4.2 Dysfunctioning of the Scholarly Communications
The nature of scholarly communication in the ICT-enabled era has changed significantly. In last twenty years period, many print journals have introduced their digital or online edition, popularly known as electronic journals. Many new scholarly journals were also launched purely in electronic format without any print edition. Electronic journals have many more functionalities than traditional print journals. These journals can be read 24X7 anywhere using desktop computers, laptops and now even hand-held mobile devices. An electronic copy can be downloaded, shared, archived or transmitted to anyone having internet accessibility. Problem of space for archiving back issues in libraries is over. Also there is no limitation of space to accommodate any number of articles in an issue. Print journals usually have regular International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), whereas electronic edition of scholarly journals have separate ISSN, known as e-ISSN. So, a scholarly journal usually has a regular ISSN for print edition and e-ISSN for electronic edition. However the number is only a registry of the publication and not necessarily a reflection on the scholarliness of the publication. An online journal gateway or a publisher’s site also offers many personalized services to its registered users, such as, Table of Contents (ToC) alert service for current issues of journals, call for papers in special issues, list of highly cited papers, list of highly downloaded papers, and list of highly saved papers in social bookmarking websites. They also allow registered users in commenting in article page, which is subject to editorial acceptance. These journals also offer appropriate options in article page for sharing an article’s bibliographic details in social media and save its bibliographic record in social bookmarking websites. Proliferation of academic journals is consequence of knowledge explosion since the twentieth century. This growth is exponential. Research literature available in today’s world is manifold in comparison to the last decade. Every journal gets considerable number of articles submitted by new as well as experienced authors. Filtering out these manuscripts to choose right, qualitative and focused articles require editorial acumen, rigorous peer-review process and quality control. However, getting qualified peer-reviewers and editorial board members is becoming a major challenge to existing as well as to new journals. New career promotional principle of “Publish or Perish” (PoP) for scientists and academics, more particularly in the developing countries, forces many journals receiving poor quality manuscripts with errors in methodological, language, structural and theoretical frameworks. Unexperienced editors and peer-reviewers when allow these poorly written manuscripts to be published, the quality of journals is then compromised. The journal declines in ranking within its subject fields with respect to its scientific impact and popularity. Then another journal with tight quality control ascends to take a higher rank. While quality check is compromised in a reputed journal, due to aging of editorial board members or peer reviewers or other reasons, a new breed of highly promising scientists must be induced to keep pace with new developments in the fields. On the other hand, new journals with backing from scientific networks, special interests groups or scholarly societies are also being launched around the world with new methodological approaches. Many of these journals have differentiated their approaches through innovations in delivery mechanism or in peer-reviewing process. Some of the journals have started open review system, inviting authors and reviewers in a common interactive platform for well articulation of arguments and two-way flow of ideas. Journal editors many a times become facilitators in mediating peer-review sessions, before accepting or rejecting submitted manuscripts. An example of such journal following open review system is eLife journal. ICT-enabled scholarly communications environment also helps publishing of journals from developing countries. These journals have been traditionally distributed mostly through print subscriptions within the country and its neighbouring countries. But, when these journals are published in electronic format and are made available through online platforms of regional journal gateways or open access channel, they get worldwide visibility, readership and attract global authors contributing from other countries. Their print or online subscription in other regions can also be increased due to their increased global visibility and accessibility. For assuring international visibility and accessibility of scholarly journals, many publishers have started digitizing contents of back volumes and archiving digitized contents in online platforms, either subscription-based or open access. For example, Project MUSE50 has archived digitized contents of back volumes of journals from non-profit publishers and more particularly from university presses in the United States and Canada. Project MUSE is a subscription-based service covering social sciences and humanities. The scholarly communications have experienced many levels of dysfunctions in the last three-four decades, starting from reducing affordability of subscribed contents to reducing affordability of open access publishing charges as well as now encountering with predatory open access publishers. Following Sections highlight global concerns in serials crisis and issues related to scholarly journal publishing.