Layer journals. Not cake, but close.

One of the parts of the solution to the currently broken system of scholarly publication are layer journals.  The problem is the deluge of papers, combined with multidisciplinarity, means there is just far too much to keep on top of any topic, and any particular journal might have a spasm of including unexpected topics.  The answer is an old fashioned one: the editor.  Editors pick and choose amongst the literature, selecting for a specific audience and topics, and then either republish choice items, or  rewrite them into language for another audience.  For the latter, think the New Scientist, or BBC Horizon – good journalism has done this forever.  When you’re rewriting, you don’t need permission to reproduce the ideas in the original resource.   Copyright is all about the specific string of words you use, not the idea behind them.

For a publication that republishes articles verbatim, you have a couple of choices – you can point to the original, or you can include the whole thing.  We’ll talk about linking to things, and why that’s turning into a complete shambles in Europe in another post, and I’m feeling really ranty about it, but I’ll lay it aside.  For now.  Including the whole thing is easy.  If it has a creative commons licence, and you just copy it, you’re fine.  Doesn’t matter which licence, unless you are charging to access your edited list of articles, and they have stipulated a non-commercial clause (cc-by-nc) and then you’ll need to talk to the copyright holder to get a agreement to do so.  There’s a nice little range of businesses for subscription newsletters and websites republishing OA articles for specific audiences that is not being explored yet,  I’d pay for an edited feed of the most important articles on scholarly publishing – even though the articles were free to read in the first place, I’d appreciate the effort of an editor to sift through and point me at the ‘best’ ones.

So, lets look at a few examples of an editorial hand on a flood of information.

The firehose – OATP.  The Open Access Tracking Project is a shared social feed of publications about Open Access.  its quite overwhelming, and the choice of items is spread across a number of editors who volunteer to tag items for it.  Though the  snooty buggers don’t include this blog as one of its sources, I’m still quite enamoured of it nonetheless.  I look at it when I’m running out of steam of an afternoon, and it keeps me a few steps ahead of my boss, which is always a good thing.

The selector – The Idealis.  The Idealis is a one-item-a-day mailing list and journal that selects items in librarianship and scholarly communication.  It selects from academic journals, magazines and newspapers – so a broad range of sources.

Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

The  Discriminator- Discrete Analysis is what you’d think a layer journal looks like.  Drawing from items in the Arxiv, an editorial team select, then describe the importance of each item, going into some detail.  Though I don’t understand a word of it, it rings every bell I have in my librarian sensibilities for ‘authoritative, reliable and high quality’.

There is the spectrum of what you can do if the content you are pointing towards is free-to-read.  The only one missing is the paid for option, but that can’t be that far off.  If you have good examples of the reuse of scholarly literature, feel free to comment.

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