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01 September 2020

Publishing in the digital era

Lorenzo Breschi

In the last century, academic journals have played an essential role in the divulgation and preservation of knowledge as well as in giving recognition to the work of researchers. However, in the last 10-15 years the digital world has evolved and expanded a lot, giving incredible opportunities to broaden and deepen scientific communications.
Academic journals has been profoundly affected by a plethora of innovations that have modified the way knowledge is produced, evaluated and disseminated. Services such as SSRN, Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Academia.edu, Mendeley and the Open Access journals are only the visible tips of the iceberg.
Researchers, now, have at their disposal different non-traditional sources of scientific information to promote and share their work. Online and digital tools of different kind and level of readership are becoming increasingly important and will surely continue to grow in the future.
This kind of evolution has brought several advantages to the world of research, making scientific knowledge more interactive and global. Furthermore, the ways scholars nowadays search for new material is changing and is mostly based on topics and names of authors rather than focused on already known specific journals.
In addition, the shift to the web has disrupted many of the physical barriers native of the paper-based market and, as a matter of fact, has led away the publication process from the total control of scientific publishers.
With almost unlimited capabilities of collecting and sharing data via internet, the question, today, would be whether classical scientific journals are still a relevant and appealing format for the readership. In the near future, for scientific divulgation, a likely scenario could be the coexistence of paper-based publications and services with digital and online content and insights. The union of the printed and digital world would be of great help, allowing people to benefit from both realities.
With the digital evolution ongoing, it is important not to forget the importance of a well-organized evaluation system. Indeed, a correct and peer-reviewed processes that select valuable works, is the most important structural element of the present research ecosystem and allows to filter data to sort out relevant and standardized papers.
With the importance of a correct selection and evaluation process in mind, academic publishing needs an insight transformation to respond to the opportunities and challenges of the digital age, with its different designs, way of diffusion and readings, and to offer innovative solutions in terms of format, management and distribution. Furthermore, a reflection should be made on the role of academic journals in the development of knowledge in our society.


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