Paper still wins when it comes to gravitas

June 15, 2001

Online scholarly books and journals are still suffering from a credibility problem despite having moved towards more acceptable quality standards, according to a Canadian study that gauged academic opinion of e-publishing.

The study, commissioned by the Social Sciences and Humanities Federation of Canada, found a wide gap, 61 per cent versus 16 per cent, between academics who are taking a more informal route to electronic publishing by making their work available online and those who are doing their online publishing through traditional peer-reviewed forums.

The sampling of 336 respondents, 90 per cent of whom were professors or lecturers, saw little difference in quality between material published electronically and material published in print.

But 86 per cent believed that publishing in non-electronic outlets was more credible than publishing in electronic outlets.

The group conducting the study, made up of nine academics from five Canadian universities, keyed in on the difficult area of how to store electronic works.

Nearly 75 per cent agreed that a problem with electronic scholarly publishing is ensuring its long-term accessibility. The group lamented the fact there was no agency in Canada to provide national-level digital preservation.

Many polled believed a submission to a print journal would be seen in a better light by tenure and promotion committees.

The group recommended that:

  • New approaches to scholarly publication be encouraged, based on non-profit, electronic publication and distribution
  • An electronic publishing best practices series be established so that institutions develop formal e-publishing guidelines in cases of tenure, promotion and salary
  • Methodologies be designed to deal with preservation.

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