So much of interest and importance is happening to scholarly communications, especially so for early career researchers, that the topic merits fresh and considered research and reflection. This thematic series (https://academic.oup.com/femsle/pages/scholarly_communications_digital_age) starts in 2018 and intends to fill an acutely felt gap in setting out to explore the sea change in the recent, digital revolution driven developments in scholarly communication. What then is happening that merits our attention at this particular time? Well, whilst scholarly communication has always been at the very heart of the scholarly enterprise and the digital transition has given it a considerable lift for decades now, there can be little doubt that it has entered another, far more disruptive stage. Previously, the digitally fuelled developments in scholarly communication were focused on improving on the traditional ways of conducting and disseminating research, which, in unintended consequence, made the journal paper ever more ascendant. Now, however, we are entering a transformative stage, which, introducing as it does a host of collaboration-centred and web-based emerging systems, could, possibly, challenge the hegemony of the journal. Centuries of practice are, thus, being disturbed, with the scholarly community waking up to a plethora of novel opportunities for communicating and for obtaining reputation. Not only is the adoption of more open scholarly behaviours increasingly being encouraged by institutions and funders, but scholarship is also opening up to a wider range of participants whilst concurrently introducing a greater variety of media into its processes and outputs. Indeed, scholarly communication is being invigorated and enormously popularised. A bigger and busier marketplace is forming, containing many more and much more diverse players, products and platforms. A once strong, stable, even monolithic field appears to being transformed into a dynamic, pluralistic and fast changing one, driven (or goaded) on by ‘pure players’. Significantly, these ‘pure players’ are not hamstrung by bricks and traditional thinking and, hence, are more agile and look to the social, gaming and consumer worlds for their models and inspiration. Perhaps, best illustrating this trend is ResearchGate, and the fact that it is currently in battles with the traditional publishing industry is suggestive of possible developments yet to come. All this means more opportunities and greater choice for the researcher, but more challenges, too, for the introduction of innovative strategies has also sown the seed of confusion and created controversy. We are in the midst of a veritable scholarly Tower of Babel era, with policy makers, funders, research managers, publishers, commentators, observers and the researchers themselves arguing over best practices and models. There can be no better example of this than open access, which, dividing as it does publishers and funders, authors and readers, research managers and academics, has generated an enormous body of literature. By definition, all revolutions, of which the digital transitions are a prime example, cause tensions between the old and the new. In scholarly communication, we see this particularly in respect to the innovative, open and participatory ways of working brought in by Open Science 2.0 innovations. These, whilst clearly compelling potential for the building/maintaining/augmenting of professional reputation, arguably may render the price to be paid for adopting novel ways of working too high, if an activity cannot be readily translated into conventional research outputs, as the case of teaching amply proves. Probably, the biggest change that has occurred is the unprecedented levels of researcher visibility and transparency of the scientific processes that the digital environment affords, although the latter is yet to be fully realised. As there can be little doubt that the greater one's visibility among likeminded people, the better it is for reputational purposes, the Science 2.0-provided ability to engage more effectively, in different ways, and real-time with peers and interested community groups can certainly be conducive to visibility-associated, enhanced prestige. However, there is a flip side to all this reputation-building visibility, as it exposes the researcher to greater criticism. Thus, for example, when announcements are made via social media-based platforms, indifferent research can no longer be swept under the carpet, with nobody the wiser. Another worrying change stems from the fact that the digital environment, centred upon the web as the key infrastructure for information provision, has the potential to abuse trust on an unprecedented scale. Indeed, fraudulent research practices, with all their grave implications for the scholarly endeavour, seem to occur at much higher rates than previously assumed, to be on the rise, indeed, a sign of the times, and, as such, plainly merit monitoring. And, finally, there is the explosion of metrics. Whilst many new metrics of scholarly performance are emerging at a healthy rate of knots (relating to publications, but increasingly other outputs, activities and roles, too), there is currently no standardised way of assessing their contribution to a scholar's reputation or impact; and many of these measures continue to reinforce a creaking model. The continued focus on publication in high-impact journals biases recognition and reward towards those scholars who are more established in their careers and is a disincentive to conducting original, creative and transformative research. This series will then examine these and related challenging and strategic issues facing the field of scholarly communications, especially with early career researchers in mind. Open science, alternative ways of measuring impact and reputation, new methods of peer review, reproducibility, crowdsourcing, social media and online communities are among the topics that will be covered. Published contributions will be hosted at https://academic.oup.com/femsle/pages/scholarly_communications_digital_age, where more information and instructions for prospective authors can be found too. © FEMS 2018. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
FEMS Microbiology Letters – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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