xix]

 

Regarding the fourth point, digitalization, since the early days of electronic publishing in the late 1980s there has been a generally optimistic proclamation as to how the publishing industry would be affected. John Thompson (2005) devotes a series of chapters in his definitive work Books in the Digital Age to critically examining this ‘digital revolution’. Many experiments have been initiated across the past two decades with forms of electronic publishing, a number of which are detailed by Thompson. Here, only a small selection of recent reports and innovations are noted.

To begin, the potential of this ‘digital revolution’ is described in the Ithaka Report ‘University Publishing in a Digital Age’, using an upbeat style strikingly similar to that used to describe e-science and cyberinfrastructure:

We believe the next stage will be in the creation of new formats made possible by digital technologies, ultimately allowing scholars to work in deeply integrated electronic research and publishing environments that will enable real-time dissemination, collaboration, dynamically-updated content, and usage of new media. (Brown, Griffiths, & Rascoff, 2007: 4)

In fairness to the authors, the remainder of the report describes the considerable challenges facing university publishing houses within such an environment, particularly the need to address the central mandate of these houses – contributing to the public availability of scholarship – in a financially constrained setting.

One of the developments related to digitalization is the multitude of initiatives to create digitalized copies of the holdings of national and research libraries worldwide. Most major national libraries have such projects or have joined alliances with third-parties, notably Google. The Google initiative, initially proposed in 2006, has been both roundly lauded and equally criticized. The praise basically relates to making knowledge accessible beyond the holdings of individual libraries; in the words of one reflection composed immediately after legal agreement was reached on 28 October 2008, “this agreement is likely to change forever the way that we find and browse for books, particularly out-of-print books” (Von Lohmann, 2008). The reservations relate to protection of intellectual property, commercial interests, and bias towards scholarship published in English from American institutions.[xx]

Digitalization of books is not only an activity involving libraries and their collections, but also publishers and their interest in securing a sustainable market for academic-oriented publications. The scholarly monograph has been an endangered species in the world of publishing for decades and university presses have tried a large variety of rescue operations, none particularly successful (see, e.g., Thompson, 2005; Townsend, 2007). Some of the more recent rescue efforts include offering for free digital versions of monographs, gambling that such ‘give-aways’ may stimulate purchase of the printed version by libraries.[xxi] Commercial publishers have experimented in a more limited manner with this same strategy, as have government bodies (e.g., The National Academies Press, http://www.nap.edu/).

 

Journals

Although much in the world of journal publishing has changed since 1665 when Henry Oldenburg launched Philosophical Transactions, the first scholarly periodical, the four functions of journals have remained central: registration, dissemination, peer review, and archival record (Armbruster, 1989). What has changed, sometimes radically, is how journal publishing attends to these functions, particularly since digitalization and the Internet. To begin, scholarly journals have been proliferating at an astounding rate. Such multiplication of titles has been the order of the day for several decades, coupled to a profitable commercial strategy (Townsend, 2003). Digitalization and the Internet have accelerated this already established trend. Other contributions to change regarding the functions are less visible, but equally significant, such as software installation automating back office procedures for processing manuscripts, contributing to more efficient processing. Online manuscript management has become standard practice among most titles. Two other developments, still on-going and highly relevant to e-research, are peer review procedures, and online access to and repositories for articles.

 

Peer review

Formal scholarly communication, at the most fundamental and general level, is about contributing new knowledge and subjecting contributions to peer review and public debate. Various mechanisms have been established to assess the quality of contributions, of which peer review is the most prevalent. Peer review takes many forms, from the kind of collegial reactions provided during a departmental staff meeting about a draft manuscript to formalized double-blind reviewing procedures of submissions to publishers and funding agencies.

