Scholarly Communication Issues

Scholarly Communication refers to the system through which research and scholarly works are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. It is a shared system of research and scholarship, and stakeholders in the system include researchers, scholarly societies, publishers, university administrators, funding agencies, and libraries. Society benefits from a healthy system of scholarly communication because the results of research and scholarly inquiry are communicated efficiently and at reasonable cost.

What are the issues?

Academic Promotion Concerns

Tenure and Promotion committees are charged with evaluating the quality and impact of a faculty member’s scholarly or creative work. Scholars seeking promotion and/or tenure may feel pressure to produce as many publications as possible. However, neither committees nor scholars should conflate quantity and quality.

Naturally, authors want to publish their research where other scholars are likely to read it.
High article rejection rates, and the reputation of the editorial board members may indicate prestige. Check a journal’s impact factor, Eigenfactor™, and Article Influence™ using Journal Citation Reports. The three measures use citation data to assess and track the influence of a journal in relation to other journals.

Authors may also wish to consider open access alternatives for publication. Articles published in scholarly open access journals are subject to the rigors of peer review, and impact factors for many are now reported in Journal Citation Reports. In addition, multiple studies conducted over the last several years show that open access materials are cited at a higher rate than articles published in the traditional subscription-access model.

Cost of Scholarly Journals

Rapidly rising journal subscription prices have severely eroded the ability of libraries, universities, and scholars to purchase the publications necessary for research and education. SPARC reported that while the Consumer Price Index increased 73% between 1986-2004, research library expenditures for serials increased 273%.
Journal subscription costs are rising faster than inflation, especially in the Science-Technology-Engineering-Medicine (STEM) disciplines.

Even in good economic times, libraries face rising costs and budgets may not keep pace. Library Journal reports on a bleak 2009-2011 outlook for Association of Research Libraries (ARL) members.

To cope with the annual increases in journal subscription costs, libraries may be forced to divert funds formerly earmarked for monograph purchases. University and other scholarly presses are publishing fewer books because of the reduced market. Untenured humanities faculty are expected to publish a monograph to meet tenure and promotion requirements, but they may have trouble finding a publisher.

The Digital Environment

In the preface to Scholarship in the Digital Age (MIT Press 2007), Christine L. Borgman states,

Scholars in all fields are taking advantage of the wealth of online formation, tools, and services to ask new questions, create new kinds of scholarly products, and reach new audiences. The Internet lies at the core of an advanced scholarly information infrastructure to facilitate distributed, data- and information-intensive collaborative research... This is an opportune moment to think about what we should be building.”

Researchers are creating new forms of scholarship, sharing data widely, and expect journal content in digital format. Traditional print formats are still powerful scholarly communication vehicles, but they can also limit scholarly or creative expression.

In response, Texas A&M University Press is one of six university presses participating in a one-year Mellon Foundation grant to explore development of a digital collection of New World archaeology scholarship. Texas A&M Libraries is a founding member of the Texas Digital Library (TDL), a consortium working together to provide cost-effective solutions to the challenges of digital storage, preservation, and communication faced by Texas colleges and universities.

Intellectual Property and Copyright

Historically, publication agreements have included a complete assignment of all copyright from author to publisher. In the past, print publication was the most effective means of dissemination of research and scholarly materials and this was not a concern to authors. Once an article was in print, it was available to the widest possible audience. With new models of scholarship and online publication and the benefits that it brings for authors, this is no longer the case. Understanding what copyright is, what rights to protect, and how to retain them is important for authors of scholarly material.