Academic Research Publishing: People Get Ready

I’ve been thinkin’ about it, readin’ about it, and talkin’ about it for a while, as has Rosemary Arnesen, our esteemed and visionary Director of UMW Libraries. In the wake of launching our faculty aggregation interface, we are looking to expand faculty metadata to include their research publications. This is a technical challenge within the current paradigm of commercial journal publishing, but not insurmountable.

There is no one “feed” or aggregation of the multiplicity of journals to which one could type a faculty member’s name and get all of their publications. Current library subscriptions, and their online feeds, are all independent. Proprietary systems and faculty names, spellings, are not predictable across these ┬ásystems. This necessitates what is referred to as a mediated or curated data layer: Faculty self-reporting of publications with links to their online versions.

As our librarian posited, some type of feed from our FAAR reports may serve nicely to begin to capture publications as they are reported on by faculty without adding yet ANOTHER interface that faculty need to enter to aggregate their data. As long as a feed exists, we can capture it in the faculty aggregation layer, and I am very excited to work towards this during the coming year.

The current academic research publishing environment is shifting under our feet, and it’s all to the better. I say this while being married to a neuroscientist who was published earlier this year in the Journal Nature, with all the prestige that comes with it. I am painfully (read PAINfully) aware of what it means to his career to have such a feather in his cap, and what he needed to do to get this done.

But I despair at a model where the blood, sweat, and tears of a person as earnest as my husband, and as our UMW faculty, is bought and sold in order to be legitimized by a commercial brand’s imprimatur. This is not the same conversation as “Wikipedia will solve everything” and I’m not talking about doing away with peer review — I’m talking about academics and their peers really owning the content and the conversation, not giving it all away to large publishing houses.

Conversations about open journals are happening more and more, and places like UMW are well-positioned for this conversation. On the library front, SUNY just cancelled its exorbitantly expensive subscription to the ACS journal archive in favor of aggregating from other less expensive sources. The costliness of access to commercial journals to resource-strapped libraries cannot be overstated. Open access journals are growing in number, and, should the quality of research therein meet consistent standards and rigor, these journals will pick up steam in terms of legitimacy, just as the commercial journals have.

I would love to see UMW, with its forward-thinking approach to online publishing, consider our own in-house peer-reviewed, open, online journal. We have the Aubade literary magazine and we should begin to consider aggregation and tagging there. “Metamorphosis” is a COPLAC journal of outstanding student research work, but why doesn’t UMW create its own flagship student research online journal as a virtual (and longer-term, cumulative) partner to the Student Research Creativity Day? As part of our digital initiatives, we have talked about an online repository. I believe this notion of a journal needs to be part and parcel of this conversation. Let’s not just deposit our work, let’s bring it to life with peer review, online commentary, student citations, the works.

I guess, all this is to say, isn’t the university itself, writ large, not a legitimizer of scholarly research in its own right?

(Still, it was WAY cool that my husband was the first neuroscientist at UVa to get published in the Journal Nature — part of me may always be old school). Notwithstanding, Curtiss Mayfield has something to say to you: