Talking Past Each Other: Making Sense of the Debate over Electronic Publication
This paper discusses the implications electronic dissemination for the peer-reviewed serial publication system. To make sense of this complex issue, it is helpful to view it from the perspective of the origins of the system and its three core functions, the ranking of scholarship, facilitating interactive communication among scholars, and creating a comprehensive archive of scholarly and scientific knowledge. Each of these core functions has different requirements that are to some extent overlapping but also to some extent in conflict. The Internet opens the possibility of developing a variety of different models of scholarly communication each fulfilling to a greater or lesser extent these three roles paper journals have served and possibly other roles that were not even conceivable prior to the development of world-wide electronic networks. The implications of electronic distribution for ownership and access to the scholarly literature are profound and likely to exacerbate the already serious serial pricing crisis that is hindering the widespread access to scientific and scholarly information. The scholarly community, which both authors the material contained in these publications and largely consumes the finish product holds the key to solving this crisis and allowing the Internet to be a vehicle for facilitating the dissemination of publicly funded research and scholarship rather than resulting in its transfer to private ownership.
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