With regard to academic journals, peer review involves agreement by authors to allow their work to be assessed by other scholars prior to publication. When the procedure works well, extended substantive comment is received from two or more anonymous experts. These reviews are considered by a journal editor who comes to a decision regarding publication, sometimes after several rounds of review and manuscript revision. Although this process has been made more efficient and rapid since widespread use of email and software for journal management, the review process can still take several months to complete, which is one of the enduring criticism authors have of peer review.[xxii]

 

Other criticisms of peer review have been voiced (e.g., Godlee & Jefferson, 1999) and poignantly summarized:

It is unreliable, unfair and fails to validate or authenticate; it is unstandardized and open to bias; blinded peer review invites malice, either from ad hominem attacks on the author or by facilitating plagiarism; it stifles innovation; it lends spurious authority to reviewers; reviewers knowledgeable enough to review a study are often competitors, and therefore have a conflict of interest; and it causes unnecessary delays in publication. (Huston, 2001)

Despite such critique, peer review of journal articles is almost universally accepted as the necessary procedure for scholarly work to be admitted to the formal record of scientifically-based knowledge. Double-blind peer review is considered, in fact, the ‘gold standard’ for quality journal publishing across the spectrum of scholarship. In an international study of peer review, commissioned by the Publishing Research Consortium (Ware & Monkman, 2008), academics strongly support the principles of peer review. Based on responses from 3101 journal authors, reviewers, and editors, the study reflects the opinions of scholars in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. [xxiii]

 

Experiments abound to improve or even to dispense with conventional double-blind peer review. A few exceptionally innovative titles, like the British Medical Journal (BMJ), have a long history with open access and open peer review procedures.[xxiv] One recent experiment, resulting in a different assessment of open peer review, was conducted by Nature in 2006. The editors were interested whether a venue for open, signed comment might contribute to manuscript improvement; readers were polled and there seemed to be much interest in this form of review. During the four-month period of the trial, authors of submissions, nearly 1400, were asked whether they wished to have their work placed on the server established for the experiment; a small fraction (5%, 71 papers) agreed to take part. Of these papers about half received comments; the majority were technical in nature. The largest number of comments received by any one paper was ten. By the end of the trial period, only a small number of authors had decided to take part and an even smaller group had received comments of a substantive nature. In these respects the degree of participation resembles that of discussion lists: a handful of participants within a population of thousands (Schneider, 1997; Hagemann, 2002). In contrast, as suggested by the BMJ experience, other titles involving other scholars operating in other disciplinary cultures may come to different assessments of open peer review.

Some opportunities for online commentary fall short of the intentions of journal article peer review, but nevertheless merit mention here because they contribute to collective debate of manuscripts, albeit less formal. Scientific American, for example, placed an initial version of an article-in-development on its Web site and invited commentary from readers (Waldrop, 2008). During the course of five weeks, some 130 comments were posted, a large number of which were extended and substantive. The initiative MediaCommons does essentially the same, using software that permits paragraph-by-paragraph commentary.[xxv]

 

Online access & repositories

Another prominent area of change in journal publishing is the relatively rapid development and embracement of an online environment by scholars and publishers. Most major journal publishers now offer institutional subscribers a variety of packages that may include a set of titles made available in print and also accessible from a Web site maintained by the publisher. Other Web-based initiatives in this area are taken by scholarly associations and special interest groups. These initiatives, however, are little more than mirror-images of print journals; very few titles are exploring multimedia publishing formats with inclusion of dynamic visualizations and access to datasets.[xxvi]

The most significant issue related to online journal publishing is the kind and degree of open access provided to journal titles and articles. Commercial publishers have been reticent to take a lead in this area; as a consequence, the primary initiatives have been developed by scholarly associations, sometimes in collaboration with universities. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals are the prototype of this kind of publishing. At present there are seven PLoS journals in the biology, medicine, and genetics (see http://www.plos.org/). One of the reservations voiced regarding some open access journals is that a fee is charged for publication. The PLoS journals, for example, request such a fee, although payment is not required. A few commercial publishers have adapted the author fee model and offer free and immediate access to an author’s article providing the author pays for such. Some authors publishing under the auspices of funded projects can arrange for payment, but many other scholars do not have such financial freedom. In 2008 the University of California at Berkeley, following initiatives at other institutions, announced the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII) that is designed to help support open access to scholarship by establishing a fund to assist scholars in paying any necessary fees (BRII, 2008).

