Washington DC--The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has released the final report from a study that ARL commissioned Ithaka to conduct, Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication, by Nancy L. Maron and K. Kirby Smith, along with the database of exemplars that the study produced.
In the spring of 2008, ARL engaged Ithaka's Strategic Services Group to conduct an investigation into the range of online resources valued by scholars, paying special attention to those projects that are pushing beyond the boundaries of traditional formats and are considered innovative by the faculty who use them. The networked digital environment has enabled the creation of many new kinds of works, and many of these resources have become essential tools for scholars conducting research, building scholarly networks, and disseminating their ideas and work, but the decentralized distribution of these new-model works has made it difficult to fully appreciate their scope and number.
Ithaka's findings are based on a collection of resources identified by a volunteer field team of over 300 librarians at 46 academic institutions in the US and Canada. Field librarians talked with faculty members on their campuses about the digital scholarly resources they find most useful and reported the works they identified. The authors evaluated each resource gathered by the field team and conducted interviews of project leaders of 11 representative resources. Ultimately, 206 unique digital resources spanning eight formats were identified that met the study's criteria.
The study's innovative qualitative approach yielded a rich cross-section of today's state of the art in digital scholarly resources. The report profiles each of the eight genres of resources, including discussion of how and why the faculty members reported using the resources for their work, how content is selected for the site, and what financial sustainability strategies the resources are employing. Each section draws from the in-depth interviews to provide illustrative anecdotes and representative examples.
Highlights from the study's findings include:
- While some disciplines seem to lend themselves to certain formats of digital resource more than others, examples of innovative resources can be found across the humanities, social sciences, and scientific/technical/medical subject areas.
- Of all the resources suggested by faculty, almost every one that contained an original scholarly work operates under some form of peer review or editorial oversight.
- Some of the resources with greatest impact are those that have been around a long while.
- While some resources serve very large audiences, many digital publications--capable of running on relatively small budgets--are tailored to small, niche audiences.
- Innovations relating to multimedia content and Web 2.0 functionality appear in some
- Projects of all sizes--especially open-access sites and publications--employ a range of support strategies in the search for financial sustainability.
The report is freely available on the ARL Web site at http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/current-models-report.pdf. Search the database at http://www.arl.org/sc/models/model-pubs/search-form.shtml.