Webology, Volume 6, Number 1, March, 2009

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Moving from Script to Science 2.0 for Scholarly Communication

Khaiser Nikam
Ph.D., Head, Department of Library and Information science, University of Mysore, Manasagangothri Mysore, India -570006. E-mail: Khaiser.nikam (at) gmail.com

Rajendra Babu H.
Manager, Research and Analysis, Capco, Symphony Corporation, Symphony Innovation and Excellence Centre, No. 13/1, Kadubeesanahalli Village, Outer Ring Road, Bangalore, India - 560087. E-mail: Rhbabu2003 (at) yahoo.co.in

Received December 18, 2008; Accepted February 15, 2009


This study attempts to trace the evolution of scholarly communication from the days of publication of Journal-des-Scavans to the era of web 2.0, explaining the Open Access (OA) movement in brief. The views of Harnad on OA are highlighted. The emergence of Open Access 2.0 is put in context. This study also explains science 2.0 as the emerging practice in scientific knowledge sharing and scholarly communication. The positives and drawbacks of science 2.0 are discussed. Some of the science 2.0 concepts like OpenWetware, PLoS and other science 2.0 systems used in scientific research for communication as put forth by Hooker and Surridge are cited to indicate that science 2.0 is the future for scholarly communication.


Scholarly Communication; Open Access; Web 2.0; Open Access 2.0; Science 2.0; OpenWetware; PLoS


The origin of scholarly communication through a formal means such as journal dates back to 17th century, when a group of scientists decided to move from scripting-to-printing research results. Firstly the socio - technological changes like the invention of printing and postal services in the western world combined with the change in the attitude of the scientists to move from script to print lead to the starting of the new concept of knowledge sharing. This resulted in a significant shift, that the scholars were active in conducting experiments and observations; the knowledge thus produced was being communicated through the new means of communication; publishing through the journals. Therefore prior to the origin of journals, knowledge sharing was based on writing communication among scientists. Scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton and Hooke largely depended on extensive written communication. Such correspondence would often be disrupted because of time, distance and geographic barriers, issues of maintaining secrecy among competitors etc. In the 16th and the 17th century the speed and periodicity in print increased and correspondence of scientific inventions were more regular in the form of Journals, serials, annual book catalogues, newsletters, almanacs and newspapers (Waldrop, 2008).

Scientific publishing dates back to 1665 when Henry Oldenburg started Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London and Denis de Sallo, in France, published the first volume of the first print journal called Journal des Scavens on January 5, 1665. Because of its convergence and periodicity (MacDonell, 1999), this journal was known as a scholarly serial. To maintain quality and higher standards, the system of 'peer review' was introduced, which indeed helped in building the body of scientific literature, scientific reputation, increases the status of the university and institute's research. This process of peer reviewing went on for nearly 300 years. This also is the main reason why libraries subscribed to core periodicals in several disciplines. This system of peer reviewing although valuable was not free from flaws such as time lag in publishing new ideas and delay in sharing knowledge.

Figure 1. Title page of the Journal des scavans
Figure 1. Title page of the Journal des scavans

Journal des Scavans, Volume 2, 1667. Amsterdam: Pierre LeGrand, 1685, Collection of the University of British Columbia (Source)

Followed by this were the problems of escalating cost of production of periodicals, distribution, access, and marinating quality with the rigor of peer -reviewing. Libraries dropped subscription of journals due to lack of funds and exponential price increase. Naturally the users were deprived of many reputed and relevant print journals in their specific areas of interest as well as research and a overall loss to the library collection (MacDonell, 1999).

Apart from writing and using well researched and peer reviewed journal articles, scientists also use other patterns of communications. They are - short communications, Letters, Notes, supplements to the articles, reviews etc.

Today with the emergence of open access and web 2.0 tools, the communication of science is instant and quick. For example: www.3quarksdaily.com. Thus a modern tool like blogging is as good as short communications.