Perhaps the greatest incentive encouraging access to scholarship has occurred outside the domain of publishing: funding agencies, universities and associations of scholars have contributed to development of digital repositories for scholarship. Scholarly associations frequently maintain repositories of papers accepted for presentation at conferences, but submission of material is often voluntary and authors are sometimes concerned that availability, even in those cases where these repositories are restricted to members of the associations, may be construed as a form of publication and prohibit subsequent submission to academic journals. Some of the natural sciences have established repositories for papers, including texts not yet accepted for journal publication. The pioneering initiative of this kind, arXive, was launched a decade ago and has archived more than a half-million documents in the fields of physics, computer science, quantitative biology, and statistics; see http://arxiv.org/. Depending on the procedures, pre-print repositories may resemble variants of self-publishing with no external quality control, but for some disciplines immediate public release of an idea is more important than the patience required for peer review certification.

Some funding agencies, such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the United States, require that publications, and in some cases data, be deposited in publically available repositories. Universities are also establishing institutionally-based repositories of papers published or accepted for publication; participation is sometimes mandatory, particularly when institutions are concerned about research assessment exercises as in some European countries (Borgman, 2007: 195). The number of repositories across disciplines, countries, and institutions is multiplying rapidly; the Directory of Open Access Repositories, OpenDOAR, notes more than 1200 at the time of this writing; see http://www.opendoar.org/.

 

Organization of Book

As previously mentioned, the chapters in this volume provide a panoramic portrayal of issues related to e-research. Although several organizational structures for the collection could be suitably employed, preference is given here to seven clusters of concerns reflected in Figure 1.1: conceptualization of e-research, policy developments, collaboration among researchers, visualization of findings, data preservation and reuse, access and intellectual property, and case studies of projects illustrating features of e-research. Many of the chapters address several of these concerns and almost all are concerned with conceptualizing e-research, but there is accentuation as reflected in these categories. The final category, case studies, is the exception and here presentations are made of full e-research projects.

 

Conceptualization

Two chapters concentrate on issues directly related to the conceptualization of e-research. In Chapter 2, Ralph Schroeder and Jennifer Fry construct a map of social science approaches and e-research. This map provides an overview of different disciplines involved in e-science research, specifically those disciplines closely affiliated with e-science. The authors discuss the relations identified and illustrate them through attention to a range of projects in the U.K. The overview suggests the considerable diversity in disciplinary approaches to e-research, and this insight can be valuable in understanding its co-constructed character, involving both the technologies and the specific transformations of these by scholars in a diversity of disciplines. One of the concluding concerns Schroeder and Fry raise is the degree to which e-research will contribute to a longer term understanding within the sociology of science.

In Chapter 3, Anne Beaulieu and Paul Wouters approach the conceptualization of e-research from a perspective emphasizing intervention, and they take as their starting point the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences (VKS) in the Netherlands. The authors discuss the tensions involved in combining reflexive analysis with the practical design of scholarly practices. These dual objectives entail that the VKS is both a research program and an infrastructural facility for scholars, a combination that can be problematic: design and analysis are different types of scientific and scholarly work, with different temporal horizons and different coalitions of interests. How this duality plays out and how the Internet can be used as an arena for research is the challenge addressed.

Development

The next section, development, consists of three chapters, each addressing aspects of policy and its implementation as related to the emergence of e-science and e-research in different geographic regions. Chapter 4, prepared by Peter Halfpenny, Rob Procter, Yuwei Lin and Alex Voss, focuses on developments in the U.K. related to what has come to be known as e-social science. The authors reflect on the development of the research program of the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) and delineate its achievements and the challenges faced. Attention focuses on engagement and interaction with users, facilitating communication between social scientists and computer scientists, outreach towards the wider social science research community, and collaboration with the e-science community at an international level. To provide an account of the current state of e-social science in the U.K., a wide range of sources is reviewed, tracing the origin and development of the Centre. In the process, the authors map the British ‘e-social science community’, identifying its stakeholders, the state-of-the-art technologies, how these technologies are deployed, and the strategies emerging that facilitate uptake.

Chapter 5 focuses on e-research as a reflection of the scholarly community in the humanities in Australia. The chapter authors, Paul Genoni, Helen Merrick, and Michele Willson, describe e-research practices in the humanities, based on a survey exploring how scholars use the Internet for teaching and research purposes. Of particular interest are the informal, behind-the-scenes, communicative and collaborative practices that instigate, manage, and produce e-research outcomes. The authors examine communication processes facilitated by computer-mediated communication, drawing upon specific case studies of new and existing e-research groups and distributed collaborative projects. One of their conclusions notes the importance of institutional, social and economic factors in the adoption and use of e-research technologies.

