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Scholarly Communication Institutions: Transforming Scholarship with History
Society for Social Studies of Science (2015)
  • Shawn Martin
The current scholarly communication system has developed over centuries; yet, more recently it has been breaking down.  Different disciplines have diagnosed this as an economic breakdown between libraries and publishers, a social failure among academics, and as a technological disruption.  Of course, all of these answers are true to some degree.  By combining approaches from information science and history, it may be possible to understand scholarly communication system more clearly.  Historians such as Steven Shapin in A Social History of Truth (1994) have suggested that academic dialogue rests on “trust.”  As the number of people participating became larger, that trust migrated from individuals to institutions.  Information scientists like Christine Borgman in Scholarship in the Digital Age (2004) argue that computers have become a kind of intermediary that separate producers and consumers of knowledge, which, in turn, causes such institutions to malfunction.

In the current knowledge economy, it is absolutely essential that scholarly communication function not only for academics, but indeed for all participants (students, taxpayers, and practicing professionals).   If scholars Shapin and Borgman are correct, combining approaches from their fields may help to understand the fundamental factors influencing academic discourse, and the potential for new technologies to address those issues.  Hopefully with that theoretical work in place, it may be possible to discuss the more practical question of what new institutions will be needed and how they can benefit all players in a new scholarly communication system.   
Publication Date
November, 2015
Denver, CO
Citation Information
Shawn Martin. "Scholarly Communication Institutions: Transforming Scholarship with History" Society for Social Studies of Science (2015)
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