Beyond the PDF 2 Conference: Revolutionizing Academic Publishing

Posted on April 05, 2013 by Tadween Editors | 0 comments

New technology has created a multitude of avenues through which academics, scholars, publishers, librarians, and other related fields can communicate. The challenge, however, is using such technology to communicate effectively and change old habits that no longer seem to be working. This is a challenge that the participants of the Beyond the PDF 2 conference have sought to tackle.  

“Individually and collectively, we aim to bring about a change in modern scholarly communications through the effective use of information technology,” states Force11, the organizers of the Beyond the PDF 2 conference, held in Amsterdam in mid-March.

Force11, which stands for the Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship, is an online community that aims to transform how scholars communicate and engage, particularly in the digital age. The group arose from the first Beyond the PDF conference held in 2011.

Aside from generally enhancing communication between scholars, the conference brought to light how dramatically the world of academic publishing has shifted in recent years. As conference attendee
Peter Brantley explains in Publishers Weekly, academic publishing has been confined to the pages bound in books and academic journals for decades and far too long. Technology has broken the spine of these books and journals and has allowed for academic publishing to experiment with new technologies. “What is happening now is that academic researchers are beginning to reconsider the underlying, fundamental workflow of research and publication,” claims Brantley.

Nothing illustrates this more than
Beyond the PDF 2’s winner of the “Agent of Change” award, Carole Goble. Goble’s suggestion, titled “Don’t Publish. Release!,” argues that the idea of an academic publication being complete is ultimately flawed. Given all the new attributes of the digital age and the ability to modify data with a click of the “edit” button, it appears that nothing can ever be finished, nor should it.

Let's face up to the fact that we release research rather than publish it. Let’s start applying a 20th century software release paradigm instead of a 18th century print a book paradigm to scholarly communication,” stated Goble, who insists that data and methods will inevitably change and impact previous research, requiring academics to repair and re-work previous publications.

One clear message from the conference is the need for academics, scholars, and publishers to embrace the change that has come, and that the current academic revolution taking place will do more good than harm.

Force11 has a list of outcomes, reflections, and summaries from the Beyond the PDF 2 conference which can be found

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