Scholarly communication refers to the formal and informal processes by which the research and scholarship of faculty, researchers, and independent scholars are created, evaluated, edited, formatted, distributed, organized, made accessible, archived, used, and transformed.
Publishing is the formal system whose key players include faculty, publishers (including scholarly societies), and libraries. Building on the works of others, faculty first create and then give their research to publishers; publishers provide peer review, editorial improvement, and wide distribution; libraries acquire, organize, and provide access to primary resources and new materials and preserve them for future generations of scholars.
The current system of scholarly communication is changing. Libraries and their institutions can no longer keep up with the increasing volume and cost of scholarly resources. The promise of the digital revolution to decrease costs and increase access has been thwarted by commercial publishers interested in maximizing revenues through raising prices and restricting use. Projects and proposals to transform the system are being shaped primarily by stakeholders outside of the faculty. Involvement by faculty is critical in ensuring a new system that meets your needs and those of future scholars.
High Costs for Print Journals and Books
Academic libraries in the U.S. spent 152% more to purchase 7% fewer journal titles in 1998 than in 1986. While the Consumer Price Index went up 49% from 1986 to 1998, the cost of journals went up 175%.
Journals have gone up in price an average of 9% a year since 1986, while the consumer price has increased only 3.4% a year.
The major players in science journal publishing, and increasingly in social science journal publishing, are commercial publishers who report profit margins of 20-40%.
Academic libraries in the U.S. are purchasing 25% fewer monographs today than they did 15 years ago due to high journals prices and resources in new formats.
High Costs of Electronic Publishing: An Alternative with New Challenges
Electronic publication offers the opportunity of greatly improved access to information, with the ability to search and manipulate information far more flexibly than in the print environment.
Electronic information is not free. Commercial publishers often charge as much or more for electronic publications as for print counterparts.
Delivering electronic publications to the campus requires expenditures for equipment and networking that demand frequent upgrades in response to rapid technological change.
Many of the electronic resources available on your campus are governed by licenses which often restrict how you and your students can use the content, and prevent or severely limit the ability of libraries to share journal articles and other information through interlibrary loan.
Libraries are concerned with long-term preservation and archiving issues raised by electronic media.
Loss of Control In the Marketplace
Commercial journal publishers are expanding their market control through acquisitions, mergers, and the purchase of individual titles from learned scholarly societies.
Societies sometimes "sell" their titles to commercial publishers who capitalize the expansion of the journal through significant increases in the subscription price to libraries.
University presses reject quality manuscripts with limited market potential because they cannot recover their costs.
Subsidies from granting agencies and universities for publishing in the humanities have virtually disappeared in the last 15 years.
Loss of Control Through Copyright
Copyright transfer agreements often require you to transfer exclusively all of your copyrights to the publisher, thereby losing control forever of any subsequent public distribution of your research.
Copyright restrictions may limit personal distribution for teaching and research purposes (through your own personal web page, for example), or restrict posting on publicly available web archives.
Proposed copyright legislation supported by some commercial publishers seeks to restrict access to electronic information even more severely.