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Scholarly Communications and Open Access Publishing: About this guide



Welcome to the Scholarly Communications and Open Access Guide! This guide is designed to share information on scholarly communication and open access publishing.  

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Scholarly Communication and Open Access Defined

Definition of Scholarly Communication

Traditionally the term scholarly communication was narrowly defined as the system for disseminating scholarly work, primarily through print journals. More recently the definition has been broadened to include the creation, transformation, dissemination and preservation of knowledge. It encompasses the entire process by which academics, scholars and researchers share and publish their findings within and beyond the academic community, and the entire gamut of publication types, from traditional journal articles, books and conference papers to sound and video recordings and interactive multimedia.

Scholarly communication is important because it supports those who engage in research and scholarship and thereby supports the advancement of knowledge. There is widespread belief that the traditional system for disseminating scholarship is in crisis. Current issues in scholarly communication include:

  • Author Rights – Traditionally authors have transferred all of their copyrights to publishers and then had to request permission and sometimes pay to re-use their own work.  To provide open access to their work, authors must retain the necessary rights. 

  • Economics of Scholarly Resources – For decades, the annual increase in the cost of journal subscriptions has far exceeded the rise in inflation. The high cost of journals and the increase in the number of journals have forced libraries to cancel subscriptions. Cancelled subscriptions have led publishers to raise prices. This spiral has resulted in a decline in access and readership.  The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.


Definition of Open Access from the Public Library of Science:

An Open Access Publication [1] is one that meets the following two conditions:

  1. The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, [2] as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
  2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).

[1] Open access is a property of individual works, not necessarily journals or publishers

  • Open Access – The economics of scholarly resources and the proliferation of Internet technology have mobilized a grassroots movement to provide free (open) access to research and scholarship on the Web. Research shows that open access increases the impact of scholarly work. When negotiating copyright agreements with publishers, authors must retain the necessary rights to provide open access to their work.  Research shows that open access increases the impact of scholarly work. SHERPA RoMEO and Open Access to Knowledge provide searchable databases of publisher open access policies.

  • Access to Federally Funded Research – Taxpayers typically do not have access to the research funded by their tax dollars unless they pay for it again. The Alliance for Taxpayer Access lobbies for open access to the results of federally-funded research.  Effective April 7, 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) adopted a mandatory Public Access Policy.

  • Preservation of Intellectual Assets – In the analog world of print, libraries preserved books, journals, etc. by storing physical copies; if the publisher went out of business, the scholarly record remained in library collections. In a world where work is born digital and is only available online and access not ownership is the mode, the scholarly record is at great risk.  Many projects are underway to solve the problems associated with digital preservation.

  • Disciplinary and Institutional Repositories – In an effort to showcase, preserve and provide open access to digital intellectual assets, many disciplines and institutions are building repositories for authors to deposit their work.  As of March 2011, there are thousands of open-access repositories worldwide.  The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) provides a list.