Create Change

Shouldn't the way we share research be as advanced as the Internet?

New Modes

Bringing down the barriers

With all the benefits of more open sharing of research, why hasn’t change proceeded more rapidly? There are a number of factors holding things back:

  • Economies extrinsic to scholarship have grown up around the sale (and now lease, in the digital context) of journals and monographs. Change has sometimes been hampered by efforts to protect publishing revenues and profits.

  • Related to this is the need perceived by many publishers to rigorously defend their intellectual property (the texts provided to them by scholarly authors, together with their editing and formatting) in the digital environment through licensing restrictions. And new technical protection schemes on the horizon could make matters worse yet for information users.

  • The culture of academe, with its “prestige economy”, also has been a damper on change. Career advancement depends on publishing in leading, well-established venues whose publishers that may fear they have little to gain from change. Some promotion and tenure committees may not yet recognize the value of new forms of digital scholarship and many scholars are fearful that non-traditional publications "won't count".

As a result, and despite the potential of the Internet for broad and economical information dissemination, the readership of journals and monographs today is little changed from in the past — or may have actually declined as a result of library funding constraints.

For scholars and students at institutions that can afford subscriptions to the digital editions of journals, the problem may not be obvious. But many potential users don’t have access. And despite the tremendous growth in library purchases of electronic resources, researchers are more often than ever requesting copies of materials their library doesn’t own.

The research process is too often slowed or degraded by use restrictions that are a relic of another time. But promising changes are starting to emerge.

For examples, visit Cases in Point.