Open Access (OA)

Waldrop (Waldrop, 2008) states that according to Surridge, "Science happens not just because of people doing experiments but because they are discussing those experiments," Critiquing, suggesting, sharing ideas and data - this communication is the heart of science, the most powerful tool ever invented for correcting errors, building on colleagues' work and fashioning new knowledge. Although the classic peer-reviewed paper is important, "they're effectively just snapshots of what the authors have done. They are not collaborative beyond that, except for rudimentary mechanisms such as citations and letters to the editor."

According to Bill Hooker (Waldrop, 2008), a postdoctoral cancer researcher at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, Ore., and author of a three-part survey on open-science efforts that appeared at 3 Quarks Daily (www.3quarksdaily.com), where a group of bogglers write about science and culture. Web 2.0 technologies open up a much richer dialogue, he says "To me, opening up my lab notebook means giving people a window into what I am doing every day". He continues by saying "That's an immense leap forward in clarity. In a research paper, one can see what the authors'/ researchers' have done. But one does not know how many things the authors/ researchers tried that didn't work. It's those little details that become clear with an open (online) notebook but are obscured by every other communication mechanism we have. It makes science more efficient." That jump in efficiency, in turn, could greatly benefit society, for example, in everything from faster drug development to greater national competitiveness.

In principle, Surridge says, scientists should find a transition to Web 2.0 perfectly natural. After all, since the time of Galileo and Newton, scientists have built up their knowledge about the world by "crowd-sourcing" the contributions of many researchers and then refining that knowledge through open debate. "Web 2.0 fits so perfectly with the way science works. It's not whether the transition will happen but how fast," he adds (Waldrop, 2008).

Open access is free, quick, instant, and hassle free online access to full text of research articles web wide for anyone-anywhere. According to Harnad (2008) there are two popular paths to OA:
(i) The Golden Road - of OA journal publishing is that the journals themselves provide articles.
(ii) The Green Road - of self-archiving, where authors provide OA to their own published articles, putting their articles in e-prints free for all.

Both the paths of access are good and complimentary to each other but the green path is faster and will reach 100 percent OA. He is also of the view that, there are two kinds of Open Access - 'Gratis and Libre'. "Gratis" means free online access and "Libre" means free online access plus certain re-use rights.

Benefits of OA are many, which include:

Open Access in Practice

Now-a-days researchers, funding agencies and institutions and universities are, aware of the benefits of OA. If not they must be made aware of how quickly it can be done for scholarly communication. The immediate requirement is to create Institutional Open Access Repositories and register, so that others also follow it. In-fact Institutional Repositories (IR) is the best way to provide access to scientific research output. IR software such as Eprints provide web-based OAI -compliant IR for free, which is currently being used at one of the premier research Institutes in India, The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India.

Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

Web 1.0 is marked with the emergence of Internet, which is undergoing a major change - from an original environment where individuals posted static information that was hard to navigate to a new environment where people are dynamically posting information and collaborating. But, new search and aggregation tools are making it easier to find and contribute to the information that an individual is interested in. This shift has been described as the switch from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, which is propounded by O'Reilly. The landscape of web 2.0 for example encompasses a whole lot of tools, which are shown in Britannica Online -Wikipedia, Directories (taxonomy) - tagging ("folksonomy") and Mp3.com - Napster.

As these new technologies develop, science can use these new tools directly and also apply similar concepts by analogy. A key example of how Web 2.0 technologies can advance in biological research is OpenWetWare (OWW). OpenWetWare is a wiki on which researchers can share expertise, information and ideas in biological science and engineering. Inspired both by Wikipedia and MIT OpenCourseWare, OWW seeks to create a useful resource that relies on a community of users to keep the content accurate and up-to-date. It is hoped to be the OWW will foster enhanced collaboration among community members as well as provide a useful reference source for researchers around the world. The expectation is that these new technologies will change how scientists communicate their work and the way in which research is done. Such changes should accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and technology development, thus leading to an improved scholarly communication (Science 2.0, 2007) and collaboration tools.

