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May 02, 2018

Future Formats, Distillation or Dilation?

An interesting conversation this morning with one of my IAS colleagues about the future of academic publishing. As an ethnographer of scholarly communications, it is always most enlightening to hear about the ontological drivers underlying a fellow researcher’s publication praxis. It was particularly edifying to witness, again, a dedication to the pursuit of human knowledge for the betterment of society. Certainly a driver such as this, in an age of neoliberal marketization and corporatisation of the Academy, might be constructed as diminishing within the research community. Yet, I say again, because during my own research, this remains an oft expressed motivational imperative behind many academics’ endeavours.

That aside, one topic we chatted about for a while, concerned the future formats of research publication. Running Exchanges, as I do, we’ve followed to date very much a traditional, if entirely diamond (or radical, if you prefer) open access publication model. We have word limits, we rely largely on the printed word and we’ve not routinely incorporated research artefacts or data within our outputs. Nevertheless, for many researchers, especially in the arts and humanities, such prosaic distillations of their work and discoveries might at best be considered considerably reductionist, or at worst represent a barrier between communicating their meaning to society-at-large.

Is there an alternative? Are there forms of research outputs which could be captured, exposed to appropriate quality assurance and review processes, and thence shared with the world? Almost certainly, although technically and indeed procedural, how a title such as ours might go about achieving represents a considerable challenge I’ll be grappling with and exploring over the coming months in this post. Certainly, while Exchanges does contain some wonderfully written articles across a spectrum of inter-disciplinarily, my hope for the future is that it can achieve some measure of evolutionary, and even experimental, work in sharing new forms of media and research outputs.

For now, these are thoughts in my head and many discussions lie ahead of me with other scholars and practitioners within the scholarly publication field. Yet, I remain heartened in my efforts that despite intrinsically capital-enmeshed metric drivers of publishing praxis, like REF2021, scholars continue to embrace an ideological embrace of the societal value of their research. One more reason, I would argue, for the continued reclamation of publishing agency by scholar-led entities such as Exchanges.

March 2021

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