Chapter 6, prepared by Carol Soon and Han Woo Park, explores the emergence of e-social science policy in South Korea and Singapore. This chapter contributes to re-addressing a Western bias by focusing primarily on issues related to scholarly practice in e-research within the context of two Asian countries. The high level of Internet and broadband penetration in Singapore is a result of that government’s initiatives to create an e-inclusive society within the nation-state. In the case of South Korea, the country is currently an important node in advanced research networks. One of the challenges to e-science development in these Asian countries is the need for a change among social scientists and humanities scholars regarding the value of e-research. An increase in education and training programs may, according to the authors, positively contribute to further development.

 

Collaboration

The third section is concerned with collaboration among researchers, often at a distance, and includes two chapters. Chapter 7, prepared by Petra Sonderegger, addresses the planning and management of globally distributed research teams. It is unclear to what extent the discovery and interpretation of new research problems necessitate the co-presence of researchers. And, as projects become more complex and are distributed over greater distances, in-person meetings are often not feasible or practical. While new communication technologies allow more frequent communications between distant collaborators, they also reduce the richness of that communication; facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice may be lost. However, successful collaboration relies to a large extent on intense interaction to create a shared language, a common understanding of problems, and the trust required for members of a group to suggest original and untried solutions. Sonderegger, drawing on an ethnographic study conducted in Bangalore, India, explores how corporations and researchers deal with the challenge of collaborating across geographic distance and organizational boundaries using technology-mediated communication.

In Chapter 8, Eric Meyer discusses issues that arise when small scientific projects become part of larger scientific collaborations, seen from a social informatics perspective. Data from two distinct areas of scholarship are presented: a study of humpback whale research involving federating data related to the population and movements of these mammals in the Pacific Ocean and a study of collaboration among scholars in the field of psychiatric genetics contributing to a large, shared data repository. While these two cases represent very different scientific domains, they share a number of characteristics including decentralized decision-making, limited data management expertise, and long-term collections of data – all of which have contributed to difficulties in moving into an e-science environment. One of the issues Meyer raises is the tension between flexibility and innovation in scientific practice, counter-balanced by need for compatible data standards in large-scale data infrastructures.

 

Visualization

Chapter 9, authored by Mike Thelwall, draws upon experiences in the field of Webometrics to describe the problems and techniques involved when collecting and visualizing data about the Internet. Social science research, drawing upon raw data from search engines, is in the unprecedented position of being granted free access to a huge heterogeneous corpus of information, but requiring technical computing knowledge to understand the data and extract it efficiently. Thelwall provides examples of visualizations used in a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, and examines some of the software available for preparation of such illustrations. Three detailed cases of visualizations are presented: the visualization of Wikipedia edits, charted in the History Flow project of IBM; a dynamic display of group interactions that is part of the research project Evolino; and a treemap of Usenet postings generated within the Microsoft Netscan project. Thelwall concludes with suggestions for further exploration, the first of which involves documentation of the emergence of visualizations across disciplines and across time.

Chapter 10, by Howard Welser, Thomas Lento, Marc Smith, Eric Gleave, and Itia Himelboim, presents initiatives to enhance data visualization developed at Microsoft Research. Researchers and technologists increasingly apply information visualization techniques to the data generated by social media on the Internet in an effort to gain insights that may have been far more difficult to grasp with qualitative methods alone. In recent work, the authors have explored for representations of data structures, such as hierarchies and network structures. The authors present examples of visualizations that highlight the range of behaviour performed in computational social media. They illustrate work around Usenet, one of the oldest institutions and infrastructures of social interaction on the internet, and describe the scales, structures and maps created and containing elements from these spaces, some of which may be relevant to more recent developments with social media.