Open Access 2.0

Scholarly communication is a multi-faceted subject area, which is undergoing a profound transformation. In this article we tried to correlate public discussion of scholarly communication, as most of the attention is focused on journals, especially on the "serial crisis," in which libraries cannot afford to pay for the rapidly increasing subscription rates (according to an estimation it is more than the rate of inflation), or say with shrinking library budgets in the ever growing specializations of the nature of the disciplines which makes the librarians or library administrators all the more difficult to cater to the ever growing demands for the scholarly literature published in the form of journals. Electronic publishing, using the Internet, is often seen as a possible way to relieve the pressure on cost. This view is too limited, though, as it concentrates on a small portion of scholarly communication, and it does not provide a full picture of the revolution that is taking place.

Many scientists and librarians have long been protesting the ever-growing cost of the journals, especially as they see these payments going to profit making publishing houses. To provide the researchers, online access to journals, universities generally purchase site licenses, permitting access from anywhere in the university using the IP based access - and, with appropriate authorization, university-affiliated users can access the journals on campus. This arrangement may be quite expensive, sometimes much more than the cost for a print subscription - although this reflects the number of people who will be using the license; a print subscription is the cost for one person to receive the journal, while a site-license can let thousands of people access it. But, cost may be increased at the users' level, as to how many printouts users would be printing for reading at their leisure.

Publications by scholarly societies (such as ACS, ASME and so on) also known as not-for-profit-publishers, usually costs less than commercial publishers, but the prices of their scientific journals are still very expensive comparatively. However, this extra money is generally used to fund the activities of the scientific societies that run such journals, or is invested in providing further scholarly resources for scientists, and thus the money remains in and benefits the scientific sphere. Despite the transition of print-to-electronic publishing, the journal crisis persists.

Concerns about cost and open access have led to the creation of free-access journals such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and partly open or reduced-cost journals such as the Journal of High Energy Physics. However, professional editors still have to be paid and some free-access journals (such as PLoS) still rely heavily on donations from foundations to cover most of the operating costs; smaller journals unfortunately, do not always have access to such resources (Scientific journal, 2009).

1. Positives of Web 2.0 Tools in Open Access Publishing

a) OA removes price barriers: With the emergence of OA Journals, there will be no or very minimal subscription cost, there would be no licensing and pay-per-view (pay-as-you-use) fees. This also results in reducing permission barriers, which covers complete copyright and licensing restrictions. We may recall the PLoS's shortened definition "free availability and unrestricted use". This means that there is some flexibility about permission barriers. For example, some OA providers permit commercial re-use and some do not. Some permit derivative works and some do not (Suber, 2009).

b) Instant publishing/ or live publishing: Journals are just one part of scholarly communication. Personal contacts, correspondence, talks, and conferences have always been important. The Internet has made it possible for a variety of new, much more flexible forms of communications. What we can increasingly observe (Odlyzko, 2009) is vigorous growth in novel forms of scholarly communication that take full advantage of the online medium. Growth rates are high, and if they continue for just a few years (as they show every sign of getting in there), these new forms will dominate.

c) Immediate reach to audience: Ease of access and use are paramount. For example, mostly all of us turn to Amazon.com for bibliographic help, as Amazon not only gives the summary, it also provides the related title for further navigation in the same area one would be looking for. The main feature of Amazon searching makes it a pleasure because, it provides the catalog of the item you would be looking for and user review for the customer to review/ rate the item he/ she just accessed. The database is not as complete or scholarly as that of a major library, but it is more convenient to use and the user would get more avenues to find more info then what he came-in looking for. However, it does lead to more efficient use of time, eliminating all the monotonous trips to the library. Easy access from one's desktop (or increasingly from one's mobile device as part of communication 2.0) is leading to usage of serious scholarly material by a much wider audience, both of other scholars and the general population (Odlyzko, 2009).

