Scholarly Communication & Copyright

The term scholarly communication has traditionally referred to the cycle of creation and dissemination of research and published works in academia. The library acquires books and journals to support faculty research. Faculty use these materials to produce increasingly sophisticated drafts, conference papers, pre-prints, peer-reviewed journal articles, and books. The library acquires those new materials to complete the cycle and stimulate new work.

Today, the crisis in scholarly communication refers to the breakdown of that cycle. College faculty members create new work, then give it away free to publishers who resell it back to the college at sometimes exorbitant prices that libraries cannot sustain. Arguably, the old model is collapsing and new models must emerge. 

One important strategy focuses on improving authors' retention of their rights when they publish. This allows authors to control subsequent distribution of their work (including for teaching, research, discussion, and local archiving) and may help reduce publishers' monopoly over certain kinds of information.

Other strategies include the following:

  1. Professional choices. Authors, reviewers, editors, and professional organizations can decline to provide material for "offending" publishers, or choose to publish in open access journals or more reasonably priced journals.
  2. Serials pricing. Libraries increasingly turn to consortial arrangements or choose between print and electronic access to mitigate rising costs of journals.
  3. Alternative publishing models. Some libraries and colleges are hosting new publishing venues (often digital), including institutional repositories.
  4. Open access. Publications are made available for free, usually on the Internet, with funding coming from sources other than subscriptions, such as scholarly organization or institutional sponsorship, memberships, etc.


Content in this page was used or adapted with permission from one or more institutions. Please see acknowledgements.