Some dinosaurs survived as birds: Changes scholarly publishing must face if it wants to live in the online environment

There is a lot happening in the world of scholarly communication and open access that deserves attention, and relates in a “big picture” or instructional way to my specific interests in Religion and Theology on this blog. Although I prefer to write longer form posts, I’ve decided to expand into something new. When I come across an especially interesting article or blog post written by someone else, but one I don’t feel I can fully engage with at the moment, I will link to that piece citing a key excerpt, and maybe add a brief paragraph or two about why I think it is relevant and worth a read. I’ve created a new category for such posts called “The Hat Tip.”

To kick this off, I’ve linked to a wonderful interview that Richard Poynder over at “Open and Shut?” did with marine geologist turned scientific publisher, Jan Velterop. Velterop was a participant at the meeting convened in December 2001 that developed the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) and gave birth to the Open Access movement. This interview gives a fascinating insider’s look into the history of scientific publishing from the 1970’s to the present, encompassing Velterop’s experience with both traditional commercial publishers and open access initiatives.

During the course of the interview, Velterop drew on his marine geology background to offer a great analogy between the geological and evolutionary changes studied in his discipline with the dramatic changes the online environment is forcing upon scholarly publishing.

[T]he possibilities the Web offers have so radically changed the publishing environment that we have truly entered into a new era.

As a geologist I go so far as to say that I see analogies with the Permian-Triassic boundary and the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, when life on Earth changed dramatically due to fundamental and sudden changes in the environment.

Those boundary events, as they are known, resulted in mass extinctions, and that’s an unavoidable evolutionary consequence of sudden dramatic environmental changes.

But they also open up ecological niches for new, or hitherto less successful, forms of life…

The evolution of scientific communication will go on, without any doubt, and although that may not mean the total demise of the traditional models, these models will necessarily change. After all, some dinosaur lineages survived as well. We call them birds. And there are some very attractive ones. They are smaller than the dinosaurs they evolved from, though. Much smaller.

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Posted in "The Hat Tip", Commercial Publishing, Economics & Business Models, Intellectual Property & Copyright, Interviews (Publishers), Open Access, Peer Review

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