Scholarly communication trends in the digital age. Informal scholarly publishing and dissemination, a grounded theory approach

Publication Date02 November 2015
Date02 November 2015
AuthorAhmed Shehata,David Ellis,Allen Foster
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Scholarly communication trends
in the digital age
Informal scholarly publishing and
dissemination, a grounded theory approach
Ahmed Shehata, David Ellis and Allen Foster
School of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate scholars’ attitudes toward informal publishing
and dissemination to provide a view of the challenges and advantages of using such channels. Although
considerable research has been carried out in relation to peer-reviewed scholarly publishing, relatively
few studies have investigated the adoption of informal scholarly communication platforms in the
scholarly publishing process.
Design/methodology/approach The paper deployed a grounded theory approach using
semi-structured interviews as a qualitative research tool. A theoretical sample of 40 researchers in 4
universities were interviewed to gather data regarding informal publishing, platforms, factors that
affect the researchers’ decision and the use of informal channels in dissemination.
Findings – Results of the interviews suggest that there is an increasing trend among researchers
toward informal publishing and dissemination throughout the scholarly communication cycle. The
paper shows that there are three types of scholars who are involved in the scholarly communication
process: conventional, modern and liberal scholars. Each of these scholars carries different beliefs
regarding the scholarly communication process.
Research limitations/implications – This paper was conducted on a relatively small sample of
academic researchers, and therefore, the results cannot be easily generalized into a wider community of
Originality/value – The paper provides insight into informal scholarly publishing practices using a
grounded theory approach. This approach helped to capture the changes in both scholarly publishing
practices and the adoption of informal techniques among the scholarly community.
Keywords Scholarly communication, Informal publishing, Informal dissemination
Paper type Research paper
In the past few decades, interest has increased concerning the future of formal scholarly
communication and scholarly publishing in light of the recent changes in information
and communication technologies (ICTs) (Waltham, 2010;Oppenheim et al., 2000;
Borgman, 2000;Bohlin, 2004). Many scholars believed that ICTs would change the
current scholarly publishing and dissemination practices by replacing traditional
publishing platforms with new formal and informal publishing platforms. Therefore, it
was suggested that publishers were moving quickly toward the use of the Internet as a
platform for the distribution of their research, making the boundaries between formal
and informal literature non-existent (Bohlin, 2004;Hurd, 2000;Stewart et al., 2013).
Egyptian Government and Aberystwyth University are thanked for funding this research project.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 12 September 2014
Revised 12 September 2014
Accepted 12 December 2014
TheElectronic Library
Vol.33 No. 6, 2015
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/EL-09-2014-0160

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