The future of academic publishing in the digital age

December 6, 2009 · by David Campbell · education, media economy

Over the past few months I have been part of an ad hoc working group with colleagues from Newcastle University that has been exploring the future of academic publishing. Two problematics framed our analysis: how are changes initiated by the digital economy affecting academic journals and how might the editorial team of a top flight journal in the social sciences respond to these challenges? As previously posted – here and here – our initial conclusions have been that current models of academic journal publishing that rely on limiting access to research are no longer sustainable.

Kyle Grayson has written a detailed and masterful post that summarises our research and details its conclusions. Along with Martin Coward, we are using our blogs to make the arguments available so that people can consider them in full, and Kyle’s post warrants sustained attention. A précis of our work underscores the points I made in my series on ‘revolutions in the media economy’ — we concluded that current modes of publishing and distributing academic research are hampered in their desire for impact by pay walls, an insufficient web presence, and a reluctance to embrace social media. We recommend open access publishing aided and abetted by social media technologies as a way of ensuring the widest distribution and greatest potential impact of the good work done in the academy.

The fundamental challenge is this: are those university managers in a position to effect change open to the transformations that flow from the trends we identified? We don’t have all the answers, but the questions are now unavoidable.

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