Re-envisioning a future in scholarly communication

Author: Chris H.J. Hartgerink

Abstract: Scholarly communication is in need of disruption. Commodifying knowledge as is currently done with journals, is not sustainable any longer. An alternative is the commodification of how information is consumed. By focusing on the commodification of consumption instead of commodification of the resource, the problem of access to knowledge can be resolved in a sustainable manner. Additionally, commodification of consumption removes several perverse incentives from the scholarly system that now produces unreliable knowledge. The main tenet underlying the themes of Open Access, Open Data, Open Science, and replication initiatives in scholarly communication is sustainability through transparency of the scholarly process in all facets. The sustainability of any networked system is threatened by single points of failure (i.e., the entire system can be manipulated from one node in the network). The scholarly process is ridden with such single points of failures at all stages. Distributing the scholarly communications system would remove the problems of single points of failure. Distributing and decentralizing the scholarly communications system is achievable with newly developed peer-to-peer (p2p) Internet protocols. Alongside decentralization and distribution of the content, integrity of the scholarly record can also be reformed to transform sections of a paper into different, reusable nodes of knowledge. These nodes can be logged on a blockchain based ledger of which everyone can have a copy. In order to deposit nodes onto the ledger, the depositor needs to agree that the contents are licensed CC 0, in order to maximize legal certainty regarding reuse of the contents. This is key to create a sustainable eco-system where scholars and companies can cooperate instead of compete, as we currently do.

Citation: Chris H.J. Hartgerink. (2017). Re-envisioning a future in scholarly communication. For the 2017 IFLA conference.