Imagine – What is the far future of research communications?

This coming Saturday I will be at the annual Science Online meeting running a session called Imagine: Future of Scholarly Communications in 10-20 Years. This will be the first time I’ve been to Science Online for a few years. What motivated my original pitch for the session was my memories of the discussions at those earlier meetings that I did attend.

Some of these sessions were heated debates on whether Open Access could work. Sometimes there were just crazy ideas like publishing a single figure. Almost always these discussions started with the, usually valid, assumption that we were a fringe element advocating radical change. Fast forward a few years and making research outputs publicly accessible is the mainstream policy position for most funders. That crazy idea of publishing just single figures turned into a startup doing deals with big publishers. The young radicals have turned into entrepreneurs, community leaders, industrial researchers and tenured professors.

So for me this is a chance to reflect, to look back at what has changed, but more importantly to look forward. What does the trajectory of change tell us? What technologies are developing? And perhaps most crucially what are the aspects of our current system that we understand to be core to its value? And how has that changed over the last few years.

The session is an open ended discussion, and is at the end of the meeting so attendees will have absorbed ideas of the technical and social changes that are happening today and debated vigorously what matters about the principles of how and why we communicate research findings. This is our chance to take that and use it to debate what the far future could look like.

From the session outline:

In the early days and incarnations of Science Online we talked a lot about a future for research communication which was not just on the web, but of the web. Looking back now, many of the changes we predicted (or wished for!) have happened, or at least are happening. From our perspective of 2014, with Open Access a reality, dynamic publications appearing, and experiments in pre- and post-publication peer review gathering pace, what can we see if we look not just a few years down the road but far out into the future. What might change? What will probably not change? And how can we extrapolate from the trends we see today into the far future?

What do you think the far future of scholarly communications will look like? What can change? What should change? And what should not change? If your at Science Online I hope to see you there and if not feel free to leave your comments here.

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