 

Data preservation & reuse

Chapter 11, prepared by Steven Schneider, Kirsten Foot, and Paul Wouters, is concerned with one of the enigmas of e-research: preserving Web sites in a manner allowing scientific study. As the Web has become an object of research, Web archiving has emerged as a form of inquiry enabling developmental and retrospective analyses of many kinds of online phenomena. Web archiving has become a component of e-research practiced by scholars concerned with phenomena mediated via digital, networked technologies. The authors analyze current and potential uses of Web archiving and the challenges this imposes on research practice. The analyses facilitated by Web archiving utilize both quantitative and qualitative methods employed on a large scale, over time, and by distributed research teams. The chapter concludes by identifying the challenges social researchers encounter in archiving Web-based material.

Chapter 12, by Ann Zimmerman, Nathan Bos, Judy Olson, and Gary Olson, provides a panorama of the problems encountered in sharing data. The need to share data and to exchange knowledge about data is a primary driver behind many visions of e-science. Yet, efforts to share data face considerable social, organizational, legal, scientific, and technical challenges. This chapter reports findings from an analysis of the data sharing approaches used by large collaborations in several scientific disciplines. The findings are based on a five-year study of distributed collaborations across many domains. The results suggest that different types of data sharing solutions place different demands on those who produce data, and on those who are responsible for collecting, managing and making data available for use by others.

In Chapter 13 Samuelle Carlson and Ben Anderson present four case studies: SkyProject, SurveyProject, CurationProject, and AnthroProject. These projects provide the empirical basis through which the authors consider the extent data can be extracted from its original context and made available for other researchers operating in other contexts. Considerable difference was found regarding data sharing among these four projects, generally following the disciplinary lines of the projects: the astronomers associated with SkyProject, for example, differed radically from the anthropologists of AnthroProject regarding the suitability of providing access to data beyond the original team of researchers and regarding the possibility of preserving the data outside the initial research context. These four case studies contribute to an ongoing discussion of the potential benefits and drawbacks of embedding e-(social) science in everyday practice and the incentives required to do so. They suggest that the future of e-social science depends heavily on the existing practices of disciplines and on whether data are ‘born digital’.

Access & intellectual property

Robert Lucas and John Willinsky, the authors of Chapter 14, consider the idea of open access as related to e-research. They present an ethical and epistemological argument for open access to scholarly publications and review recent developments in access to data and published work. They propose that, in addition to strengthening scholarly practice, open access enables scientific findings to better inform public debate and promote the ideal of free inquiry in the broader culture. The field of medicine is presented as an example of how greater public access to research has contributed to the democratic quality of people’s lives, and it is suggested that this societal benefit can be extended across the spectrum of scholarship.

Chapter 15, by Dan Burk, is concerned with intellectual property in the arena of e-science. Intellectual property regimes are generally problematic in the practice of science: scientific research typically assumes practices of openness that may be hampered or obstructed by intellectual property rights. Much attention has been paid to documenting and analyzing the impact of patents on research in the biomedical area, and the history of recent major scientific initiatives, such as the Human Genome Project, have been punctuated by clashes over the propriety and provision of patent rights in the accumulated data. These developments are examined in this chapter and are related to innovative proposals such as the open source ‘copyleft’ model. This model may be a valuable mechanism for preserving similar values in e-science. Burk argues for awareness not only of the technical structure, but also of the social and communicative structures of e-science in order to adapt licensing solutions to scholarly practice.

 

Case studies

The final section of the book presents two case studies that include a broad range of the features of e-research, which could not easily be included in one of the earlier sections. Chapter 16, prepared by Bridgette Wessels and Max Craglia, discusses a co-construction project involving social scientists and computer scientists. Participants in the project explore the opportunities offered by grid computer architecture in addressing the relationship between socio-economic characteristics, neighborhoods, and crime – a relationship at the forefront of criminology for decades. The authors consider the significance of change in relation to the characteristics of the social sciences and the ways scholars may wish to shape the practice of e-social science.

Chapter 17, by Clifford Tatum and Michele LaFrance, explores the collaborative processes used in the development of Wikipedia content. Through examining the construction of Wikipedia articles via the lens of established knowledge constructs, the authors aim to gain insight into practices of collaborative e-science. Specifically, Tatum and LaFrance examine the consensus model of knowledge production and conflict resolution of Wikipedia articles. Using a theoretical framework developed by Latour and Woolgar (1979), three components emerge as valuable in the analysis of the articles: construction, agonistic field, and reification. These components are elaborated and the authors speculate on transformations of scholarly communication illustrated by Wikipedia and other forms of Web-based social media.

