Publishing on and off line – the academic questions

June 14, 2007

The tide is slowly turning in the mainstream media vs blogging debate. The trend is not unlike that which other industry sectors like music and journalism have experienced in the recent past. As blogging has shifted from the realm of quirky early adopters to a mainstream social networking force, the powers that be have also had to adapt their perspectives on the phenomena. This often results in a full circle shift from overt disapproval (it has no credibility, it is all about copyright infringement, it will pass, etc) to warm embrace. The story of a blog post about a scientific paper on how alcohol augments the antioxidant properties of fruit is a great illustration of this trend.

Over at Blogscholar there’s a great post about the impact social media is having on publishing in the academic world and how bloggers are pushing back against the somewhat restrictive copyright requirements of the formal academic publishing world. The short version is a PhD student wrote about an academic article, used charts from the article (appropriately credited), journal got stroppy, bloggers pushed back, PhD student reproduced the content in her own graphs, publisher backed down on legal action etc..Read the whole piece because it contains some great links to blogs discussing the wider issues.
In a second article on the same site there’s an even more interesting piece on the “dangers” of publishing academic work on social networking sites due to the fact that your material effectively belongs to those sites once it’s published, even when it’s removed and remains in the archives.

After three startling discussions with academics in the past week it is time to set the record straight about facebook and academic work. The level of naivity in the academic community about the business models behind “free” social networking tools represents a very real danger to the integrity of the publishing process. Blogscholar recommends never using facebook for any academic work (or any other activity for that matter) unless you are completely satisfied that there is no need for any of the data or discussions to be private AND you are satisfied to give up any claim to ownership over any of the intellectual property (words, images, documents, etc) you post on your facebook site or group. There is nothing private about anything you say or do on facebook and everything you post becomes the property of facebook to do with as they please.

These are both fascinating pieces and very relevant for any writer who wants to work across platforms. This issue came up in our workshop on blogging, podcasting and the arts on Tuesday and requires a lot more attention – how can you give stuff away and at the same time make sure that in sharing information you are not excluding the possibility of publishing opportunities in academic journals? In my own case I have made a decision not to publish any of my research findings in this space or online to ensure that my copyright is protected and to ensure future publishing opportunities in academic journals remain open to me.
I seem to remember Simon doing something on copyright in social networking spaces? If someone has a link to that post I’ll gladly update this entry and link to it.

4 People reacted on this

  1. Annette, Sharon pointed me to your blog, and I thought I would stop by, take a look and add a few comments.
    Concerning the issues of copyright, this has been a very big battle here in the States. Larry Lessig writes some of the best stuff I’ve seen about it. Check out his blog at I especially recommend his work with Creative Commons and I would encourage you to check out Creative Commons at
    The Center for Social Media at the School of Communications at American University is doing some very good work on Fair Use, and I’d encourage you to check out
    Much of this was discussed at MIT’s conference Media in Transition. MIT is making all of its courseware available as part of the OpenCourseWare Initiative. They have been running into plenty of issues with the academic presses and have been doing a lot with creating their own graphics when similar graphics are unavailable because of copyright restrictions.
    Some good sources on that are and
    Moving from copyright issues to Constant Partial Attention (CPA) such as we find with Twitter, Facebook and related sites, at the closing session at MIT5, one speaker complained about how CPA was affecting even the conference as people Twittered during the conference. He also spoke about the problem with the conference being too traditional in format. Too much time with keynotes and panelists speaking and not enough of the shared knowledge of members of the conference. I suggested that Twitter was actually a useful tool in providing a chance for sharing knowledge at conferences, and I try to ‘Twitter’ any conference I attend. I also use Twitter as a means of spreading information about my blog by using TwitterFeed to send tweets about when my blog has been updated. You can read more about some of this in a couple blog entries:
    Conference Fugues:
    A maze of twisty little passages, all alike

  2. Hi Aldon, thanks for stopping by and for that comprehensive list of links and resources. I’m really only beginning to look at this area (with respect to academic publishing) and this is really helpful. I hadn’t been over at Larry Lessig’s blog for a while so thanks for the prompt on that one!

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