What Digital Scholarship Models Are Scholars Using?

In November 2008, a report written by Ithaka and commissioned by the Association of Research Libraries, entitled Current  Models of Digital Scholarly Communication, examined how faculty members use exclusively-digital, non-traditional scholarly resources. It identified 206 resources used by faculty that fit ARL’s category of “original and scholarly”. Those sources are aggregated in an ARL searchable database.

To be clear, “Original” means that the content was “born-digital” and appears in the chosen resource first. “Scholarly” refers to the author’s identity as a scholar and includes both peer-reviewed resources and informal sources like blogs and discussion forums.

Within the 206 resources, eight categories emerged:

  1. E-journals
  2. Reviews
  3. Preprints and Working Papers
  4. Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, and Annotated Content
  5. Data
  6. Blogs
  7. Discussion Forums
  8. Professional and Scholarly Hubs (Mixture of these categories)

Some interesting points:

  • Top reason for use of these resources across disciplines was to access most current research
  • Academic discipline influences which formats are considered important
    • E-journals among top choice across disciplines
    • Humanities highly value informal exchanges (blogs, discussion) more than other disciplines
    • Social Sciences highest rated – professional hubs, preprints (Social Science Research Network)
    • Science, Technical and Medical (STM) rated data sources the highest
  • Some preprint sources like SSRN and arXiv (STM) have been around for a while and are established but many others are new and still must gain respect from the broader community.
  • These resources have created new forms of scholarly contributions.  Are they being acknowledged by tenure committees?  Christine Borgman is interviewed about this in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Bringing Tenure into the Digital Age.

This report provides a good foundation for integrating and encouraging the use of these resources for faculty.  It also gives more insight into the influence that a discipline has on their workflow.

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