In our digital age, we might expect today’s researchers to have access to a unified scholarly platform on which to build personalised publication libraries. Instead researchers are faced with what have been described as “archipelagos of content” linked by inadequate, out-of-date infrastructure. It has been argued that the establishment of individual content platforms by publishers has made discovery fragmented and access challenging for users. A potential solution may be to build bridges and create a central, streamlined platform, as discussed in a recent Scholarly Kitchen article by Roger Schonfeld, Director of the Library and Scholarly Communications Program for Ithaka S+R.
Schonfeld described his vision as a scholarly “supercontinent” and defined two crucial criteria for a truly seamless platform. Firstly, everything should be discoverable, regardless of the publisher. Secondly, everything should be accessible without leaving the platform. Publishers must play a pivotal role in bringing this vision into fruition and, despite the likely negative impact on non-subscription income, several are striving to implement the paradigm shift required by their sector. For example, Elsevier have acquired discovery services such as the reference management site Mendeley, while Dimensions – a citation database – has been launched by Digital Science. Other members of the content-providing community are also taking an interest. Clarivate have recently acquired a browser extension, known as Kopernio, that allows researchers to streamline PDF access and mobilise their libraries, hinting at a potential future link with Clarivate-owned EndNote. Other platforms, such as ResearchGate, provide one-stop discovery and access, however this model has been challenged by some publishers (in relation to copyright protection).
Going forward, Schonfeld argues that publishers will need to welcome the difficult but invaluable transition to a neutral, all-content model, which will involve accepting their key responsibility to ensure that central platforms support the Version of Record. Libraries should also play a role in shaping the scholarly ecosystem into one that meets the needs of their users. Overall, building bridges to establish a modern, seamless platform has the potential to improve research access and discovery, prompting impatient users to ask: why the delay?
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