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Digital Scholarly Publishing: Innovative publishing services for NYU

April 27, 2010

What can "digital scholarly publishing" mean at NYU? It is commonplace to say that we are in a period of extraordinarily rapid innovation, with new multimedia forms and tools—blogs, wikis, micro-communication services like Twitter, and image- and video-sharing services like Flickr and YouTube—offering novel ways for scholars to share their knowledge. Academic journals have largely moved online, and e-books are now poised to transform how textbooks and scholarly books are published and read. New multimedia forms are emerging, and there is much debate about whether digital scholarship will or should disrupt traditional genres like the scholarly monograph (a format whose business model is challenged even as its intellectual value is acknowledged). Fueling this debate is the diverse landscape of digital publications: they may be peer-reviewed or unmoderated; free to access or staggeringly expensive; carefully edited and produced or spontaneously posted; and everything in between.

The NYU Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing was established in 2008 amid calls for universities to demonstrate "a renewed commitment to publishing in its broadest sense...to more fully realize the potential global impact of their academic programs."1 The office works jointly with the NYU Libraries and NYU Press. With the Press, we are exploring strategies for the evolution from being a publisher of scholarly books to undertaking the dissemination of scholarship in other formats and genres. Working with the Libraries—including Digital Library Technology Services and the Digital Studio, with technology support from ITS—we offer digital publishing services for faculty and researchers at NYU. Many projects require collaboration across these organizations, so the Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing serves as a link.

Recent research on the future of scholarly communication from the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California at Berkeley indicates that "the sheer diversity of scholars' needs across the disciplines and the rapid evolution of the technologies themselves means that one-size-fits-all solutions will almost always fall short. As faculty continue to innovate and pursue new avenues in their research, both the technical and human infrastructure will have to evolve with the ever-shifting needs of scholars."2 The Association for Research Libraries has identified a diverse array of new models of scholarly publishing,3 many of which are collaborations between faculty and their libraries.

At NYU, we are approaching this complex challenge by imagining the possibilities along a continuum. Rather than restricting options to particular genres or publication methods, we are exploring a variety of approaches to see what we learn. Here are examples of the services that have been developed at NYU and others that we are beginning to explore.

A digital repository of NYU scholarship

The Faculty Digital Archive (FDA), http://archive.nyu.edu, is a website where NYU researchers can securely store and share their scholarship, with the option of making it freely available to anyone online or of limiting access to the NYU community or selected individuals. Contents of public collections are easily discoverable via search engines, and each item has a durable digital "handle" that can serve as a linkable citation.

The FDA can accept most digital formats, and we encourage researchers to deposit not only finished works but also related materials (including data, images, audio and video files, etc.) to give context to that work and promote further scholarship.

Research genres that may be difficult or inefficient to distribute in print—such as working papers, research reports, and gray literature4—can be deposited in the FDA and effectively published. For example, the Leonard N. Stern School of Business has created several series of working papers in the FDA, which have collectively received thousands of downloads. Individual faculty members can also deposit copies of their published work (which most publishers now allow) for easy access and sharing.

Contents in the FDA can be pushed to other websites, if depositors wish to store their work securely and at the same time offer access to it in another context.

The FDA is supported by ITS and the Digital Studio. For more information about setting up a collection within the Faculty Digital Archive, please send an email to archive.help@nyu.edu. Additional information about the FDA can be found at www.nyu.edu/its/faculty/fda. (For related Connect magazine articles, see The Faculty Digital Archive, by Terrell Johnson, Spring/Summer 2009 and The Faculty Digital Archive at NYU, by Gary Shawver, Heather Stewart & Jennifer Vinopal, Fall/Winter 2006.)

Peer-reviewed journal publishing

For those who wish to start a new digital journal, convert a print journal to an online format, or administer an online journal more efficiently, the Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing is investigating a tool called Open Journal Systems (OJS). This open-source software manages the complete process of publication, from author submission of articles through assignment to peer reviewers, editorial evaluation, and eventual online publication. Each journal can be branded with its own logos and design and configured for its particular editorial policies and procedures.

