Innovation in Scholarly Publishing: Case Studies

  • Maciej Maryl, Institute of the Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
  • Marta Błaszczyńska, Institute of the Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
  • Agnieszka Szulińska
  • Mateusz Franczak
  • Paweł Rams


This paper presents methodological choices made to explore innovation in scholarly publishing in social sciences and humanities (SSH). Our choice was a systematic case-study analysis. The paper identifies the key areas and obstacles for innovation in scholarly communication and provides recommendations for scholarly communication infrastructures.

Methods (Background)

This study was conducted as part of the Work Package 6 (WP6) ‘Innovation’ of the OPERAS-P H2020-funded project, whose focus is on innovation in various aspects of scholarly communication and the role of research infrastructures in this process. In this paper we establish separate workflow and a case study protocols to investigate specific innovative projects already existing on the SSH scholarly communication landscape. The work is ongoing, with the aim to include about 20 detailed case studies by the beginning of autumn 2020. The case studies include digital editions, novel SSH tools, innovative SSH initiatives and other SSH scholarly communication projects that employ untraditional solutions. The analysis is centred around key areas identified as traditional and innovative forms and genres, novel tools, collaboration in preparation of academic outputs, workflow in scholarly writing, publishing, and communicating, power and prestige in scholarly communication, and evaluation of academic outputs.

Results and Discussion

We define several areas of interest and translate them into a research protocol applied to case studies. The paper sums up innovation practices from case studies according these fields:

  • Publication category: We identify whether a specific case is a project, publishing platform, innovative monograph, digital edition, etc.

  • Basic metrics: Here we specify key information: the name, type, URL, author(s) and institution(s) involved in its creation, SSH discipline(s) it represents, status (active/inactive/in progress), date of creation, versions or updates, supported languages, and licence(s).

  • Users and their needs: In this section we focus on what user expectations are and strategies to accommodate them. We also set out to explore the projected user role and possibility to communicate with each other and with the author(s).

  • Data and technology used in building the tool: We describe and analyse different technological choices (including the selection of programming and formatting, features and functionalities) and their effects on interoperability (seeing whether it is synched with other databases and if it is part of an integrated tool suite).

  • Affiliation, authorship, workflow: This section explores how these issues are addressed in a particular case, especially in interdisciplinary and collaborative writing.

  • Availability and accessibility: We assess usability features, including different forms of accessing the resources (need to set up an account, payment plans) and tools ensuring inclusion.

  • Sustainability: We assess if long-term access is provided through exploring the business model, funding schemes, security measures, and sustainability plans.

  • Evaluation: We look into how a source is given relevance by investigating what kind of evaluation it receives, if the content is peer reviewed, and whether the project/tool uses alt-metrics.

  • Impact: Our main focus is on social impact, dissemination strategies, and compatibility with existing solutions (such as indexing in databases).

  • Summary of the innovative aspects: We highlight the key differences (incl. advantages and disadvantages) between this innovative form and traditional publishing.


We believe this paper’s contribution is threefold. Firstly, it provides a detailed review of directions innovations take in SSH scholarly communication. Secondly, it defines the scholarly needs that can be addressed by research infrastructures. Finally, it provides a methodological protocol for scholars wishing to adapt a similar methodology for studying scholarly communication in the future.

Key words

scholarly communication, scholarly publishing, innovation, SSH, research infrastructure