Innovation in Digital Publishing: A Summary

By Cecy Marden, Wellcome Trust Open Access Project Manager

On January 5, the last day of the 2015 American Historical Association Conference, a panel of people from “other disciplines,” chaired by digital historian Stephen Robertson,  spent two hours discussing innovation in digital publishing in the humanities. The audience did an astonishing job of summarizing the discussion on Twitter which @EstherRawson kindly Storified.

Matthew K. Gold (New York City College of Technology and City University of New York, Graduate Center) kicked off proceedings talking about creating well-designed open-source platforms that trace scholarly creation in all its versions and forms. Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Modern Language Association) extended this thread to highlight the social challenges faced by scholarly societies in creating communication platforms for their members. Martin Eve (Open Library of Humanities), Cecy Marden (Wellcome Trust) and Lisa Norberg ( K|N Consultants) discussed approaches to making open-access publication financially sustainable, considering the roles played by publishers, funders, librarians, and institutions in innovative digital publishing in the humanities.

The intentionally short presentations left us with an hour and a half for discussion, which the audience had no problem filling with questions. We ranged over how to overcome the social challenges identified by Kathleen and how to preserve the increasing variety of “stuff” that constitutes scholarly communication. We looked at whether researchers are being rewarded for the innovative work they do, and the fact they are not being rewarded for ongoing projects. We ran out of time before we ran out of questions, so if the Storify, or the blog posts by the panelists, leave you with a burning question please ask it in a comment.

Innovation in Digital Publishing

By Lisa O’Sullivan, Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

Here on the blog we normally write stories based on the content in our collections, upcoming events, and other issues related to the history of medicine and health. However, we are also deeply interested in the issues facing libraries and the people who use their services.

By now it’s axiomatic that the digital world poses new opportunities and challenges for researchers, libraries, educational institutions, and publishers, which must be engaged with digital formats in a sustained and thoughtful way. The realities of this landscape encompass challenges to traditional models of publication and new expectations around access to both historic collections and new research literature. Open Access (OA) publishing and archiving is a central one of these challenges. In December 2013, we hosted an informal meeting around questions of OA at The New York Academy of Medicine.

Why is OA such a critical concern for libraries, researchers and publishers? (And why should you as a reader care?). As participants in our 2013 event discussed, issues of access to information have, ironically, been exacerbated by the growth of digital journals and electronic resources. Access to new research, whether in the sciences or humanities, is often prohibitively expensive for individuals and institutions. Authors struggle to make their work accessible to the broadest possible readership. Jill Cirasella at CUNY has produced an excellent summary of what’s at stake in discussions of OA.

The Wellcome Trust has been at the forefront in supporting open access to the research it funds in biomedical science and medical humanities, from its support of the open-access eLife journal to ensuring that all research funded by the Trust is made freely available to users. As such, we’re delighted to be working with the Trust to coordinate a panel called Innovation in Digital Publishing in the Humanities at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting taking place in New York in January.

Our panel will examine OA from a number of perspectives. However the potentials (and associated challenges) of digital publishing go beyond OA to broader opportunities for readers, publishers, and writers in the digital world, whether relating to new ways of presenting archival material online, new ways of doing and sharing research, or new ways to engage larger audiences, and we will explore some of these as well.

The panel will be chaired by Stephen Robertson, professor and director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History & New Media at George Mason, whose Digital Harlem project has won multiple awards for innovation in digital history. We’ve asked our speakers to start the conversation early by giving their thoughts on the biggest challenge or opportunity facing digital publishing.

This week, we’ll start with two perspectives on Open Access and its implications, from Cecy Marden (Wellcome Trust) and Lisa Norberg (Barnard College Library). We will publish thoughts from Martin Eve (University of Lincoln and Open Library of Humanities), Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Modern Language Association), and Matthew K. Gold (New York City College of Technology and City University of New York, Graduate Center) over the next few weeks. Visit our Innovation in Digital Publishing section to read them all as they go live.

Feel free to pose questions to the participants individually or as a group; they will respond here and take your thoughts into consideration for the panel itself.