Why isn't the scholarly community working together to create the tools it's clamoring for?

Posted by Rob Walsh, community karma 1466

Today, the Scholastica blog mentioned two cases where there has been popular academic discussions pointing out specific technologies that would be helpful to the scholarly community:

  • A post at Genome Unzipped where there's a picture of a reddit type application that allows a user to submit a paper and have it voted up or down based on its quality.
  • A year old post at Area 51, where scholars are asking for a Q&A site.

Granted, that we're providing these types of features with Scholastica - and this post isn't intended to be self-aggrandizing - but why isn't the scholarly community making the tools that it's calling for in these types of posts?

There are definitely examples of the academic community providing access to new tools - Kathleen Fitzpatrick over at MediaCommons is a great example of this. But cases like this are rare.

Overall though, with so many types of minds on campuses across the country - ones in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences - why aren't we seeing as many tools as one would expect, popping up ad-naseum? Especially in that the concept of open source is a popular academic topic. But compare the amount of academic tools that are created by singular entities working together compared to that of the tech world (<= note that ~8700 people are watching that project and ~1400 people have made their own forks of it to work on).

Is the lack of new, modern tools  a lack of communication across disciplines or something else?

almost 11 years ago


Matt Mollison, community karma 79

There are plenty of reasons that the scholarly community isn't making these tools, and I'll try commenting briefly, especially because I just want to try out "the conversation".

Most of all, academics are busy being academics. Who's going to pay them to make the tools, especially when development time would take away from the research time that will hopefully help to keep them funded?

Many academics probably don't know how to program these types of tools, or even program at all! And speaking of programming, there are other technical issues such as, who's going to host and maintain the database, etc. that the tools will surely rely on? And who decides what features it should have? For example, if it's wiki-like, will publications become living documents?

Will this reddit-type tool be considred credible by others in the field, similar to getting a publication in a top-tier journal? This is probably huge with already-established academics. I'm sure professors want their students to publish in well known journals for many reasons. For example, it will make both parties look better to the rest of the field, and when students look for jobs, which is not far off for many of us (read: not a lot of time to get established), we can have published in credible places.

Speaking of well known journals, don't forget that the publishers want to make money!

Anyway, I hope the community throws itself at ideas like Scholastica. It probably won't happen over night, but surely some progress can be made soon.

almost 11 years ago
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Denise Glasbeek, community karma 37

In answer to questions about "who would host it, program it, maintain it...", I would strongly recommend that the library is the place to find out.  Librarians would love to hear more about the needs of their constituents, and have the skills - and, with any luck, the resources - to help establish new platforms for scholarly communication, connecting researchers, and facilitating collaboration.  It's a conversation that might be worth starting at your own schools.  Librarians have a way from there of networking and expanding projects like these to buid things that can work across different environment.

over 10 years ago
Great suggestion Denise! We've made making contact with more Librarians a high priority lately. If you have any contacts that you'd like to suggest, that'd be great! Feel free to send me an email at rwalsh[at]scholasticahq.com
Rob Walsh – over 10 years ago
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