Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What is "scholarly publishing"?

In the comments to an earlier post, we have been having a conversation about what constitutes "scholarly publishing", especially with respect to publications on web-sites etc. (see the comments to this post). The issues, especially in relation to web-based publication, are clearly very important. I found the following characteristics helpful (from an article by Leah Halliday, 'Scholarly communication, scholarly publication and the status of emerging formats' in Information Research 6. 4 (July 2001); online at:

A scholarly publication requires (essential (E); Highly desirable (HD); and preferable (P)):


  • Publications should not be changed (HD).
  • Different versions should be clearly identified (HD).
  • To satisfy all potential interest, trustworthiness should be based on 'institutionalised' measures such as peer review rather than on personal knowledge (HD).
  • Each publication should have at least one identifiable author (P).


  • The potential audience must be made aware that the publication exists (HD).
  • The publication should have metadata containing a minimum set of information, preferably including information about all versions (P).

Accessibility: the document must be readily obtained by those who wish to use it.

  • The author must intend that the publication be made publicly available in a durable form over the long term (E).
  • The publication must be durably recorded on some medium (E).
  • The publication must be reliably accessible and retrievable over time (E)
  • There should be a commitment not to withdraw the publication (E).
  • The publication must be publicly available, i.e. available to any member of the public on demand as of right, whether for payment of a fee or not. (E).
  • The publication should have stable identifiers (HD).


  1. Many of the problems with E-publication could be sorted out by creating scholarly clearing houses which could allow evaluation of digital (and traditional) publications. These internet databases could offer traditional book reviews, numerically averaged reviews from knowledgeable scholars, and potentially anonymous reviews from a general readership. Likewise, we could track how often something has been downloaded. Think Rotten Tomatoes for scholarly publications.

  2. It's a good idea Christian. I like the idea of "peer review" being opened up to a larger body of readers than current happens with most journals. They would have to have some way to control the "knowledgeable" part of the reviewer though; heaven knows the most popular works are not always the most scholarly.

  3. The durable medium provision brings up an interesting question: which is more durable, print media or digital storage? I don't doubt that we will have digital files created today which will long outlast any dead tree format. On the other hand, digital media is very easy to unmake. Thoughts?

  4. There are some important recent discussions (i.e.: summarised at