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Forces and functions in scientific communication: an analysis of their interplay

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  • Communication
  • Education


This article deals with the transformation of the familiar, linear scientific information chain into an interactive scientific communication “network” in response to concomitant changes in scientific research and education. Societal conditions are seen to lead worldwide to the concept of strategic research: research dominated by "economy of scope". Strategic research leads to transnational research enterprises - universities and other research institutions - with a focus on return of research capital investment, and thus on intellectual capital. This development calls for new ways of knowledge management that in turn has consequences for scientific communication. The scientific communication market is described in terms of four main forces and their interplay. These forces are the actors (the author/reader pair), accessibility, content, and applicability. Scientific communication is described in terms of its four functions: registration, awareness, certification and archive. These forces and functions allow a structural analysis of the scientific communication market and allow to discuss aspects of structural continuity in e.g. describing the transformation from a paper-based system to communication in an electronic environment. The developments in research are seen to emphasise the already existing autonomous development of a "unified archive". Also these developments lead us to review certification policies to include elements external to research and to consider new structures for communication, and publications. The new structures are a result of the interactions in the market as described by the forces and the functions. The distinction between formal and informal communication is seen to become less useful. The need to review the structure and organisation of the market becomes evident, in particular if we consider communication during research as well. This leads us to speculate if elements of the virtual organisation are of relevance. Finally, the need for a coherent research programme on scientific communication is discussed.

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