The scholarly publishing sector is undergoing its second digital transformation. In the first, we saw a massive shift from paper to digital, but otherwise publishing retained many of the characteristics of the print era. In this current second digital transformation, many of these structures, workflows, incentives, and outputs are being revamped in favor of new approaches that bring tremendous opportunities, and also non-trivial risks, to scholarly communication.

In a report published today, with funding from STM Solutions and six STM members, we argue that a robust, nimble, and shared infrastructure is imperative to support the vital work of scholarly communication and effectively and efficiently meet the emerging service needs of different stakeholders. In the report, we review several key categories of existing infrastructure, such as identifiers and enterprise publishing systems, and offer recommendations about how they can be improved to address key needs. In addition, we identify several categories where new forms of shared infrastructure should be developed, offering specific recommendations for each, including 

  • to address the growing atomization of the scholarly article, 
  • to ensure the trustworthiness of the scholarly record, 
  • to enable deeper meaning to be drawn from research outputs, 
  • to address new business models, and 
  • to provide an alternative system for scholarly communication. 

Looking across the gaps that exist today, we observe most are the result of strategic, governance, and business model impediments. In some categories, for example, one group of publishing organizations sees the imperative for shared infrastructure where another group sees the opportunity for competitive differentiation. And there is the ever-present issue of the business model and investment case—who pays, who will pay, and for what—which in turn provides incentives for innovation or inaction. Ultimately, the gaps—and the challenges that cause or exacerbate them—are also opportunities for those prepared to invest in the future of infrastructure to support scholarly communication. 

Many of the thorniest challenges we identified can benefit from cross-sector collaboration involving not only publishing organizations but also universities, through their libraries and research offices, as well as funders and of course infrastructure providers. We look forward to working with all these parties in the vital work of addressing shared infrastructure for scholarly communication during this second digital transformation.