The gatekeeper is dead! Long live the gatekeeper! Or: What does filtering mean for scholarly communications in a web-based world?

Cameron Neylon
Science and Technology Facilities Council

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An important traditional role of the scholarly literature has been a filter, selecting those submissions to the permanent scholarly record that are worthy of the cost of printing and distribution, and worthy of the attention of researchers checking the latest issues in the library. At its centre lies the editor, academic or professional, who makes a choice about how limited resources will be allocated. This made sense when the bottleneck was printing and distributing. In a web-based world, where the cost of making something available is low, it makes sense to publish everything, just in case, but how we will manage the information overload? Cameron will argue that this only seems a paradox from the print media world: that in fact publishing more makes filtering and discovery easier. Tools and approaches are available to enable improved automated filtering and discovery, for example by social filtering and hugely improved web search. It places control in the hands of the user. The role of the publisher changes from that of gatekeeper to one of facilitating discovery. To support this, publishers and researchers will need to consider how to provide access to much more of the raw material of the research process and, critically, how to enable the effective and efficient annotation and mark-up that will support new discovery platforms.

CAMERON NEYLON is a biophysicist who has always worked in interdisciplinary areas and is an advocate of open research practice and improved data management. He currently works as Senior Scientist in Biomolecular Sciences at the ISIS Neutron Scattering facility at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Along with his work in structural biology and biophysics, his research and writing focuses on the interface of web technology with science and the successful (and unsuccessful) application of generic and specially designed tools in the academic research environment. Cameron is a co-author of the Panton Principles for Open Data in Science, founding Editor in Chief of Open Research Computation, and writes regularly on the social, technical, and policy issues of open research at his blog, Science in the Open.

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