by PhilipJ on 19 February 2007
Zhigang Suo writes at iMechanica that academic publishers are pioneers of Web 2.0,
In the middle of the Web 2.0 hype, we tend to forget that journal publishers are the pioneers of Web 2.0. They fit the essential characteristic of Web 2.0: Publishers provide a platform for users to share content created by users themselves.
Emphasis mine, because I think this word in particular shows how the academic publishing community has been operating in opposite to the spirit of “Web 2.0” until very recently. Sharing is indeed part of what defines “Web 2.0”, on everything from blogs to Flickr and Youtube, but sharing doesn’t happen on all but a couple of current journals.
Here’s the difference. On a website like Flickr, I’m free to create an account and upload pictures without any cost to me or anyone who would like to view these same pictures. For an academic journal, I still have to create the content, but then only paying customers (people with access to academic libraries, or private R&D companies which shell out for journal subscriptions) are able to view anything except a paragraph or two detailing my results.
Furthermore, again on Flickr, I’m able to comment on the work that others have done, but not so on the vast majority of journals on the web. Even if I have a subscription to a journal, there is no way for me to comment, in a public forum, on individual work. Community involvement, basically the backbone of the Web 2.0 movement, is all but non-existant for science.
But, thankfully, that’s changing. With the launch of PLoS ONE, I am free to view any and all the work online, and community involvement is encouraged. I can annotate a paper, or start a discussion if there are things about the paper that I would like clarified. Anyone and everyone is able to add their own opinions and comments to an entry, and true sharing of both the primary content (the articles themselves) and the ideas that spring from these papers is possible.
I definitely agree with Zhigang’s final thought, however:
We will all eventually adjust to the new environment of the Internet.
Publishers like the Public Library of Science have realised this, and Nature has made some noise about following suite. Will the rest of the industry follow?