An Information Services Inspired Framework for Assessing Scientific Book Quality

An Information Services Inspired Framework for Assessing Scientific Book Quality

P. A. Kostagiolas (Ionian University, Greece), C. Banou (Ionian University, Greece) and S. Stamou (Ionian University, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/jssmet.2012010104
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Scientific book quality is two-fold in terms of an intangible and a tangible aspect. Traditionally, an editor reads and assesses the quality characteristics of the manuscript. Considering the book as an object, quality focuses on the publishing production process and workmanship. The above include a wide number of services and operations involving publishers, authors, the editorial department, the creative department, etc. The advent of scholarly communication and self-publishing would benefit from an objective and measurable book quality assessment framework. This paper addresses a number of challenging issues, such as definition and quantification of quality in scientific books. The paper examines services and techniques which can be used to reduce the cost of scientific manuscript assessment and increase objectivity. The information services inspired framework supports the review process in which an expert engages the assessment of a manuscript.
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1. Introduction

Book quality is subjective, difficult and perhaps a rather controversial issue to discuss. Publishers, as well as editors, traditionally decide upon book quality through the selection of titles to be published and the typographic form of the books (Davies, 2004; Thompson, 2010). Printed book exists both as object and text (Baverstock, 1993; Banou, 2008), thus tangible and intangible issues should be examined in regard to book quality. Nowadays, book quality is influenced and assessed to a great extent through changes in the book publishing industry (Greco, 2005; Striphas, 2009; Thompson, 2010) which require the development of specialized services based on novel information science techniques and novel publishing technologies as well as cultural changes.

Scientific research of all disciplines is central to all aspects of the quality of life. Over the last decades an astonishing amount of scientific results has been made available and the number of researchers worldwide has been significantly increased. The Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) publishing is a special publishing sector serving scholar/academic communication and is characterized by intensive investments in novel information services and technologies (Clark & Phillips, 2008). In fact, dissemination of inadequate information material in science, technology and medicine could even be dangerous. High quantity and low quality publications may produce many externalities in academia, consume the scarce library resources and put at risk society as a whole; while surely they have a negative effect on the reputation of a particular publishing house. Considering the above, various services for reviewing and editing the scientific manuscripts have been introduced in order to keep book quality at an adequate level. Judging and controlling the quality is a core process in the scientific book publishing industry and scientific book quality is the last thing on which one should economize. Hence, the STM publishers should embrace novel information services confirming their role as gatekeepers of high merit scholar publication.

Over the years a rather intuitive comprehension of the scientific book quality includes intangible and tangible characteristics. In terms of book content the quality may be expressed as “is it intriguing, stimulating, innovative, or well structured?” Therefore, an expert/reviewer may read and assess the manuscript in terms of its grammar, structure, methods employed, content and originality, etc. Moreover, considering the book as object, quality issues focus on the workmanship; thus, the underlying question is “whether a particular book is well done?” Hence, the term “quality” refers to the book publishing technical and creative production processes and is again measurable. Publishers, authors, the editorial department, the department of graphic design (or the creative department) are mainly those who decide and determine on book as a material object. Often, criteria for that decision are what they name “taste”, “experience” and/or “instinct” (Schiffrin, 2001). This may lead to aesthetically admirable books; however, scientific book quality requires as a notion to be objective and measurable. A scientific book may have aesthetic, economic, and informative value to a reader and thus be “useful”. The variability however of quality criteria is high due to the wide number of scientific subjects and scientific publication categories. The inherited complexity of such quality judgements lead the publishing industry in developing services for review processes so as to assure some quality characteristics, usually defined by each scientific publisher (Thompson, 2005; Clark & Phillips, 2008). Although a number of services have been developed for the support of the review process, a more comprehensive framework has not yet been made available for assessing the scientific book.

This work addresses a number of simple yet challenging issues, such as:

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