Caught Between the Old and the New

Over the past academic year I’ve worked on a research project with a colleague to study the ways that students do their scholarly work, similar to the project at the University of Rochester a few years ago. We finished with data collection for this year and are spending the summer analyzing our results. We’ve gotten an additional grant and plan to collect data at a few more sites next year; ultimately we’ll produce a comprehensive analysis of all of our data. But in the short term, we’d like to share our preliminary results and analysis from this year’s research.

Here’s my dilemma: the fastest and most efficient way to disseminate our results is to share them on the website we’ve set up for the project. When I was an archaeologist we wrote up an interim report after each field season and a final report when the project was complete, and I’m thinking along these lines. However, I’m also a junior faculty member on the road to tenure, and the currency of the realm is, of course, the peer-reviewed journal article.

A peer-reviewed article will take considerably more time to be published, up to a year or even longer, especially if our submission isn’t accepted on the first try (as seems true for most article manuscripts). I’m a strong advocate of open access publishing, and it just seems wrong to keep our data to ourselves for all that time. But I do value the peer review process, and while I hope that posting a report on our website would generate comments, there’s no guarantee.

Ideally I’d like to write both a preliminary report, to be posted online by the end of the summer, and a scholarly article, submitted around the same time and (hopefully) published sometime next year. I’m not sure that we have time for both, though. While the summer months are slower in the library, we’re still open, and there are classes and reference desk shifts to staff and programs to plan for next year. So we are probably going to have to focus our energies on just one publication.

As I’ve been thinking on this recently there’s been lots of other news in the world of academic publishing. The University of California proposed a possible faculty boycott of the Nature Publishing Group. And an unusual scholarly publishing project came out of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University: Hacking the Academy, a book that gathered all of its submissions in just one week. I can’t help but think that we’re in an odd scholarly communication moment right now, stuck between old and new worlds of knowledge dissemination, and I’m not always sure how to chart my course.

About Maura Smale

Maura Smale is Chief Librarian and Department Chair, Library, at New York City College of Technology, City University of New York.

4 thoughts on “Caught Between the Old and the New

  1. When you submit an article to a journal, they ask if you’ve published it somewhere else already. If you publish (i.e., make public) a preliminary report online, could the journal count that against you?

  2. Hi Austin, that’s a really good question. I imagine (hope?) not — I would interpret “published” to mean in traditional channels like academic journals. But that’s an interesting twist to consider.

  3. What about posting it as an abstract or in some other kind of summary form, and indicate that in the posting that you are willing to share the raw research upon request.

  4. That’s an idea I hadn’t considered, Gav. I hadn’t thought about sharing the data, either raw or after we’ve coded it — I wonder how many folks would be interested in it, especially outside of my university? Definitely something to think about.

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