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Decoupling the Scholarly Journal


Decoupling the Scholarly Journal

Jason Priem et al. Front Comput Neurosci.


Although many observers have advocated the reform of the scholarly publishing system, improvements to functions like peer review have been adopted sluggishly. We argue that this is due to the tight coupling of the journal system: the system's essential functions of archiving, registration, dissemination, and certification are bundled together and siloed into tens of thousands of individual journals. This tight coupling makes it difficult to change any one aspect of the system, choking out innovation. We suggest that the solution is the "decoupled journal (DcJ)." In this system, the functions are unbundled and performed as services, able to compete for patronage and evolve in response to the market. For instance, a scholar might deposit an article in her institutional repository, have it copyedited and typeset by one company, indexed for search by several others, self-marketed over her own social networks, and peer reviewed by one or more stamping agencies that connect her paper to external reviewers. The DcJ brings publishing out of its current seventeenth-century paradigm, and creates a Web-like environment of loosely joined pieces-a marketplace of tools that, like the Web, evolves quickly in response to new technologies and users' needs. Importantly, this system is able to evolve from the current one, requiring only the continued development of bolt-on services external to the journal, particularly for peer review.

Keywords: models; peer review; publishing; scholarly communication.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Functions of the journal. Three of the four traditional functions are split into sub-functions. Registration is considered a by-product of proper archiving.
Figure 2
Figure 2
The current structure performing the four functions. There are thousands of journals, each a self-contained silo that performs all of the functions on its own.
Figure 3
Figure 3
The decoupled journal. Although some vertical integration remains in the base layer, most of the functions are performed independently by a diverse ecosystem of service providers.
Figure 4
Figure 4
An example of a single article's view of the decoupled journal. Here we see one of many possible paths for an article in the decoupled journal. Authors and funders select which services and providers are best for a given article.

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