Creating Scholarly Communities and Fostering Innovation

Gregg Gordon


Working papers, pre-prints, grey literature, forthcoming, and association papers have traditionally been relegated to the bottom drawer of the scholarly desk and not given much value by the community. There have been a number of efforts to provide working papers to interested parties in a timely and efficient manner. Most of them by associations, departments, or other groups focused on a particular discipline and they have had varying levels of success.

SSRN was created in October 1994 and has been successful in building an online community interested in accessing working papers. SSRN's success can be measured in a number of ways but the most valuable contribution to the scholarly community has been to innovation. A simple definition of innovation is the ability to create new things by being exposed to a broader and deeper set of existing things. Social networks, such as SSRN, can provide a significant amount of interaction amongst their participants and those participants can be the catalyst for new ideas. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, University of Notre Dame social networks scholar, said "It's not only how many connections you have, but also how many different communities you are connected to that determines your success."

In this paper, we will explore SSRN's role as a catalyst for scholarly innovation through the creation, expansion, and connection of different communities. Specifically we will discuss:
- How its focus on providing Tomorrow's Research Today allows research to be read earlier in its life cycle than ever before and how that lifecycle has evolved
- How its interdisciplinary approach allows more people from more disciplines to efficiently find and read more research from a far broader set of authors than ever before
- How the larger community creates interesting economies of scale, in particular for the submitters and readers trying to digest ever growing quantities of research

Finally, we will discuss how others can create their own communities, contribute to the scholarship in their areas of interest, and join in the larger community.

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