Innovative Scholarly Initiatives

MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

An Introduction to Scholarly Communications

The Issues
The publishing system enabling scholars to distribute research results to a wide audience is in danger of collapse. Crushing price increases for peer-reviewed journals have far outpaced meager growth in library budgets. The result, within a few years, could be drastic reductions in library purchases of books, journals, and digital resources in every academic field. Scientists, researchers, and scholars will lose access to the information critical to their research and their careers.

The purpose of this web page is to provide information on this crisis, the reasons behind it, and possible responses. UNM faculty, staff, and students and staff can learn what the university is trying to do and how they can take part.

Background
Scholars depend on a communications system to distribute their research and commentary to colleagues. In another decade or so, that system could be crippled or destroyed.

Since the late 1980s, academic publishers have increased prices of scholarly journals far faster than libraries have been able to increase their budgets. If this situation continues, libraries around the world will be forced to cancel hundreds of journal subscriptions and book purchases in the coming years. Researchers will lose access to the latest findings in their field, because the institutions where they work won’t be able to afford the prices publishers impose.

Consider the following information from the Association of Research Libraries, available at www.createchange.org:

  • From 1987 to 1999, the U.S. consumer price index increased by a cumulative total of 52%. The unit cost of academic library journal subscriptions increased 206%.
  • During this period, academic and scientific publishers achieved profit margins of up to 40% per year – far more than the 5% annual average for the publishing industry as a whole.
  • To compensate for increasing journal prices, the average U.S. research library purchased 26% less books in 1999 than it did in 1986.
  • By 2015, if current trends continue, the average research library will have to reduce its number of annual journal subscriptions by as much as 45% compared to 1986 levels. For most libraries, this will mean hundreds less titles on the shelves or accessible via the Internet.
  • Academic journal publishers claim that increased journal prices reflect a higher level of quality in their products and services. In fact, though, empirical studies show that cheaper journals from non-profit publishers are dramatically more cost effective.

Introduction to the Open Access Movement
The increasing dysfunction of the traditional scholarly publishing system has generated an urgent response – the open access movement. The movement is a worldwide network of librarians, university administrators, researchers, and publishing industry representatives. Their common goal is to make all peer reviewed research on the planet available free of charge, in perpetuity, to anyone who needs it.

The proposed methods for accomplishing this vary, but in general they fall into two categories: (1) open access journals, and (2) open access archives. The first option entails journals that make all their peer reviewed research articles available free of charge, substituting alternative means of revenue for the traditional subscription method.

Open access archives take a different route, encouraging individual scholars to deposit their research findings in a central, online database freely accessible by anyone. The act of placing one’s research results in this type of venue is referred to as “self-archiving.” For a comprehensive description of this concept, please see the essay by British cognitive scientist Steven Harnad at http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/%7eharnad/Tp/resolution.htm and the FAQ by the Budapest Open Access Initiative at: http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/boaifaq.htm.

Although the precise terminology can vary, there are two main types of self-archiving, and it is important to distinguish between them. They are:

1.Institutional repositories. These are electronic, online storehouses created by a specific university or research organization, in which researchers of that institution place their scholarly and scientific works. Works found in an institutional repository could be in any form, including books, monographs, journal articles, conference papers, lecture notes, performances, or artwork. These works could be either published or unpublished, peer reviewed or not. For a good introduction to institutional repositories, see Clifford A. Lynch, “Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital Age,” found at http://www.arl.org/resources/pubs/br/br226/br226ir.shtml.
2.Centralized archives (also referred to as “subject archives”). These are similar to institutional repositories in their function and content. However, they specialize in a certain academic discipline and are open to researchers from any institution working in that discipline. The first example of such an archive was in the field of physics; it is currently housed at arxiv.org.
Many traditional scientific publishers allow researchers to deposit their articles in open access archives, either before or after these articles are published in traditional peer-reviewed journals. For example, Elsevier, the biggest scientific publisher in the world, recently adopted such a policy. For more on Elsevier’s policy, see the company’s announcement at http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authored_newsitem.cws_home/companynews05_00145.

All open access sources, whether journals or archives/repositories, permit research results to be freely copied and distributed for educational or research purposes. At the same time, the original authors retain copyright to their work. The integrity of the work is thus protected and the authors must receive proper acknowledgement for it.

A good basic introduction to the open access movement in general can be found at http://www.arl.org/scomm/open_access/. For a good summation of recent events, see Peter Suber, “Open Access in 2004,” http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/01-02-05.htm.

Open Access at UNM
The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center (HSLIC), together with the University Libraries, is moving aggressively to meet the growing threat to scholarly communications.

On March 12, 2004, HSLIC and the University Libraries co-hosted the Second Annual Symposium on Scholarly Communications took place. Lawrence Lessig, Stanford law professor and noted critic of existing intellectual property laws, delivered the keynote address. Attending UNM faculty engaged in wide ranging discussions of new electronic scholarly publishing techniques and how best to integrate them into the university’s agenda for the future.

On March 3, 2005, the UNM libraries co-sponsored the university’s Third Annual Symposium on Scholarly Communications. The keynote speaker was Daniel Greenstein, who holds the post of Associate Vice Provost for Scholarly Information and University Librarian for Systemwide Library Planning at the University of California, as well as Executive Director of the California Digital Library.

The Fourth Annual Symposium on Scholarly Communications at UNM took place November 1, 2005. Ann Wolpert, Director of Libraries at MIT, spoke on the promise of institutional repositories.

