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UALR magazine

Spring/Summer 2008 • Vol. springsummer No. 2008

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Publishing Online

By Tonya Oaks Smith

Technology is not only changing the way students are taking classes, it is changing the way professors conduct their research and publish their work. UALR professors — working with colleagues in Europe — are examining online publication and how that distribution channel impacts the academic chain of command.

Dr. Rolf Wigand, Maulden-Entergy Chair and Distinguished Professor of Information Science and Management in UALR’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology, said because there is incredible pressure for professors to publish in traditional ways, online publication is not the most trusted method of manuscript distribution.

“We don’t publish for the money,” Wigand said. “We are in the business of publish or perish. The pressure is on for academics to publish their research in real journals or media that you can physically touch. It’s ironic, though, that the article I have published in an open-access journal online is cited more than any other.”

Wigand said he has no proof, but he thinks the reason that article is cited more is because it’s readily available, it’s free, and it’s convenient for researchers. Ultimately, the medium’s convenience may determine a report’s success in terms of use and being cited.

The pressure to publish traditionally may fade away, he said, in the near future. Currently, scientific organizations like the National Science Foundation, Department of Health and Human Services, and National Institutes of Health require reports funded by their grant money to be published in an online, open-access manner.

“Traditional publishers don’t want to publish your research after you put it online,” Wigand said. “The federal government sees the importance of electronic publishing, especially in areas that are critical for speed like health and security issues.”

The needs of technology-savvy students also impact how professors are researching and publishing their results. Professors are using YouTube, podcasts, online texts, and other wired learning tools to help their traditional-age students retain material and complete assignments.

Add to those factors the anecdotal evidence from Wigand that student use of traditional libraries is waning, and professors have to make an adjustment. Eventually, he added, these students will be the professors of the future, and they will deal with publishing in their updated way.

“I have some students who don’t think it exists if it’s not online,” Wigand said. “Their mode of thinking is that if I cannot do it electronically, if I can’t do it digitally, then it’s not there.”