The Case for an Inclusive Scholarly Communication Infrastructure for Social Sciences and Humanities
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the pressing need to access research outputs without the traditional barriers. This paper sketches a future infrastructure of open scholarly communication by exploring the current landscape, challenges, opportunities, and the distinct needs of social sciences and humanities (SSH). It defines and discusses the key areas in which research infrastructure can play a vital role in making open scholarly communication a reality in SSH: open access to outputs, discipline-specific genres, evaluation and quality assurance, impact on local societies through multilingualism, scholarly guidance, and the inclusion of various stakeholders. These outputs form a scientific vision behind OPERAS (Open Scholarly Communication in the European Research Area for the Social Sciences and Humanities).
Every discussion of the future should be deeply rooted in the past in order to avoid taking the current situation as a given and every novelty as unprecedented. We will define scholarly communication broadly as “any form of exchange used by scholars and researchers to participate in the elaboration of knowledge through critical discussions and conversations with fellow humans. This encompasses all the procedures, from the purely informal conversation to the highly formalised stage of ‘publishing’” (1). This perspective allows us to look beyond technology and see where current communication practices come from: platonic dialogues, debates, treaties, and letters. Similarly, we need to perceive modern research infrastructures as new versions of traditional ones, like libraries, archives, and museums, which have been serving the main purpose of facilitating research and knowledge exchange by using available technological means.
Results and Discussion
We begin by presenting various definitions for scholarly communication, and by proposing to perceive it as a scholarly primitive that is present at all stages of the research lifecycle (2). We advocate open scholarly communication and showcase the development of open science movements and policies across Europe. By presenting the challenges, such as commercialisation of scholarly publishing and worries about academic prestige, we lay out the case for research infrastructures that can address such issues.
SSH have their own specific needs, which cannot all be served by e-infrastructures. Therefore, we call for coordinated action and dedicated infrastructures for SSH in order to address the following key challenges of scholarly communication. If visibility and accessibility of SSH research is promoted through a dedicated infrastructure, it will likely improve their societal impact. Moreover, support for evaluation and quality assurance could allow researchers involved in open science to be appropriately rewarded for their work. This could partly be achieved through further development and advocacy of communication tools and innovative genres that allow faster and more inclusive knowledge sharing across disciplines, fields, languages, and cultures. Since multilingualism and support for local research communities is crucial for SSH, true accessibility would mean ability to discover and use multilingual resources. Furthermore, we argue that for an infrastructure to be successful it needs to be guided by scholars and involve various scholarly communication stakeholders: publishers, libraries, media, non-profit organisations, and companies.
Only a scholarly-driven, inclusive research infrastructure for scholarly communication could comprehensively address both structural and systemic frontiers. Open Scholarly Communication in the European Research Area for the Social Sciences and the Humanities (OPERAS) is presented as an answer to the ideas and challenges faced by the SSH community.
scholarly communication, research infrastructure, SSH, OPERAS, vision statement
- Expert Group to the European Commission. Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Communication : Report of the Expert Group to the European Commission. Brussels; 2019. https://doi.org/10.2777/836532
- Unsworth, J. Scholarly Primitives: what methods do humanities researchers have in common, and how might our tools reflect this? Symposium on Humanities Computing: formal methods, experimental practice sponsored by King’s College, London. London; 2000. Available at: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~jmu2m/Kings.5-00/primitives.html