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larger FOS ramifications  Peter Suber
 Jul 02, 2002 07:53 PDT 
I've been having an email conversation with Tom Abeles on how FOS will
change scholarship, research, and education beyond making access to
research literature wide, easy, and free. Tom is the editor of _On the
Horizon_, a journal of what's coming for post-secondary education,
<http://www.emeraldinsight.com/oth.htm>. With his permissions, I'm posting
the installments of our conversation to this forum. I hope others will
join in. --Peter

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* From Tom Abeles, June 21, 2002:

I have been wondering whether the FOS movement has larger ramifications for
the entire academic community in general and the research community in
particular. Right now e-journals are seen as a 1:1 mapping of print to
e-space. The open access concept is one consequence- but no one that I can
find has given serious consideration to the potential for the shift to
click space to affect the academy beyond the shift in medium and, that open
access is just a consequence.

My suspicion is that it opens up changes that may be more than a media shift.

your thoughts are of great interest.

----------

* From Peter Suber, June 21, 2002:

If you mean larger ramifications than open access itself, then the answer
is yes, there are many. I've argued that free online access for reading,
copying, and printing is only a step toward a larger revolution. Free
online scholarship will accelerate research in its own right, and take
steps to put rich and poor on equal footing. But it greatest benefit will
be to provide free online data to increasingly sophisticated software which
will help scholars find what is relevant to their research, what is worthy,
and what is new. The only cure for information overload that doesn't depend
on shrinking the universe of literature is intelligent software to mediate
research. Nothing will stimulate the development of this software more than
a growing body of free online data to churn and make useful.

I've written about this more than once in back issues of the newsletter,
and talk about it again in a forthcoming interview in _The Technology
Source_. You can see a preview of the interview here,
<http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1025> (the last paragraph
is the most relevant). This is not the published version, just a draft that
_TS_ uses for open peer review.

I agree that ejournals haven't yet done a lot to take advantage of the
medium. They've gone well beyond a 1:1 mapping of print journals: they did
this as soon as they started using hyperlinks and searchable text. But
taking full advantage of the internet is an uncharted frontier. Free only
access to texts, hyperlinking, and searching are only the first steps in
exploring this space.

One day I'd like to stand back and think harder about what it would mean to
realize the potential of the internet for research. It's a book-length
topic but I haven't had book-length time to put my thoughts together. As
far as I can tell, nobody else has either.

----------

* From Tom Abeles, June 21, 2002:

I am thinking that there will be much deeper change. Here are some ideas to
which I would like your response:

1) formats for articles should change- but as you point out, change comes
slowly. With hyperlinks and net availability there should be no need to
continue to foster the idea that articles have to build up to the one new
nugget or insight. 90+% of articles in the pub/perish world build a case
with old information that, with the web, doesn't need to be repeated or
pointed to in a narrative. Thus, many articles, particularly in the
sciences might be reduced to a table with explanations or even a single
data point. Information density should increase exponentially and the worth
of a contribution will be based more on the merit of the addition rather
than the long formal story

2) We will see a winnowing or tiering of academic research- more than by
the prestige of the journal. today many folks publish a "data point"
whereas, in the past, they would have taken years to fill out the graph
(metaphorically speaking. In other words, the urge to pub/perish is forcing
more folk to publish less information sooner in order to get the needed
credentials for promo and tenure. Larger, better funded research groups
such as with the human genome project, will have the fiscal and physical
resources to concentrate information and thus publish more complete works
sooner. This will probably mean that many smaller researchers will have to
either attach themselves to larger groups, probably virtually, or consider
a career with a greater focus on teaching- driving institutions to tier
their faculty based on duties.

3) with increasing peer-to-peer exchanges, the need for formal papers and
even lengthy publications to release ideas and information into the
academic community will be diminished. Why write books for click or brick
space when other formats allow ideas to be exchanged and shared. Why write
and then read papers at meetings when f-t-f can be used more productively
if the materials are on the web. No more falling asleep at philosophy
conferences as academics drone through their written presentations <grin>.

4) with early and frequent exposure and very efficient semantic engines,
ideas can march more effectively across disciplines and can be sorted by
ideas and who said them. Thus, one may choose to read only those ideas that
come through highly valued filters or gate keepers or from persons whose
work has been highly ranked (slash dot.com as an example or amazon's rankings)

5) There will be a rise in a new class of "scholar", the public
intellectual, an individual who is able to bring relevant ideas into the
larger public domain whether it is in the lay public's arena or accessible
by learners seeking knowledge or knowledge/certification. Thus, The
Academy's function will shift These are just some thoughts off the top of
my head. There are, I believe, signs that these ideas are not drawn in an
intellectual vacuum.

thoughts?

----------

* From Peter Suber, June 25, 2002:

Here are some short replies.

 I am thinking that there will be much deeper change. Here are some ideas
to which I would like your response:

1) formats for articles should change- but as you point out, change comes
slowly. With hyperlinks and net availability there should be no need to
continue to foster the idea that articles have to build up to the one new
nugget or insight. 90+% of articles in the pub/perish world build a case
with old information that, with the web, doesn't need to be repeated or
pointed to in a narrative. Thus, many articles, particularly in the
sciences might be reduced to a table with explanations or even a single
data point. Information density should increase exponentially and the
worth of a contribution will be based more on the merit of the addition
rather than the long formal story

I don't buy this. When an article rests on previous results, it can cite
and link to those results as now. But that doesn't obviate the need to
build an argument, whose premises come from earlier work. One must still
restate what is essential from earlier work in order to show the reader why
it matters for the current conclusion. In general, I believe that scholars
already do this and will not (and should not) stop doing it just because
the earlier work is only a click away.

