Scholarly Communications must be Scalable

Feb 20, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This post argues that academic writing must scale to be sustainable, but that it won't. "Traditional scholarship is scarcity knowledge -- its authority is based on lots of knowledge NOT being published, lots of copies NOT being made, lots of audiences NOT being addressed, or money NOT being made." I'm not sure I completely agree, because on the other side, when the objective is to scale, the first thing to go is depth, because depth typically appeals only to a niche. On the other hand, I agree that access to academic literature should be widespread. "The improvement and utility of knowledge correlates directly with how broadly, quickly, and interactively it circulates." So long as commercial considerations do not interfere by watering down academic writing, wide distribution is better, not worse.
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