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In Theory...

From the Chronicle of Higher Education today comes an announcement of a report conducted by the University of California’s Office of Scholarly Communication that indicates that, generally, scholars accept the notion of innovative modes of electronic publishing in theory, but remain resistant in actual practice. According to the Chron, the report concludes that “the UC faculty largely conform to conventional behavior regarding scholarly communication, such as publishing in traditional venues, but widely express a need for change in the current systems of scholarly communication.” Such resistance seems to stem from fears that new modes of publishing might undermine the quality or value of scholarship.

At the same time, however, the report suggests that the force for innovation is coming from what its authors consider to be some surprising locations: according to the Chron, “identifies ‘more appetite for change among faculty in arts and humanities than within the social sciences, life and medical sciences, or the physical sciences.’ And it concludes that senior professors are often ‘more open to innovation than younger faculty.'”

So, the perennial question: how do we bridge the theory-practice divide? How do we translate the recognition of a need for change into actual change? How do we get those open-minded senior professors to make clear to their departments and their administrations that such changes are positive, that the quality of scholarship can in fact improve if institutions are open to innovation? And, most importantly perhaps, how do we get those institutions to convey to junior faculty — and to stand by those assurances — that new modes of publishing are not just valid, but valued?


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