Document lifecycles and fluid publication

Traditionally, once a book was published, there was little you could do to change its content afterwards. Works in linguistics which see a second edition are few and far between. The most you could hope for is a sheet of errata distributed with the book itself. One consequence of this was, incidentally, that many works were withheld for a long time to make sure they were absolutely perfect before releasing them to the printer’s, which would make the content immutable.

Errata. CC-BY-SA Sage Ross.

With electronic publication, things are different. The publication of a new version is comparatively cheap. In this blogpost, I will detail the lifecycle of a document at Language Science Press and show how we work together with PaperHive to get the document from the initial stage to the first (and subsequent) editions. At the end, I will put this approach into a wider perspective on academic publishing.

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Open Review of “Tone in Yongning Na: Lexical tones and morphotonology”

Language Science Press109 provides books as Open Access, but we also strive to make the whole publication process more open. Our software is open source, the Latex-code for all our books is openly available, and our bibliographies are on Glottolog.

One aspect of this openness is Open Review. The idea is that instead of two blind reviewers, the whole community can comment on a new manuscript and point out merits and possible improvements. A discussion of the theoretical axes along which Open Review can be differentiated can be found here; a report of practical experiences by Stefan Müller is here. At the time Stefan wrote his report, the technical infrastructure needed for doing Open Review was not fully in place yet, but now we are happy to announce that we will start Open Review as we intend it to be. Our first book to enter this Open Review stage is “Tone in Yongning Na: Lexical tones and morphotonology“.

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Open Authoring as the obvious next step in open publishing

When it comes to writing, reviewing, and proofreading scientific publications and text books (for university students), I am convinced that a radical wisdom of the crowd paradigm does not apply, mostly because the crowds are too small and likely also too fragmented. However, the principles of open access definitely allow larger communities to contribute suggestions, ideas, and corrections to publications, simply because the hurdles and the fuss brought about by copyright restrictions are removed. In this post, I propose that there is much more potential to unleash for the writing and editing process by borrowing concepts and adopting technologies from open source software development.

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Axes of Open Review

At Language Science Press, we are experimenting with Open Review. While investigating how we could implement an Open Review system, we discovered that there are actually very different things which could be called Open Review, and even in a small team, opinions differ as to what is the real thing.



We have established the following dimensions:

open not open
Selection process anyone can comment a restricted class of people can comment
Transparency the names of the reviewers are revealed the names of the reviewers remain anonymous
Online the reviews are created on the Internet the reviews are created offline (e.g. pdf comments in a file)

The  following criteria do not apply to openness, but are nevertheless relevant:

Time final publication will incorporate comments publication is finished before commenting is open
Relevance comments have an influence on the acceptance comments exist next to a different process of quality assurance
Scope comments are local, paragraph level at the maximum global comments, appreciation of the whole work

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Quality assurance and open review

While many of the things that we envisaged in the DFG proposal (Müller & Haspelmath 2013) are up and running already, one important thing is still missing: open reviewing. As was already argued by Pullum (1984), open review increases the quality of publications because reviewers will have to do their job carefully, as it is their reputation that will suffer if their name is associated with a bad publication. In addition, Pullum pointed out that reviews may improve a publication quite substantially and in a closed reviewing scenario the reviewers contribution cannot be acknowledged as it should be.

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