[Hi. My name is Isaac and I’m a visitor to this blog. Among other things, I’m the co-editor of the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication. It should be noted however, that the following thoughts are my own ramblings in response to “Iron Sharpens Iron” and do not officially represent JLSC or our editorial board.]

When we founded the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication in 2011, we were under no illusion that we were significantly subverting the dominant paradigms of scholarly publishing (although we hoped to make a small dent!). JLSC is published in volumes and issues, our articles are available as print-analog PDFs, and we use the flawed—but usually effective (for us)—double-blind method of peer review. These attributes—and all other aspects of the journal—are the direct result of conscious decisions that we made when we created JLSC. However conscious they may have been, the rationales and assumptions behind them were not always publicly articulated. And so it is reasonable that they be called into question—by authors, by our own editorial board members, or by the human Venn diagram of the two that is Micah. And thoughtful questions, of course, deserve a thoughtful response…

Our primary objectives in creating JLSC (other than the endless glory) were simple:

  • provide a central “home” for library scholarship related to developments in scholarly communication, and
  • make the work that we publish openly available and re-usable (by authors and readers) in order to more rapidly advance library praxis.

In a practical sense, there are many ways in which we could have elected to pursue those objectives. There are numerous online publishing platforms available. There are multiple digital document formats from which to choose. There are various licensing models for articles. And, of course, there are as many citation and reference styles as there are departments in an undergraduate college.

Many of the choices that we made were pragmatic, and focused on how we could best scale and sustain the journal while accomplishing our objectives. An important factor in sustainability (particularly for a journal with a roughly .1 FTE production team—and the period is not a typo) has been the efficiency with which we are able to prepare and distribute articles. Part of this efficiency is provided by the fact that we used a hosted publishing platform (with dedicated technical support). But a large part of it is also found in standardization—which brings us to (some) of the points raised by Micah…

Due to the nature of this publication (JLSC) as a web-only journal, I chose to abstain from APA citation style. My doing so is a protest against outdated, irrelevant and unnecessary practices that constrict the flow of information. Rather, I opted to use hyperlinks to all my references, each openly available online, inspiring readers to actually connect with the works that are collected and analyzed in this work. Bibliographic citations, and adherence to a “style,” in my opinion, operates to further entrench a closed-access system where citations are privileged over all other measurements of impact – a system I do not believe in and refuse to participate in. If, for purposes of publication in this Journal, a citation style is absolutely required, I will acquiesce with the agreement that all links in my submission will be live and directed to the source that I chose.

It’s true—we do require our authors to submit their manuscripts using the author/date in-text citation style with a corresponding bibliographic reference at the end of the manuscript. And, yes, our selection of APA (over another author/date system like Chicago or an author/page style like MLA) was somewhat arbitrary, but primarily based on our assumption that many authors in the social sciences (i.e. librarianship) would be familiar with it. We could have gone the route of creating a house style, but that would seem to introduce an unnecessary barrier (and potential frustration) for authors, who would have to learn a new style for the sole purposes of submitting to our journal.

Really, it is not the particular style that matters—rather, it is the act of citation and the standardization of that act that is important and useful. I respectfully disagree with the contention that the use of bibliographic citations in general is “outdated, irrelevant and unnecessary” and “constrict[s] the flow of information” and that such use “operates to further entrench a closed-access system.” Yes, bibliographic citations are misused as a metric to evaluate the worth of articles, journals, and authors—but that doesn’t make the original purpose of such citation any less valid, and it is the one that I value. The presence of bibliographic citations provides a means with which to attribute others’ work—and, just as importantly, the information needed to find that work. A (non-persistent) URL/hyperlink, while a useful means of directing a reader to a cited work, is not the most stable reference point. (In anticipation of someone pointing this out—yes, we have used hyperlinks/URLs as the sole means of reference/citation for web content in a few JLSC commentaries; however, for peer-reviewed articles, we generally require full bibliographic citations). Recording authorship, title, publication/posting date, publisher/source, etc. provides a means of tracking down a referenced work when a URL fails. A bibliographic citation (in whatever style) reminds the author to record this information and to provide it to the reader for his/her future use. Whether bibliographic citations are incorporated into a manuscript as a reference list, as footnotes, or as endnotes matters little – what matters is enabling the “flow of information” by ensuring that the source of information is never obscured or lost through an inadequate reference.

