What will academic publishing look like in five years? This is a complex question, as the field has already shifted so far over the past decade. The one sure thing is that there are further changes to come, and publishers that are not quick to adjust and embrace modern technologies may find themselves far out of step with the mainstream.
"The fact that STM journals are no longer tied to physical offerings has already brought new best practices."
Scientific, technical and medical (STM) journals carry vital information to the research community and will always be important for that reason, but the methods they use to deliver the content may change drastically. The fact that these publications are no longer tied to physical offerings has already brought about plenty of new best practices and opened options for researchers.
The new face of research
There are bound to be some growing pains as academic researchers find their way around the new publishing paradigm, and it will be important for journals to be sympathetic and responsive to these pressures. A recent blog post for The Conversation by Australasian Open Access Support Group Executive Officer Virginia Barbour addressed the new face of the industry. Barbour stated that some new publications have emerged and made bad names for themselves, releasing information into the world that does not pass scientific muster. It will be up to good publishers to push back against these invaders.
The author stated that revolutions in technology are always accompanied by development for both good and ill, and the fact that bad information is now being published does not have to tarnish legitimate academics and their publishers. Barbour stated that it was never a good idea to trust every scrap of data circulating anyway, and researchers will simply have to apply rigor and vigilance in deciding which science is worth their time. Barbour reported that metrics such as whether studies have undergone peer review and verification are possible ways to determine whether particular researchers are using best practices.
"Future e-journal articles should be subjected to rigorous critiques."
The future of scholarly journal publishing may be less defined by publication name and more by the quality of the work under discussion, Barbour stated. While this might be a disruptive change at first, the principles behind it encourage improvement over the long-term - when research is judged on its own merits, great science can rise to the top of its field. As Barbour pointed out, future e-journal articles should be subjected to rigorous critiques by readers before these individuals accept the facts within as solid conclusions.
What does technology promise?
When it comes to the solutions powering next-generation publications, useful new features could help publishers ensure researchers have an ideal platform for their views. Interactive STM journals that invite peer work on the data contained within are especially powerful. If future worthiness of research will indeed be determined by peers' reactions to a work, the introduction of such components could help papers stand out immediately.
Basing study releases on HTML5 instead of issuing reports in static formats that mirror print could help researchers reach their peers quickly and effectively. The future of academic publishing will still have the same objectives - producing new findings that help whole fields advance - but the ease with which these figures emerge could increase significantly.