 

CONCLUDING NOTE

Ending where this chapter began, there seems to be much change afoot across the social sciences and humanities, but how much, where exactly, and how lasting these changes may be are unknowns. The contributions to this book set out to clarify much of this uncertainty in the disciplines and topics addressed. The authors also begin to identify areas for further empirical work, designed to understand the transformations related to e-research seemingly underway. This is not the place to repeat the suggestions for further investigation the authors provide, but it is opportunity to mention a few overarching issues.

First, two kinds of chronicling seem to be required to understand possible transformations in scholarship. In the first place, the kind of in-depth qualitative study Christine Hine (2008) provides for a single discipline, the division of biology called systematics, is needed for many other disciplines. The insightful richness provided by such ethnographies is hard to surpass and her work follows in a tradition emphasizing this kind of investigation (e.g., Latour & Woolgar, 1979). At the same time and in almost the same breadth, broad surveys are required that monitor adoption, adaption, and assessment of specific components of e-research. The empirical work of the group at the U. C. Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education (Harley et al., 2008) is illustrative of such cross-disciplinary, focused investigation. Of course, such surveys should be extended beyond elite universities in the United States, and include research institutions situated in other geographic regions.

Second, much insight is to be gained from exploring the non-adopters and ‘laggards’ – an observation frequently made about the introduction of new media more generally (e.g., Wyatt, 2008: 9). Understanding why members of some disciplines reject distant collaboration, data sharing, and currently fashionable Web 2.0 tools may help realize the limitations of the ‘revolution in science’ frequently prophesized.

Third, and last, it is important to emphasize the contextualization of change reflected in scholarly cultures, disciplines, and associations as situated in broader social, economic, and political factors at work in crafting the course of science and, more generally, of scholarship. Of course, globalization is a prominent factor in developments, but so are less international visions of nation-states and their governmental administrations with agendas designed to achieve the competitive and economic benefits attributed to e-science, cyberinfrastructure, and e-research.

Christine Borgman (2007: xix) concludes the preface to Scholarship in the Digital Age with an enticing invitation: “Let the conversation begin.” She and others have, indeed, contributed much to that conversation. The chapters in this book may be considered additions to such discourse, but also to a growing array of studies spanning the social sciences and humanities regarding the emergence of e-research and the ongoing transformations of scholarly practice. Rephrasing Borgman, let the exploration continue.

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Notes

[i] Illustrative of Big Science institutions is the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that was established at the height of the Cold War for weapons research and run by the University of California for the U.S. government. This facility has since been reorganized as a “national security laboratory…responsible for ensuring that the nation’s nuclear weapons remain safe, secure, and reliable…” (LLNL, 2008).

 

[ii] An alternative conceptualization of Big Science, formulated later by de Solla Price (1993), places emphasis on the maturity of the scientific field rather than on the largeness of its instrumentation, budget and wealth of data; see Borgman (2007: 28).

[iii] Christine Hine (2008: 25-27) accentuates the prescient nature of Wouters’ contribution, reproducing in entirety the call for papers he prepared for a 1996 conference session of the European Association for Studies of Science and Technology. The most striking feature of this call is the wide range of topics, 23 in total, suggested as suitable contributions for the proposed session on cyberscience.

[iv] Some of these early visionary statements remain available on the Web site of the British National e-Science Centre (NeSC), including Taylor’s claim that “e-Science will change the dynamic of the way science is undertaken” (quoted at NeSC, n.d.).

 

[v] A technically-oriented literature on grid computer architecture is available, but the basic description of this grid relates the development to other systems of services, like the electrical grid that provides electricity to homes and industries. Foster (2003) and Buyya and Venugopal (2005) provide accessible introductions for non-specialists.

 

[vi] This metaphor belies the complexity of the notion ‘infrastructure’, which is critically addressed in the workshop report ‘Understanding Infrastructure: Dynamics, Tensions, and Design’ (Edwards, Jackson, Bowker, & Knobel, 2007). One of the ideas Edwards and his colleagues criticize is that infrastructure somehow reflects a “planned, orderly and mechanical act” (Edwards et al., 2007: i).