HSLIC and the UNM University Libraries plan to sponsor a fifth symposium on scholarly communications in late 2006.

Finally, UNM has established its own institutional repository, LoboVault (formerly DSpaceUNM).

Keep an eye on this page for news and information about upcoming scholarly communications events at the University of New Mexico.

Promotion, Tenure, and Open Access
One of the key issues that UNM’s initiatives on scholarly communications must consider is the impact of open access electronic publishing and self-archiving on the academic career advancement system. What reforms will need to be made in promotion and tenure processes in order to adapt to a system of scholarly communication undergoing profound changes? Will new, untenured faculty be able to disseminate their work via open access methods and still get the professional recognition they need?

The sources listed below deal with these and related issues.

  • Deborah Lines Andersen, Digital Scholarship in the Tenure, Promotion, and Review Process. Armines, NY: M.A. Sharpe, Inc: 2003.
  • Association of Research Libraries, et al. “To Publish and Perish.” Policy Perspectives 7:4 (March 1998). Online at: http://www.thelearningalliance.info/Docs/Jun2003/DOC-2003Jun13.1055537929.pdf.
    • Overview of the scholarly publishing crisis in general, but contains a section on tenure and promotion issues that is interesting despite its relative age.
  • Ernst Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. Jossey-Bass, 1990, reissued in paperback 1997.
    • Seminal work on reform of the tenure and advancement system. Argues that the criteria for “scholarship” must be expanded to give greater weight to teaching and to the social applicability of research.
  • Center for the Health Professions, University of California San Francisco. “Community-Based Participatory Research.” Online at: http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/commbas.html.
    • Overview of efforts at UC campuses to reform criteria for promotion and tenure in the health sciences. Does not deal with open access issues per se, but does offer a useful guide to issues that can arise in any reform of faculty evaluation processes.
  • Richard Felder, “The Scholarship of Teaching.” Chemical Engineering Education, 34:2 (Spring 2000). Online at http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Columns/scholarteach.pdf .
    • Argues that teaching should be given equal weight with research in definitions of “scholarly” endeavors.
  • David E. Shulenberger, “On Scholarly Evaluation and Scholarly Communication: Increasing the Volume of Quality Work.” College and Research Library News, 62:8 (September 2001). Online at: http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/crlnews/backissues2001/september3/scholarlyevaluation.htm.
    • Argues that electronic publication could enhance, rather than reduce, the quality of peer reviewed scholarly work.
  • Aldrin E. Sweeney, “Should You Publish in Electronic Journals?” Journal of Electronic Publishing 6:2 (December 2000). Online at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=jep;view=text;rgn=main;idno=3336451.0006.201.
    • Overview of career advancement as it relates to electronic publication. Includes a survey of attitudes among faculty and administrators at the University of Florida.
  • University of Washington Libraries, Digital Scholarship website. Online at http://www.lib.washington.edu/scholcomm/local.html.
    • How the University of Washington is dealing with questions raised by digital scholarship.
  • Frederika J. Teute, “To Publish and Perish? Who Are the Dinosaurs in Scholarly Publishing?” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 32:2 (January 2001). Online at http://www.utpjournals.com/product/jsp/322/perish5.html.
    • How electronic publishing is making the old system of tenure and promotion obsolete.
  • Cathy N. Davidson, “Crises and Opportunities: The Future(s) of Scholarly Publishing.” Panel presentation at American Counsel of Learned Societies meeting, May 10, 2003. http://www.acls.org/uploadedfiles/publications/op/57_crises_and_opportunites.pdf.
    • The Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University discusses ways to save university presses in the age of electronic publishing.
  • James Testa and Marie E. McVeigh, “The Impact of Open Access Journals.” Report for Thomson ISI, 2004. Available at: http://scientific.thomsonreuters.com/media/presentrep/acropdf/impact-oa-journals.pdf.

What you can do
Here’s what faculty, staff, and students can do to help secure the future of scholarly publication by supporting the open access movement.

  1. Learn about the situation in scholarly communication and the open access alternative. Read the material in the various web resources listed on this site.
  2. Wherever possible, submit your own research to an open access journal and self archive it in an institutional repository or subject archive, such as LoboVault (formerly DSpaceUNM). Find out whether the publisher with whom you are dealing allows self-archiving. For example, Elsevier, by far the largest scientific publisher in the world, recently began allowing self archiving by scholars. See the company’s announcement at: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authored_newsitem.cws_home/companynews05_00145.
  3. Faculty members should lobby their departments and deans to revise tenure and promotion standards to reward publication in open access journals and self-archiving in institutional repositories or subject archives.
  4. In their capacity as mentors to graduate and professional students, faculty should encourage students to become aware of the open access movement and to support it. Faculty should encourage their departments to integrate open access publication and self-archiving into the training of graduate and professional students.
  5. Researchers, staff, and students at academic and research organizations should sign their names to petitions and declarations supporting the open access movement, such as the Budapest Open Access Initiative (http://www.soros.org/openaccess) and the Open Letter of the Public Library of Science ( http://www.plos.org/support/openletter.shtml).
  6. Researchers who choose to publish in non-open access journals should refrain from transferring copyright to the publisher. Instead, the researcher should offer the publisher the right of first publication in print and electronic form.
  7. Researchers should encourage the professional societies to which they belong to support the open access movement. They should speak out at meetings of committees and governing boards, lobbying for official policies supportive of open access.
  8. Researchers should submit pro-open access letters and opinion pieces to journals and magazines in their field.