Prestige of print publications

Scholars and librarians alike expressed their discontent with the current relationship between scholars and commercial publishers. For scholars, this relationship often necessitates giving up their right to freely use their own work. At the same time, librarians are in a position where they must devote more and more of their budget on buying access to the electronic databases of scholarly works that their faculty rely on. Without these databases, faculty may find themselves without a legal avenue for making any use of their own work. The particularly steep price increase for journals in the sciences has forced librarians to make difficult choices about how to distribute limited resources between the sciences and other disciplines.

There are few inherent benefits to a print-only model of scholarly publication; rather than being a deliberately selected medium, print is largely a relic of an era when alternatives were unavailable or impractical. Regardless, there remains a prestige associated with publishing an article in a journal that has a print edition, even if scholars only access the article through electronic means. Furthermore, publishing a monograph with the most prestigous academic press possible remains a requirement for tenure in most humanities positions. Until these expectations change-- with change taking place on a discipline-by-discipline basis-- libraries cannot be in a strong position to negotiate. Nonetheless, libraries have some success establishing institutional repositories of faculty work; even when these repositories require strict access control, it is still a step towards the institution regaining control of its own publications.

Bamboo workshop participants felt that digital-only journals are often viewed dismissively by tenure committees, as though printed, bound volumes legitimize scholarship. While some individuals may be biased against digital publications due to the medium itself, the fact remains that well-established and respected journals are more likely than new journals to publish a print edition, and the concerns about the validity of digital-only publications derive more from new journals' need to build a reputation for solid scholarship. For journals that publish traditional-style articles only in digital form, establishing such a reputation may be difficult, as scholars seek out a print journal for their best work in order to ensure it receives proper acknowledgement, perhaps only turning to digital journals as a last resort. The path may be easier for digital journals that leverage the flexibility of their medium to allow new kids of materials to be published. These materials may range from data sets and interactive multimedia experiences to traditional-style articles that have more supplementary images than print journals allow. For any digital journal to gain acceptance, it must have the same high standards as comparable print journals, which raises questions about how the existing peer review model can adapt to accommodate new forms of scholarship; for further discussion, see Peer Review for Digital Scholarship.

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