d) Paradigm change in approach and openness: Bradley Laboratory (Harnad, 2009) of the UsefulChem states that, more the open scientists are the better. When Bradley started UsefulChem, his lab was investigating the synthesis of drugs to fight diseases such as malaria. Since, search engines could index what his team was doing without needing a bunch of passwords, "they suddenly found people discovering the team on Google and wanting to work together. The National Cancer Institute contacted Bradley, wanting to test his compounds as anti-tumor agents. A scientist at Indiana University offered to help do calculations about docking-figuring out which molecules will be reactive". Now Bradley Lab is not just one lab doing research but they are a network of labs collaborating with each other.

e) Improves collaboration among authors and readers: As stated earlier, "Science happens not just because of people doing experiments but because they are discussing those experiments." Also, it appears that critiquing, suggesting, sharing ideas and data - is the heart of science, the most powerful tool ever invented for correcting errors, building on colleagues work and fashioning new knowledge. To advocate this, an atmosphere of openness makes science more productive. "When you do your work online, out in the open, you quickly find that you are not competing with other scientists anymore but cooperating with them" (Waldrop, 2008).

g) Improves collaboration activity for publishing/sharing: Web 2.0 technologies open up a much richer dialogue, says Hooker (Waldrop, 2008), where a group of bloggers write about science and culture. He says "To me, opening up my lab notebook means giving people a window into what I'm doing every day," He adds "That's an immense leap forward in clarity. In a paper, I can see what you have done. But I do not know how many things you tried that did not work. It is those little details that become clear with an open /online notebook but are obscured by every other communication mechanism we have. It makes science more efficient." That jump in efficiency, in turn, could greatly benefit society, in everything from faster drug development to greater national competitiveness.

h) Authors can announce, obtain comments, ratings and still hold Copyrights: Authors could still go ahead and publish in the peer-reviewed journals without bothering much about copyright issues (e.g., PLoS-ONE and Harward's college of Arts & Sciences). Hence contributing papers in OA for scholarly communication is a dream come true for many scholars.

i) A huge save in the Libraries budget: In this article, our attention is focused on journals, especially on the "serial crisis", in which libraries cannot afford the rapidly increasing subscription rates and the growing ranks of journals. Electronic publishing, using OA platform on the Internet, is often seen as a possible way to relieve the cost pressure. However, this view is too limited, though, as it may not concentrates on all parts of scholarly communication, and hence may not provide a full picture of OA that is taking place (Odlyzko, 2009) for scholarly communication thus leads to science 2.0.

2. The Setbacks of Open Access Publishing

a) Credit Problem: Critics of OA are of the view that scientists who put preliminary findings online, risk having others copy or exploit the work to gain credit or even patents.

b) Research Secrets: Many scientists remain wary of such openness especially in the hypercompetitive discipline of biomedical Research, where patents, promotion and tenure of the product can hinder to publish a new discovery. For the practitioners in Biomedicine, Science 2.0 seems dangerous as putting their serious work out on blogs and social networks is like an open invitation to have their lab notebooks vandalized. Sometimes, the best ideas may get stolen and published by a rival.

c) Reduces citations: Journal articles made freely available online are accessed more than articles with a subscription cost. It seems paid OA articles are less frequently cited than freely available online papers. This is the controversial early finding of what will be a four-year study at Cornell University. The open access (OA) lobby has slammed the publication of the preliminary report as premature. Further, past studies have shown that OA literature is cited more than non-OA literature but it has not been clear whether this is due to its free availability or factors such as more popular papers or authors being made OA (Phillips, 2005).

d) Decrease in Revenue: Open Access approach is a slow exit or managed exit from the industry's traditional subscription-based approach by the commercial/ profit making publishing organizations, where access to scholarly journals is expensive, partly because of the costs of printing, mailing and publishers owned copyrights to the research papers. With increasing OA scholarly publishing and reduced journals subscriptions form the libraries, the commercial/ profits making publishing organizations are witnessing the decreased revenues.

e) Plagiarism: There is a fear of the online research results getting completely copied and claiming as their own.

f) Usage Metrics: In case of free online journals measuring of usage is completely based on the viewing of the full text. There is no organized method of measuring the citations and impact factor.