[vii] A relatively recent formulation of cyberinfrastructure from the University of Indiana suggests essentially the same ingredients: “Cyberinfrastructure consists of computing systems, data storage systems, advanced instruments and data repositories, visualization environments, and people, all linked together by software and high performance networks to improve research productivity and enable breakthroughs not otherwise possible“ (Indiana University, 2007).

[viii] One of these initiatives is CTWatch, ‘Cyberinfrastructure Technology Watch’, which strives to “engage the science and engineering research community in the news, ideas, and information surrounding the emergence of cyberinfrastructure as the essential foundation for advanced scientific inquiry” (CTWatch Quarterly, 2005). Another initiative is CI Outreach, ‘Empowering People to use Cyberinstrastructure Resources’, and is concerned with soliciting and supporting the education, training, and outreach needs of the scientific research projects within the cyberinfrastructure community, targeting underrepresented groups such as women, minorities and the disabled; see http://www.ci-outreach.org/index.php.

 

[ix] Daniel Atkins, former director of the NSF Office of Cyberinfrastructure, has constructed a large number of figures illustrating the features of cyberinfrastructure, sometimes in relation to the other terms noted in this chapter – e-science, e-research, e-infrastructure, cyberscience; see, e.g., http://www.nsf.gov/od/oci/TeraGrid6-06.pdf. Seldom, however, is indication provided in these figures of the respective contexts, histories, components, and relations among the terms. These relations were also left largely unaddressed in a recent presentation by Atkins during the 2008 Oxford eResearch Conference (http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/microsites/eresearch08/index.cfm), suggesting that additional comparative analysis is still awaiting attention.

 

[x] This ‘turn’ leans on the previously suggested turn to linguistics in philosophy (Rorty, 1967 / 1992). The metaphor has also been used to suggest a ‘cultural turn’ describing the emergence of cultural studies and a ‘qualitative turn’ reflecting increased interest in interpretative research (Jensen, 1991).

[xi] The amount of research conducted on scholarly communication is daunting. One of the most complete bibliographies of this work (Bailey, 2002) contains some 230 pages and thousands of entries.

 

[xii] For an illustration of an institutional blog see the one maintained at the Oxford Internet Institute site: http://people.oii.ox.ac.uk/. In a similar fashion, the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics sponsors a group blog called The Valve: http://www.thevalve.org/go.

[xiii] Some institutions, such as the Berkman Center for Internet & Society (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive), have their own YouTube channels at which presentations hosted by the institutions are archived. Individual scholars similarly make use of YouTube to document presentations; see, e.g., the presentation by Michael Wesch, University of Kansas, at the Library of Congress, 23 June 2008, ‘An anthropological introduction to YouTube’: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU&feature=related.

[xiv] The number of university-level institutions that have ‘taken up shop’ in Second Life is not known precisely and is difficult to determine; see http://secondliferesearch.blogspot.com/2007/07/current-list-of-universities-in-second.html. A report released in May 2008 suggests three-quarters of all U.K. institutions for higher education are represented Second Life (Kirriemuir, 2008).

[xv] A recent thread on the AoIR discussion list (November 2008) considered ways to use Wikipedia for classroom assignments. Blogging as a pedagogical tool has been discussed extensively (e.g., http://www.det.wa.edu.au/education/cmis/eval/curriculum/ict/weblogs/). Platforms for educational use of blogs were experimented with as early as 2003 (http://incsub.org/2005/edublogs-are-go); two years later Edublogs (http://edublogs.org/) was established and in 2008 this platform hosted nearly 250,000 educationally-oriented blogs.

[xvi] One example of such adoption is the place being given to YouTube in the classroom; see the George Lucas Educational Foundation group blog Edutopic for a series of postings: http://www.edutopia.org/search/node/youtube. See also initiatives by Michael Wesch in using YouTube and other new media in cultural anthropology courses at Kansas State University: http://www.ksu.edu/sasw/anthro/wesch.htm.

