others to use and analyze; active databases that allow scientists to deposit the
output of their individual work; and community data initiatives, which harness
efforts of the general public to create data for researchers. An example of a
community data initiative is eBird, which, by collecting the recorded
observations made by amateur bird-watchers, has been able to develop a large
set of data regarding bird sightings that is valuable both to the scientific research
community and to nonacademic parties interested in avian migration patterns.
Many of the data projects in this sample are supported by grants from
foundations or government sources. For example, the Protein Data Bank has
been able to sustain itself through a series of grants, in large part due to the
prominence and importance of the resource to the scientific community. One of
the founders noted, “Last time we counted, we had 16 different grants
worldwide to fund this thing; 8–9 in the US from different agencies.” Because of
the unpredictability of the revenue stream and the labor involved in monitoring
and applying for so many grants, project leadership feels this model is not ideal,
and has begun discussions about other sustainability options to pursue.3
Many data projects also receive some kind of support from their home
institutions and some, though not many, have tried advertising or corporate
sponsorship. Chemspider offers ads on its home page, as well as “compound-
based advertising,” which allows advertisers to display ads in proximity to
materials relevant to the products being advertised. Similarly, eBird has a
corporate sponsor in Zeiss, a manufacturer of the optic devices that birders use.
Blogs (15 resources)
The study turned up blogs across many disciplines. Faculty reported reading them
daily or weekly to learn about new works and events in their field. Some blogs, like
RealClimate, alert readers to new and interesting research and events in their
community and field while adding a layer of commentary on top of the news.
Blogs can add value to resources focused on other sources of content, like e-only
journals or encyclopedias; at least 29 other resources from the sample include blogs
as a supplemental form of content. Some blogs provide a vehicle for conversation
among scholars in a particular field or specialty. The scholars who created PEA
Soup, a blog focused on philosophy and ethics, were eager to create a space to
work through ideas informally with colleagues, “the electronic equivalent of
walking down the hall to talk to your colleague, but with people all over the
country and world,” said one of PEA Soup’s founders.
RLI 263 16
Digital Scholarly Communication: A Snapshot of Current Trends
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APRIL 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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