We tested the OJS software in collaboration with NYU Steinhardt's Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, launching The Journal of Equity in Education. Their first issue is available at http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/jee.

It is expected that OJS, or other tools like it, will enable the Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing to offer journal publishing. Since NYU Press publishes only books, this would provide a new service to the NYU research community. Such a service could also support the online publication of conference proceedings.

Inquiries about OJS and your journal publishing interests are welcome. Send email to Monica McCormick, monica.mccormick@nyu.edu.

Digital collections in conjunction with print publications

In Fall 2009, NYU Press published The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz, a book based on a few hundred narratives by attorneys who have represented detainees at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. The authors wished to share the complete text of those narratives, only excerpts of which could be included in the book. The Libraries' Digital Library Technology Services created an online archive, http://dlib.nyu.edu/guantanamo, where the documents can be searched and downloaded.

Out of this collaboration grew a larger collection, whereby the authors are donating to the Tamiment Library a comprehensive Guantánamo Bay Detention Center Archive of videos, oral histories, and other material to document the legal records and human stories of Guantánamo. The original digital archive to accompany the book will thus grow to incorporate this wider array of primary sources and make them freely available for historical research.

A network for new scholarship

Since 2008, the Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing has been collaborating with members of an innovative scholarly community called MediaCommons, a project of the Institute for the Future of the Book.

MediaCommons is a network of media studies scholars who are exploring new forms of scholarly publishing. In addition to being a locus of scholarly research and commentary, the site is an "innovation space." MediaCommons scholars are exploring new genres, experimenting with open peer review, and, with support from a National Endowment for the Humanities digital startup grant, working with NYU Digital Library Technology Services to build personal profiles through which the members can provide one-stop access to all their online works and activities.

MediaCommons has a variety of features. One is In Media Res, which allows a different scholar each day to present a short video clip or slideshow accompanied by a brief textual commentary, which may then be discussed by any community member. Scholars and students are using the site as a new way to analyze and debate media. Another section is The New Everyday, a space where authors contribute to a cluster of brief essays on a particular topic. The forum is designed to create a venue for "middle state" publishing — between a first idea and a finished refereed article, allowing an author to get valuable feedback as they work and readers to get a "state of the field" experience.

MediaCommons Press publishes digital texts of various lengths and supports open peer review. So far, two projects (a book submitted to NYU Press by MediaCommons editor Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and a special issue of Shakespeare Quarterly) have been posted for open comment while simultaneously undergoing traditional peer review by the publishers. This open peer review enables authors and their readers to engage in direct conversation about the work while publishers consider the impact of such commentary on their own selection processes.

We are excited about what MediaCommons can teach us about new forms of open scholarship and its evaluation. In addition, we expect that the tools developed for their community will be useful for other scholars and sites, at NYU and beyond.

Publishing advice and guidance

The Office of Digital Scholarly Publishing is available as a resource for consultation about publishing options. NYU faculty and researchers are invited to discuss the services they need. Please contact Monica McCormick to learn more about any of the topics above or to ask questions.

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. University Publishing in a Digital Age. Ithaka University Publishing Report, 2007. http://ithaka.org/ithaka-s-r/strategy/Ithaka University Publishing Report.pdf
  2. Harley, Diane, et al., Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines. Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley, 2010. http://escholarship.org/uc/cshe_fsc
  3. Maron, Nancy L., and K. Kirby Smith, "Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication: Results of an Investigation Conducted by Ithaka for the Association of Research Libraries," 2008.
  4. According to Wikipedia, "a term used...to refer to a body of materials that cannot be found easily through conventional channels such as publishers, 'but which is frequently original and usually recent.'" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_literature

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Monica McCormick is the Program Officer for Digital Scholarly Publishing, a joint position with NYU Libraries and the NYU Press.

This Article is in the following Topics:
Connect - Information Technology at NYU

Type: Article

Digital Scholarly Publishing

The Journal of Equity in Education, a publication of the NYU Steinhardt Metropolitan Center for Urban Education.


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