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Scholarly Communication: Intro

Resources about scholarly communications and Open Access links

Key Terms in the Open Access Movement

About Scholarly Communication

What is scholarly communication and why is it important?

Scholarly communication is the process through which research and other scholarly works are evaluated, disseminated and preserved.  Historically, we have gone through periods of defined scholarly communication practices that change due to a technological shift and then stabilize. We are in the midst of just such a shift at the present.


What is behind the push for open access materials?


Open access is a movement that recognizes this technological and cultural shift and an open access publication is available to all, freely, subject to attribution of authorship.

The current prevailing method of scholarly communication involves using for-profit publishers to edit, publish and distribute an authoritative copy of a work.  Those who wish to read or learn about this work must purchase the published work.  As publishers’ costs rise, the costs for accessing the information rise, while at the same time more information is published than ever before.  Librarians and scholars recognize that the system is untenable for much longer. The ability to communicate instantaneously with thousands of scholars at once via the internet has opened up new avenues to scholars and students.  Researchers can share information with selected individuals or with the masses through a single keystroke.    Open access is a movement that recognizes this technological and cultural shift and an open access publication is available to all, freely, subject to attribution of authorship.  A more complete description of an open access publication can be found at the following site: http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/bethesda.htm

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Scholarly Communication (SC)?
Scholarly communication is the process through which research and other scholarly works are evaluated, classified, registered, disseminated, preserved and sometimes composed.

Why is there a "crisis" in scholarly publications?
The cost for scholarly materials purchased by libraries increases faster than the inflation rate and much faster than the increase in library budgets.  For instance, in Washington state, from 1996-2006 the expenses for library materials increased 57% while the inflation costs rose only 28% nationally.  Additionally, the number of published jounals has increased.  Consequently the purchasing power of the library is diminished and the ability of the student and faculty to access all the pertinent information is affected.

How does the scholarly publishing crisis affect me?
Libraries can purchase less of the overall information universe than before, because of the inflating cost of journals.  Therefore, less information is available to you as a researcher and scholar.  Also, as an author, the ownership of your scholarship is a right you can control, particularly with alternate publishing models and creative licensing.

What are “alternate publishing models”?
Alternate publishing models are attempts to promote scholarship through open access publishing in free journals, hybrid journals (where publishing is subsidized), or through depositing in an repository with free access.  Low-cost journals published by scholarly societies also offer affordable choices for higher education institutions. 

What is an institutional repository?  Why should I use it?
Institutional repositories are controlled online storage databases.  They allow for sharing, organizing, describing and preserving documents.  By placing a work on an institutional repository you may increase access to your work and gain a stable storage platform.

Can digital journals be reliably cited?
Most journals and digital repositories provide persistent, stable URL’s for their articles.

Are open access journals peer-reviewed? 
A majority, but not all open access journals are peer-reviewed.  Before presenting an article as peer-reviewed you might want to check with one of the following sources:

Can alternate journals be used for promotion and tenure decisions?
Many alternate journals maintain the standards to qualify for promotion and tenure decisions.  The perception that new, alternate models of publication are lower quality is based upon a lack of information about emerging scholarly communication models. Universities can contribute to supporting open access publishing by evaluating peer-reviewed electronic journals and recognizing their worth.

How do I maintain copyright of my own work?
Copyright of intellectual material can be maintained by either amending a publisher’s agreement or by publishing using an open access source.  The SPARC addendum is a document that can be added to a publisher’s agreement to maintain author’s rights.  For more information on author’s rights see the ‘Faculty’ tab.

How do I keep people from ‘stealing’ my work if it is freely accessible online?
Copyright laws still apply to online materials.  Plagiarism or stealing of ideas may be slightly easier when the content is online, but it is still illegal.  Additionally, plagiarized material taken from online sources is easier to track and find.

What can I do to help?
Scholarly communication relies on faculty, student, and public support.  As a faculty member, you can contribute to SC by publishing in open access journals or making your work freely accessible.  As a student you can support SC by joining using open access sources or by joining a group that champions open access, such as students for a free culture or student PIRG's.  As a member of the public you can advocate for policies such as the Federal Research Public Access Act (that allows federally funded research to be publicly accessible).

Subject Guide

Ben Tucker
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