While the act of citation is useful and necessary for readers, the standardization of that act also has value—not only for readers, who can easily parse the elements of a known citation style, but for publishers as well. Though I, too, share the desire for a “better, more productive system” for scholarly communication, I am bound by my reality as a journal editor and publisher to also seek a system that is “easier [and] more efficient.” For JLSC, using a standard bibliographic citation style (in our case, APA) makes several tasks easier and more efficient:

  • Reviewing: For both editors and peer reviewers, a standard bibliographic citation style makes it easy to check in-text references against full citations. And while our journal is digital, I still do my first pass of a manuscript on paper (I know, that’s my problem) – and if I need to, it’s a lot easier to Google an article title than type a 37-character URL.
  • Copyediting: As a journal with limited resources (see: .1 FTE support), we need to make the most efficient use of our copyeditor’s time (who is, by profession, not a copyeditor but a MA-holding library staff member who volunteered to help), and part of that time is dedicated to ensuring that in-text citations correspond with the complete bibliographic information provided in the reference list. Without a standard style, this job becomes less efficient (“In a world…where every author used their own citation style…one copyeditor stood alone…”).
  • Production: A standardized in-text citation and reference style makes the job of producing the article more efficient – particularly when laying out a whole journal issue. The rote task of applying formatting to a reference becomes more laborious if each article uses different conventions. Having a complete bibliographic citation/reference list also makes it easier to quickly obtain the DOIs for all cited articles and add them to the reference list.

We never have, and never will, turn away a paper simply because the citations and references have not been formatted correctly. We exist to serve authors—to give them a platform to share their ideas. But we do ask authors to consider the time and effort required on our part when requesting exceptions to our standard practices.

With that said, there are some standard practices that are more easily modified than others. Practices that affect the review and production of the journal are more difficult. But other things—like certain modifications to our submission agreement (on a case-by-case basis) can be more straightforward. Micah noted a few issues with our current agreement:

Additionally, I would like to state my personal withholdings about several items in the Article Submission Agreement that I was forced to agree to, before even submitting.

1) I disagree that the “article” includes all supplementary materials. I believe that different materials have different scholarly purposes, and they should not be constricted under one banner for purposes of convenience.
2) This article has been “published” elsewhere; online first as notes from my presentation, and as a pre-print on figshare…. depending how we are defining “published.”
3) I do agree to license my article as CC-BY, but would prefer if this journal offered the option for authors to choose which license they assign, ranging from full transfer of copyrights to public domain. I think this practice would place more responsibility on authors to be mindful and deliberate about their rights to their scholarly products.

1) I would be open to a semantic change on this point. If “article” seems inappropriate as the label for the collection of materials submitted to the journal (manuscript, tables, data files, etc), we can consider something else. But the actual meaning behind the word is less easy to change. Because authors do not transfer their copyright to us, we need their permission to publish/distribute their articles (if accepted). We need permission not only for the manuscript to be distributed, but for any/all materials submitted with it that the authors intend to be distributed through the journal’s website. It is (here it is again!) not practicable for us to develop individual submission agreements that might carry different levels of permission for different objects in the “article” package. I would suggest that a more appropriate compromise would be this: for any associated objects that the author does not wish to fall under our submission agreement (e.g. a data file), the author could place those materials in an institutional repository or interdisciplinary repository like figshare, and provide us with the link (and citation!) for those materials to include with the published articles. An example of this type of practice is seen here: http://jlsc-pub.org/jlsc/vol1/iss1/6/ (Or, should I say: Mooney, H, Newton, M. P. (2012). The anatomy of a data citation: Discovery, reuse, and credit. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 1(1):eP1035. http://dx.doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.1035)

2) Yes, “published” is a thorny word. I noted the other day that a news site had called academia.edu an “online publisher,” which means the ambiguity is extending further than I thought. We need a new word for formal publication, now that “publish” has returned to its Latin roots. Ideas?

3) In service of the initial objectives of our journal, and in support of openly accessible scholarship (and while acknowledging that the OA community is not united on the appropriate licensing for “OA” work, particularly as we move across disciplines), we elected to use the CC-BY license as the standard for JLSC. However, as noted in our submission agreement, we do—and have—made exceptions for authors who wish to apply a difference CC license to their work. And if that license was a CC0, that would be OK. But while I fully support the idea of authorial agency and having a range of choices available, I don’t believe that we will ever provide the option of transferring copyright to the journal. We do not have any desire to own copyright in others’ work, particularly not under the broken system that exists today. If authors want to sign away their copyrights, I can recommend more than a few excellent journals…

It is not my belief, or expectation (nor that of my colleagues at JLSC, I would wager), that “‘publishing’ exists to serve the publisher, rather than promote or benefit the author,” and if our practices or policies have given that impression—in even the smallest way—then obviously we need to address that. In general, I will be the first to agree that JLSC has room for growth, just as scholarly communication does as a whole. And I would go one step further than Micah (though it’s a step others have trod before me) and say that we need to look beyond “the day when authors […] submit their own terms of publication to a journal.” We need to be looking beyond the journal at all (in the traditional sense). The journal as we know it isn’t the best or most efficient way to communicate. And I encourage authors not to submit to JLSC (or other journals) if they believe their work will be more effectively shared through a repository, or social media, or some other means. In JLSC, we have created just one option for sharing knowledge (and for receiving constructive feedback from peers), using tools and processes that make it possible for us to provide this service to authors over the long term. And we will continue to evolve/change/improve over time as we receive feedback and as it is practicably possible to do so. Whether or not that change will involve Open Sans, I’m not sure…but I will consider Wingdings.