Monday, November 10, 2008

ARL Study: Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has released the report Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication, by Nancy L. Maron and K. Kirby Smith. From ARL’s press release:

In the spring of 2008, ARL engaged Ithaka's Strategic Services Group to conduct an investigation into the range of online resources valued by scholars, paying special attention to those projects that are pushing beyond the boundaries of traditional formats and are considered innovative by the faculty who use them. The networked digital environment has enabled the creation of many new kinds of works, and many of these resources have become essential tools for scholars conducting research, building scholarly networks, and disseminating their ideas and work, but the decentralized distribution of these new-model works has made it difficult to fully appreciate their scope and number.

Ithaka's findings are based on a collection of resources identified by a volunteer field team of over 300 librarians at 46 academic institutions in the US and Canada. . . . Ultimately, 206 unique digital resources spanning eight formats were identified that met the study's criteria. . . .

Highlights from the study's findings include:

  • While some disciplines seem to lend themselves to certain formats of digital resource more than others, examples of innovative resources can be found across the humanities, social sciences, and scientific/technical/medical subject areas.
  • Of all the resources suggested by faculty, almost every one that contained an original scholarly work operates under some form of peer review or editorial oversight.
  • Some of the resources with greatest impact are those that have been around a long while.
  • While some resources serve very large audiences, many digital publications--capable of running on relatively small budgets--are tailored to small, niche audiences.
  • Innovations relating to multimedia content and Web 2.0 functionality appear in some cases to blur the lines between resource types.
  • Projects of all sizes--especially open-access sites and publications--employ a range of support strategies in the search for financial sustainability.

The report is freely available on the ARL Web site at Search the database at

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