The scientific, technical and medical research communities move quickly, and with good reason. Authors in these fields are delving into topics that will define the next generation of exciting developments around the world. It's only natural that these forward-thinking teams would take on efficient and powerful mediums to distribute the information they come up with. E-journals can serve as highly effective showcases for research today, especially as they move away from simply replicating the physical magazines that were once the lifeblood of the industry. Digital tech has already brought change to the field, and there is still the potential for more development.
"HHS needs to make the digital leap that has occurred in STM."
A pertinent example
A recent Research Information piece by Sharon Davies focusing on scholarly journal publishing in the health and human sciences field explained that teams working in HHS need to make the digital leap that has occurred in STM. Researchers in the latter field have more options when it comes to publishing their findings, with digital-enabled breakthroughs such as open access transforming the field. Davies expressed concern that HHS publications are not being cited enough, and spotlighted the progress being made on new ways of spreading humanities information, ones which have already made their impact felt in other research disciplines.
"While a move towards publishing open access papers has been adopted by many STM communities for some time - with encouragement from funding bodies and governments - many HHS communities are only now having to adapt to a system whereby the author pays an article processing charge (APC) to make their research readily available to everyone rather than just journal subscribers," explained Emerald Group's David Sleeman, according to Davies.
"Publishers will have to combine new models and old-fashioned stability."
The development of new access and payment models may help HHS papers reach new eyes. Of course, this evolution is not without its growing pains. Davies quoted Open Library of Humanities Co-Director Paul Eve, who explained that the push for open access to valuable documents has been accompanied by the spread of new presses with dubious business models. To succeed, publishers will have to combine new models and old-fashioned stability.
In the end, embracing new tech developments will at least partially come down to better funding in the market. Davies pointed out that the next budgets apportioned to research organizations may be stronger than those currently in place, allowing presses and authors to improve the ways in which they release work to the public. Davies pointed to the funding disparity between STM and HHS as one of the prime reasons for their differing evolutionary states.
What's at stake?
The benefits that come along with adopting fully digital publishing models can go beyond economic concerns to encompass the ways in which readers consume the research. An interactive STM journal, presented more like a modern Web page than a digital version of a print publication, can include features that allow viewers to manipulate the included data and perform follow-up work. The whole peer review process could transform with easy access to such functionality. Research organizations of all types can benefit from breakthroughs that allow them to share content more easily and make information accessible by those who need it.