Partially Attended

an irregularly updated blog by Ian Mulvany

The journal is dead, long live the journal - abstract.

Sun Oct 28, 2012

425 Words

With Anna Sharman and Bob O’Hara, I’ll be hosting a session on the future of academic journals at SpotOnLondon (formerly ScienceOnline London). You can check out the session details here. They have posted the short version of the abstract on the site, I’m posting the longer version here, and you can also see our google planning document. We will update with details on the panel very soon.


Today’s online articles and journals remain mostly an online mirror of print products. Reduced time to publication and the potential for low-cost widespread dissemination are the two main benefits that journals gain from being on the web, yet many online innovations have not had much of an effect on our core concept of what a journal is. Innovations in business models, technology and social behaviours could all lead to changes in what a journal could be.

This session will touch on the following questions. Are there any innovations that are having an effect on the mainstay of scientific communication - the journal? If you are a publisher, should you be looking to do anything different from what you are doing today? What can you practically do in 2012, and what are the challenges? If you are a reader or an author, what should you be demanding? Are there any enhancements to the journal that could offer a significant improvement to your ability to do science and to advance your career?

In preparation for this session we have decided to direct the conversation towards three core areas of discussion.

  1. Megajournals; their impact on the journal and on how papers are going to be organised into journals. Will megajournals lead to a two tier marketplace of high end journals and a few megajournals, with mid-tier journals disappearing from the market altogether?

  2. How do we find the papers of interest, in a world where journal brand doesn’t help? In a world where issues disappear, and researchers’ main point of contact with the literature is through aggregation points such as Google Scholar and Pubmed, what are the signifiers that we can build or support that will enable researchers to find the content that they need?

  3. Once you get down to the paper, are there any innovations that we should be using now, at the individual paper level, and what are the barriers to us doing this?

We feel that this conference will offer plenty of opportunity to cover related topics, so we will try to avoid the following areas of discussion in this session:

  • altmetrics
  • data publication
  • open access per se
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