Volume 5 Number 4
From the Publisher
Scholarly Communication, Digital Libraries, and D-Lib Magazine
Scholarly communication is changing. For decades scientists have published their research in printed journals and conference proceedings. Access to current research required subscriptions to journals, usually through an academic library. Monographs were important in the humanities and social sciences, less so in the sciences. Today, digital libraries and electronic publishing provide authors with many other options, ranging from departmental reports, to eprint archives and electronic journals. While it is clear that these new methods of scholarly communication are widely used, there has been little systematic study of how specific disciplines are making use of the alternatives.
Recently, there was a lively conversation on a closed mailing list about patterns of publication by researchers in digital libraries. Some interesting themes emerged from this discussion. Innovation in digital libraries research is often in the form of integration, combining concepts from many disciplines. People who work on joint projects have fields of specialization that include publishing, libraries, computer science, economics, sociology, law, and many more. These specialists publish much of their research in the publications of their native discipline. Research in information retrieval may be carried out as part of a digital library project, but it is published in a journal dedicated to information retrieval; the library literature carries reports of innovation in digital libraries. Frequently, user communities build digital libraries for their own use and publish articles about their efforts in discipline-specific journals; medical informatics was a well established field long before digital libraries became an established area.
Consequently, only a small portion of the research is first published in journals that are dedicated to digital libraries. Some research is promulgated through conferences; the European Digital Libraries conference in Crete last September was notable for attracting papers and participants from around the world. Judging by the sources that they cite, researchers in digital libraries do much of their communication online. Some is open access; some is closed access. Mailing lists and web sites are important for the discussion of ideas and for the early dissemination of results. Many important studies are published as online reports by organizations such as the Council on Library and Information Resources or the National Academy of Sciences.
D-Lib Magazine was originally intended as a newletter covering an area of research and innovation, and not itself intended to be an original research journal. Yet, if we examine the articles that appear each month in the magazine, about half are descriptions of research. Authors are choosing to publish their research in an online magazine, rather than in conventional journals. D-Lib Magazine's primary goal is to help specialists from many disciplines understand the broad scope of digital libraries. For this purpose D-Lib Magazine relies on the editors' judgment to select materials, rather than the academic tradition of peer review. Some researchers clearly prefer fast turnaround of stories, open access, and a liberal copyright policy to the conventional process of journal publishing.
The Dublin Core process shows how the elements of scholarly communication can be combined. There is a vigorous mailing list and a web site where reports, plans, and decisions are available. Approximately twice a year there are invited meetings. Each has been followed by an article in D-Lib Magazine. The first was in July 1995, D-Lib Magazine's inaugural issue; the most recent is published this month.
Different disciplines have different needs, traditions, and opportunities. Discussions of the changes that are taking place in scholarly communication need to recognize these differences and not assume that a single model fits all areas of research.
William Y. Arms
Publisher, D-Lib Magazine
Copyright (c) 1999 Corporation for National Research Initiatives
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