[xvii] Presentation of such figures is frequently found on the Web sites of associations of libraries and librarians; see the Stanford University library site on scholarly communication for a recent overview, including a graph illustrating rising costs across time: http://www-sul.stanford.edu/scholarly_com/. A large number of universities maintain sections of their web sites describing these and other aspects of scholarly communication (e.g., copyright, repositories, policies from funding bodies regarding access to publications). About a dozen such sites are listed at the UC Berkeley Library site: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/scholarlycommunication/beyond_berkeley.html.

[xviii] Such ‘tales’ are multiplying across disciplines, albeit most notably in the natural sciences. See Birman (2000) for an account of similar concern in mathematics. For an example outside the sciences, see danah boyd blog entry (6 February 2008) announcing a personal boycott of “locked-down academic journals” related to communication and Internet studies: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2008/02/06/openaccess_is_t.html.

[xix] Some commercial publishers have reacted defensively to these developments, notably Elsevier (2004). Thompson (2005: 100-101) suggests that Elsevier’s pricing of periodicals is in line with industry-wide increases. Other commercial publishers have sought alliance with initiatives favorable to open access, like HighWire Press; see http://highwire.stanford.edu/.

 

[xx] Jean-Nöel Jeanneney (2007), president of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, has penned perhaps the most compelling foreign dissenting opinion to the alliance with Google by research libraries, entitled Google and the myth of universal knowledge. A number of research libraries in the United States initiated a collective lawsuit against Google in 2005, which was resolved in October 2008 and involves among other things, payment of 45 million U.S. dollars to copyright holders of documents scanned and ditigalized. Overall, initial reactions were very positive about this settlement; one contributor to the Balkinization blog termed it a “win-win-win-win” situation for Google, copyholders, libraries and the public (Netanel, 2008). For an overview, commissioned by the Association of Research Libraries and the American Library Association, see Band (2008).

 

[xxi] In 2007 the University of Michigan Press established ‘digitalculturebooks’ as “an experimental publishing strategy” and has made titles available in both for free electronic and conventional for sale print versions (see, e.g., Turow & Tsui, 2008). MIT Press also offers some titles free on its Web site (e.g., Willinski, 2005) as part of its Open Access program. This program was preceded by the first initiative of this sort when, in 1994, MIT Press decided to release City of Bits in this dual fashion – at some measure of financial success, according to Thompson (2005: 330-331).

[xxii] Although such criticism is understandable, journal editors are experiencing increasing difficulty in securing quality reviews of submissions, requiring issuance of multiple requests for assessments and resulting in delayed reports to authors. This is one of the many issues addressed by a range of journal editors at a publishing workshop held at the 2008 annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (IR 9.0, Copenhagen, 15-18 Oct., http://conferences.aoir.org/).

[xxiii] Although this survey is perhaps the ‘best there is’ regarding assessment of peer review by scholars, the findings are based on a return rate of less than 7.7% of the more than 40,000 persons approached. It would be prudent to note that specific disciplinary findings are only indications rather than statistically representative reflections. Still, when aggregated, the respondents overwhelming feel peer review is necessary (93%), improves published papers (90%), provides a system of control (83%), and double-blind review is preferred (56%) as the most effective assessment procedure (Ware, 2008: 4).

[xxiv] On October 28, 2008, BMJ became an official open access journal, after a decade-long period with open access to research articles and a short-lived reversal to restricted access; for details see Open Access News: http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2008/10/bmj-converts-to-gratis-oa.html.

 

[xxv] The editors of MediaCommons describe this initiative, launched in 2007, as an all-electronic scholarly publishing network rather than as a conventional journal that “will not simply shift the locus of publishing from print to screen, but will actually transform what it means to ‘publish,’ allowing the author, the publisher, and the reader all to make the process of such discourse just as visible as its product.” See further: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/. Various blog posts by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, instrumental in launching this initiative, deal with the basic principles involved; see especially ‘On the Future of Academic Publishing, Peer Review and Tenure Requirements’, 6 January 2006: http://www.thevalve.org/go/valve/article/on_the_future_of_academic_publishing_peer_review_and_tenure_requirements_or.

 

[xxvi] In contrast, Vectors, Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, places emphasis on publication of multimedia contributions; the International Journal of Communication (IJOC) notes such publishing possibilities in its mission statement. Vectors is design oriented, IJOC reflects a relatively conventional approach to scholarship. See http://www.vectorsjournal.org/; http://ijoc.org/.