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Libraries Then, Twitter Now — The Transformation of Scholarly Communication

How the internet, social media and digital platforms have propelled the scholarly communication landscape.

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Scholarly communication is the process of creating, disseminating, and preserving an intellectual asset (a research paper or a research article) and presenting it to the academic realm.

The scholarly ecosystem revolves around four major groups of players: 

  1. Researcher — creates the asset 
  2. Publisher — converts the asset into a physical form (Prints)
  3. Library — stores and distributes the asset 
  4. User — consumes and translates into a new research piece

In the past, libraries were the fundamental entry point for researchers to gain access to educational resources or journal publications. But the unlikely high-cost structure of scholarly journals and the limited access to imperative knowledge paved the way for subscription-based access.

The advent of digital technologies has aligned well with this predicament by creating an online platform to disseminate research work faster and free of cost; with the expansion of the internet and technological advances, scholarly publishing has witnessed an unfathomable transformation from libraries and subscription-based access to digital publishing and open access.

Related: The History of Digital Content (Infographic)

This digital era has reinforced three significant developments:

1. The evolution of digital publishing

The evolution of digital publishing has contributed to the creation of an abundance of scholarly publishing initiatives that support open source and unrestricted access to all. It has altered the pattern of traditional publishing by offering an unprecedented rapid publication of research work and notable exposure for the author. The entire scholarly communication process has been revolutionized by digital publishing. Researchers have no need to make the effort of reaching out to libraries to refer to resources; instead, they can search online and access them effortlessly. In addition, researchers have a greater choice in disseminating their intellectual assets over the internet via repositories, online magazines, e-journals, e-print archives, etc. The exponential growth of e-publishing facilitates hassle-free knowledge sharing and grants authors a credible profile worldwide. Overall, it significantly impacts community building amongst researchers from diverse regions and unleashes global collaboration opportunities.

Related: How the Publishing Industry Has Learned to Thrive With the Social Media Industry

2. Innovation of open science (open source or open data)

Open science is based on the theory of planting your intellectual asset online to provide free instant access for readers and receive significant readership and traction in return.

The inception of open science led to the increased accessibility and usability of research works in all scientific fields. It leveraged digital publishing by encouraging readers to access full-length articles for free. Thus, the readers can refer to the research work infinite times and not have to pay any fees. And the authors are entitled to retain the copyrights to their respective works and opt for the creative common license model to safeguard their documents.

Open science has become the most used and favored option to make scholarly publications affordable by keeping the paywalls at bay. The more open access journals are accepted, the more feasible and affordable the scientific arena becomes.

Making science open can help the general public, or even non-scientific background readers, with access to public-funded research to learn more about science. It also helps tackle the public mistrust in scientific developments like genetic manipulation, etc. Hence, the publishing industry stakeholders are increasingly investing in open science projects to provide free online educational resources globally and disseminate evidence-based and high-quality research findings.

3. Birth of social media ethos

Undoubtedly, technological advancements such as podcasts, videos, blogs, social media, etc., have reshaped the publishing industry. The online resources represent an adjunct wealth of information, including video tutorials, pictures, infographics and e-books, which promote uploading and sharing large raw datasets with the respective community. One such example of the effective utilization of social media is FOAM (Free Open-Access Medical Education — a dynamic collection of online resources, communities and ethos that provides students bedside learning of clinical practice via a digital medium). Social media acts as a robust synergist in disseminating FOAM resources, and Twitter is considered to be the primary player in this effort.

Twitter, the brevity and efficient communication platform, has lately become the go-to media for research updates. It's free to use, and the compact paradigm is gaining momentum through re-tweets and trending hashtags. As a result, it encourages the audience to engage in critical discussions about the scientific arena or respective topics' threads.

In short, the lifecycle of scholarly communication has transformed from libraries to e-papers, papers to abstract and now abstract to tweet!

Despite the advantages of digital transformation of scholarly communication, many still stand by traditional publishing, which is definitely not wrong! The scientific arena is still evolving; the future of academic publishing will witness many more significant initiatives and advanced technological inclusions.

Related: What Twitter's Potential Flipboard Acquisition Means for the Publishing Industry

Saikiran Chandha

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Saikiran Chandha is the CEO and founder of Typeset, the all-in-one solution to discover, create, collaborate and publish research. He was a Times of India 40 under 40 awardee and was recently featured on Fortune and NASDAQ.