 2) We will see a winnowing or tiering of academic research- more than by
the prestige of the journal. today many folks publish a "data point"
whereas, in the past, they would have taken years to fill out the graph
(metaphorically speaking. In other words, the urge to pub/perish is
forcing more folk to publish less information sooner in order to get the
needed credentials for promo and tenure. Larger, better funded research
groups such as with the human genome project, will have the fiscal and
physical resources to concentrate information and thus publish more
complete works sooner. This will probably mean that many smaller
researchers will have to either attach themselves to larger groups,
probably virtually, or consider a career with a greater focus on teaching-
driving institutions to tier their faculty based on duties.

I have no leaning on this. But if it will happen, it seems to have more to
do with the economics of research and the standards used by universities
for promotion and tenure than the opportunities created by the internet.

 3) with increasing peer-to-peer exchanges, the need for formal papers and
even lengthy publications to release ideas and information into the
academic community will be diminished. Why write books for click or brick
space when other formats allow ideas to be exchanged and shared. Why write
and then read papers at meetings when f-t-f can be used more productively
if the materials are on the web. No more falling asleep at philosophy
conferences as academics drone through their written presentations <grin>.

I agree that the internet makes it easy to distribute a conference paper in
advance so that F2F time can be used more productively; I hope scholars
take advantage of this opportunity. At my college we take advantage of this
opportunity to streamline committee meetings.

I also agree that many new avenues of formal and informal peer review will
open up, and I welcome this. But I don't see why it would reduce the number
of "formal papers and lengthy publications".

 4) with early and frequent exposure and very efficient semantic engines,
ideas can march more effectively across disciplines and can be sorted by
ideas and who said them. Thus, one may choose to read only those ideas
that come through highly valued filters or gate keepers or from persons
whose work has been highly ranked (slash dot.com as an example or amazon's
rankings)

I'm very optimistic about the potential of human and software filters and
services to facilitate discovery, retrieval, recommendation, and
evaluation. This is what I was describing in my previous email. Free online
scholarship serves as free online data for these services.

 5) There will be a rise in a new class of "scholar", the public
intellectual, an individual who is able to bring relevant ideas into the
larger public domain whether it is in the lay public's arena or accessible
by learners seeking knowledge or knowledge/certification. Thus, The
Academy's function will shift These are just some thoughts off the top of
my head. There are, I believe, signs that these ideas are not drawn in an
intellectual vacuum.

I'm not optimistic about this. While its true that all online publications
can reach all internet users, it's also true that the number of speakers or
"channels" has leaped into the millions. From the speaker's perspective,
dissemination has vastly increased; from the reader's perspective, choice
and noise have vastly increased. To cope with choice and noise, some may
become more widely educated, but most will select and focus.

----------

* From Tom Abeles, June 26, 2002:

I know that you don't have time to fully respond. But one way to expand the
exchange is to post a piece in your listserv or forum. Let me, though,
respond, indirectly and quickly given all of our time constraints.

1) I do not believe that The Academy can remain unchanged by the shift to
digital media, in general and open source in particular. the question is
what, how big, when or over what time. I do not believe you can map
publications from brick to click- the change is too profound in the larger
picture- I think that is an area of fundamental disagreement between us- I
see your argument being more for the openness with little impact on how
academics "do business"- a conservative approach with which some
philosophers and cultural studies folks might also disagree.-- my back
ground is in the hard sciences

2) I edit On the Horizon, a journal on higher education futures for admin,
education policy persons and similar folk. But I also am on the editorial
board of some hard nosed journals including Ecological Economics, and
others ranging from sustainable ag to world peace. I am told that the
rejection rate on articles is as high as 80% of the pub/perish type and not
professionally written pieces such as in AAHE's Change Mag. But even here,
I see a lot of schlock- stuff that can be reduced to a data point or a
table. Content analysis folk have said that new information is under 5% and
I have heard under two.

Scientists used to use "letters" as quick and dirty vehicles to publish new
finds. With the need to pub/perish many of these expanded so folks could
add articles to their annual review files. I can not accept your argument
that the development is needed in many of these. Now philosophers might
disagree because their arguments or summations are part of setting up the
proof for the conclusion- but that is left over from the Socratic world
where one draws the reader by stint of a logical progression until they
have little but to conclude that the proposition ends up QED On the other
hand, like a brilliant chess game, a master can see after a few moves that
the players are inevitably headed to a certain conclusion-mate in 15. And
proofs in physics and math often set up the logic and then jump to the
concluding steps where the center has the statement that "it can be shown
that one can go from the beginning to the end- of course those steps may
take 10 pages of work, but the path is understood and doesn't need to be
spelled out.

I think the nature of scholarship and scholarly pubs has to change and the
Internet will cause this to occur.

I don't think we can afford, anymore, to bring the sages up on the stage at
conferences as a form of validating their work. It is too expensive in both
money and time, especially if the papers are literally read. I attended one
philosophy conference and was floored that in all sessions, main and sub
each person read their papers and was told that this was SOP. And there
were no bodies in the halls exchanging ideas. I just found copies of the
most interesting papers and made sure that I could catch the appropriate
parties for questions. Whew!

----------

* tom abeles, editor
on the horizon
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/oth.htm

* Peter Suber, Professor of Philosophy
Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 47374
Email pet-@earlham.edu
Web http://www.earlham.edu/~peters

Editor, Free Online Scholarship Newsletter
http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/
Editor, FOS News blog
http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/fosblog.html
	
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