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Educational publishing and the academic

This section highlights some of the issues raised by scholarly electronic publishing and also identify a selection of example projects in this area. The examples chosen demonstrate the ability of a single or group of academics to publish research resources or results of research on the World Wide Web. See also the related topic on Electronic books (e-books) and e-journals.

The Scholar and electronic publications

The World Wide Web has opened up many opportunities for academics to publish the results of their research. Events such as the UK Research Assessment Exercises have only served to re-enforce the importance of publishing research early and often. Publishing in a traditional print journal can be, however, a lengthy process and given that the subscription charges for many journals are in excess of what libraries (never mind individuals) can comfortably afford it must often be the case that potentially important research results are seen only by a few.

The recent growth of electronic journals across all disciplines is already changing much of this. Not only are traditional publishers finding it more convenient and profitable to publish journals in electronic form but academics find that they have the opportunity to group themselves into an editorial board and publish in electronic form thus by-passing the publisher. So long as it can be demonstrated that the standards associated with traditional publishing are not being lowered then electronic publication deserves to be taken as seriously as any other form of publishing (and indeed for many subjects the publication in electronic form is of a higher quality than that on paper). Digital publication has the added advantage of supporting publication of very lengthy articles, combining datasets with essay-style syntheses. Traditional publishing is limiting possibilities for scholars to make extensive bodies of data available in print, though online publishing and digital archives are enabling access to extensive multimedia and textual collections.

Preprint services

The other major providers of information about current research are the pre-print servers. The Los Alamos National Laboratory Pre-print Server (for high energy physics, established by Paul Ginsbarg), the first pre-print server, is one of the most successful. Similar services have developed for other disciplines, though their success seems partly reliant on publication practices within disciplines - initiatives in the arts and humanities have had limited success.

See also the El.pub topic on Finding resources.

Electronic journals

Many traditional publishers produce electronic editions of their journals, and some now offer a pre-print service. Information on these is available in the El.pub topics on Publishing and Commercial Providers. Major publishers offering electronic editions of their journals are Academic Press, Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge University Press, Elsevier Science, Oxford University Press, and Taylor & Francis. Many other journals are being published exclusively online, often through university departments and research centres. An electronic journal allows research to be released for comment far more quickly than by conventional print publications.

SPARC seeks to reduce the cost of scholarly journals for academia by encouraging partnerships between publishers and research institutions and libraries, and supporting technological innovation in publishing. Create Change, sponsored by SPARC and other national bodies, promotes scholarly needs in electronic publishing.

Example Projects

See also Digital Libraries, Multimedia and Special Collections.

History E-Book Project (American Council of Learned Societies)

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is supporting this five year project (1999-2004) to create high quality digital history monographs, from existing print publications, and from new material. The project is a collaboration between learned societies and publishers, and seeks to combine the benefits of detailed review provided by traditional publishing with the dynamic and flexible interfaces available through the Web. The project will also make available in digital form reviews and articles about the reception of the e-books. Five learned societies and seven publishing houses (all but one based in the USA) are involved in the project.

Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations

The NDLTD is an initiative run across 87 member universities worldwide with the aim of providing students with the skills and facilities necessary to publish their work electronically. It is hoped that this will have a number of benefits; students will learn about electronic publishing, other scholars will have access to student research and the finished publications can be preserved indefinitely. From the point of view of the institutions involved, the universities are using the project to improve the costly process of handling theses and dissertations, as well as investigating digital libraries in general. Virginia Tech, home of the project team, has made the controversial decision to go one step further and make it a requirement that theses and dissertations be submitted in electronic form, raising a number of issues discussed in an article by Jeffrey R. Young, 'Requiring theses in digital form: the first year at Virginia Tech ' The Chronicle of Higher Education (February 1998).

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

This is the first "dynamic encyclopedia" of philosophy. One of the main problems with reference works is that in a flourishing field of research they are often out of date before even leaving the printer. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is the latest in a long line of projects to produce a dynamic online encyclopedia but differs from previous efforts in that it gives the authors direct access to the material that they have written. This means that entries can be easily refined and updated in response to ongoing research in the field. The authors have all been nominated or chosen by the editorial board but there is still the issue of quality control if it is to be a high quality research tool. To overcome this problem the system is automated so that when an academic changes one of his or her entries, notification is sent to the Editor and the editorial board member responsible for this entry for them to check the changes. The software used can be purchased by others who wish to publish their own dynamic reference work and the solutions used to overcome problems such as quality control and copyright are all documented on the web site.

Further Reading

Collection Management and Scholarly Electronic Publishing Resource, C.J. Armstrong. Chris Armstrong, from the Centre for Information Quality Management, maintains an extensive bibliography on scholarly electronic publishing. It is divided into sections, covering collection management; scholarly electronic publishing; authority and digital signatures; charging, licences and copyright; preservation and legal deposit; practical electronic publishing. The latest edition was posted in April 2001.

Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography, C.W. Bailey. The 36th edition of the online bibliography was posted in April 2001. It cites articles, books and electronic documents mostly published after 1989. Resources are divided into sections: economic issues; electronic books and texts; electronic serials; general works; legal issues; library issues; new publishing models; publisher issues.

Morrison, A., Popham, M. & Wikander, K. (2000). Creating and Documenting Electronic Texts. AHDS Guides to Good Practice. AHDS/Oxford Text Archive. This guide takes readers through the stages of selecting and creating digital texts, encoding in additional information, and creating metadata. It is one of a series produced by the Arts and Humanities Data Service.

Building Digital Collections. The Library of Congress has made available numerous reports detailing the work behind its American Memory Collections (a major multimedia library of Americana).


Please note that this page was authored during April 2001, and apart from a few minor amendments since that date has remained as it was. Therefore some of the links may have changed or no longer link to the resources indicated. Please contact the webmasters@elpub.org concerning broken links and he will attempt to direct you to a suitable alternative link. (January 2003)

This section is maintained by: Humanities Computing Unit, University of Oxford.

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Last up-dated: 10 July 2017

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