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Addressing the Unmet Needs of Today's Researchers: Is Scholarly Publishing Really Broken?

Marcie Granahan,
NFAIS Executive Director
Scholarly publishing may not be completely broken as some have reported, but it is no longer efficient. The reality for many researchers is that finding and accessing journal articles can be extremely tedious—requiring 15 clicks on average, multiple logins to different repositories, dead links, and endless redirects [see full article here]. Research tools are so cumbersome it is no wonder that today’s researchers use unofficial and sometimes illegal alternatives.

The inconvenience and cost associated with accessing research papers gave rise to unauthorized alternatives such as Sci-Hub. In a recent study at Utrecht University, they found that 75% of the content downloaded from Sci-Hub was already available to the university researchers via their institutional subscriptions.

As a legal alternative, in late 2017, Kudos launched a new shareable PDF (S-PDF) service that provides researchers with a means to write and share high-level overviews of their articles while still linking to the publisher version of record. The initial results look promising, with 61% of authors choosing to use S-PDF to share their work [see full article here].

However, the time it takes to publish a journal article is also problematic, which prompted researchers to take matters into their own hands and ultimately gave rise to the preprint. A recent study revealed that nearly 70% of scientists had disclosed results before formally publishing them in scholarly journals, and that those who share their results prior to being published are driven by a desire to get feedback from their peers [see full article here]. This desire for early feedback could serve to launch a new class of platforms like ARTiFACTS, which facilitates citation, linking and discoverability at the very beginning of the research cycle.

There is also the increase in alternative discovery platforms, such as Unpaywall and Kopernio, that link researchers to free versions of the article—whether a preprint or the article of record. As a result of not adapting to the preprint paradigm, journals may be losing citations, which is evidenced by the more than 8,000 citations to bioRxiv found on the Web of Science…many even after the article of record has been published [see full article here].

While a number of universities see open access megajournals as the best route to improve access to research [see full article here], the newest competition may come in the form of blockchain. One such project is Orvium—an open source and decentralized platform for the publishing of scientific journals—that was developed by a team of scientists who work or have worked for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) [see full article here].

Harsh rhetoric against commercial and nonprofit publishers may not always be warranted but, as an industry, we have struggled—and continue to struggle—to address the needs of the researcher more

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