Scholarly Communication Studies Today

Some of the well known authors such as Garvey (1979), Nagami (2008), Peset (2008), Zaye and Metamski (1986) discuss that communication is the essence of scientific knowledge and research. Sandstrom (2001), Barjak (2006), Smith (2007), Fernandez (1999) have examined scholarly communication in a sociological system, the role of Internet and electronic communication. Crawford, Hurd and Weller (1996) have studied the transformation of print to electronic scholarly communication. Kaser (1997) has studied the evolution of scholarly communication. Garvey and Gottfredson (1977) present scholarly communication as a social process. Therefore, in this context the current methods of communication such as open access, web 2.0 to science 2.0 are also the obvious scientific social communication processes.


Traditionally, the author of journal article is required to transfer the copyright to publishers. Publishers claim that it is necessary in order to protect author's rights, and to coordinate permission for reprints or other usage. However, many authors, especially those active in the open access movement, found this unsatisfactory, and have used their influence to initiate gradual move towards license to publish instead. Under such a system, the publisher has permission to edit, print and distribute the article commercially, but the author(s) retain the other rights themselves.

Even if the publishers retain the copyright for an article, most journals allow certain rights to their authors. These rights usually include the ability to reuse parts of the paper in the author's future work, and allow him to distribute a limited number of copies. In the print format, such copies are called reprints and in the electronic format they are called post prints. Some publishers, for example the American Physical Society, also grant the author the right to post and update the article on the author's or employer's website and on free e-print servers, to grant permission to others to use or reuse figures, and even to reprint the article as long as no fee is charged. The rise of open access journals, in which the author retains the copyright but must pay a publication charge, such as the PLoS family of journals is another recent response to copyright concerns (Scientific journal, 2009).


Scholarly communication has always aimed at making research known to the peers for reasons of dissemination, priority, prestige, recognition and visibility. The concept of peer review though protects the quality and standard of a journal, still continues to cause delay resulting in time lag in publishing. But now with the use of science 2.0 there is ample opportunity for all the enthusiastic authors to discuss research online without meeting on site in a formal meeting, conference or a seminar. Issues like visibility, prestige, recognition, and priority are not taboo any more. The obvious outcome is in favor of researchers and the scientists. Because of this, time taken for the completion of research projects and publishing is reduced considerably. Feedback is immediate, leading to furthering of knowledge and science. Open access 2.0 and science 2.0 is the future of scholarly communication along with electronic journals and print journals.

In the name of quality, it would not help the real researchers who are keen in published work, by always depend on peer-reviewed journals for publishing their work. Some kind of hidden bias and favoritism did exist in the western world for a long time and publishing was the prerogative of the elite. Further, there is a lot of time lag in publishing research output in print journal due to peer-reviewing. Now the emergence of the Internet, web and open access has provided ample opportunities to the scientists to publish ongoing research and illicit quick response and discuss research online.

Further OA backed up with web 2.0 technologies is more suitable and economically viable. The authors foresee and involve themselves more vigorously in OA initiatives than ever before in the web 2.0 environment. 99% of the ideas, which use to remain as ideas in the pre web environment, are now a reality either in the form of an article, project, and business proposals with science 2.0. Just like the axiom "publish or perish" now it will be "publish and/to flourish". Scholarly communication patterns shall be more and more effective and highly informal and personalized. Writing shall be more collaborative and it is going to be writing 2.0 modes. It is the meeting of the great minds and the think alike in science 2.0 plat form. Along with quantity and per capita authoring of papers the quality of research will be of very high order. As the axiom goes:

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."
- George Bernard Shaw


Bibliographic information of this paper for citing:

Nikam, Khaiser & Babu H., Rajendra (2009).   "Moving from script to science 2.0 for scholarly communication."   Webology, 6(1), Article 68. Available at: http://www.webology.org/2009/v6n1/a68.html

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