Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are Young Scholars Conservative re. Dissemination of Their Research?

UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education recently published the 733 page report Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/15x7385g

"Since 2005, the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been conducting research to understand the needs and practices of faculty for in-progress scholarly communication (i.e., forms of communication employed as research is being executed) as well as archival publication. The complete results of our work can be found at the Future of Scholarly Communication's project website. This report brings together the responses of 160 interviewees across 45, mostly elite, research institutions to closely examine scholarly needs and values in seven selected academic fields: archaeology, astrophysics, biology, economics, history, music, and political science."

In this extremely long, comprehensive report it is probably silly to pinpoint just one finding. However, the report concludes that many young scholars are still quite conservative with respect to publishing and the dissemination of their research. This conclusion probably runs counter to the idea commonly adduced that young scholars brought up in a digital environment are more likely "are more likely to change the social landscape of scholarship".

From the Executive Summary:
Conservatism of Young Scholars
In all fields, many young scholars, and particularly graduate students, are especially leery of putting ideas and data out too soon for fear of theft and/or misinterpretation. Given these findings, we caution against assumptions that “millennials” will change the social landscape of scholarship by virtue of their facility with cell phones and social networking sites. There is ample evidence that, once initiated into the profession, newer scholars—be they graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or assistant professors—adopt the behaviors, norms, and recommendations of their mentors in order to advance their careers. Of course, teenagers eventually develop into adults. Moreover, given the complex motivations involved in sharing scholarly work and the importance of peer review as a quality and noise filter, we think it premature to assume that Web 2.0 platforms geared toward early public exposure of research ideas or data are going to spread among scholars in the most competitive institutions. These platforms may, however, become populated with materials, such as protocols or primary data, that established scholars want to disseminate in some formal way but without undergoing unnecessary and lengthy peer review. It is also possible, based on our scan of a variety of “open peer-review” websites, that scholars in less competitive institutions (including internationally), who may experience more difficulty finding a high-stature publisher for their work, will embrace these publication outlets. Time will tell.

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