Scholarly Communication: Issues

Information on: author's rights and publishing models for scholarly works; open access to scholarly works through the Marquette institutional repository, ePublications@Marquette

Control and Access

Scholars conduct and disseminate research for the betterment of society and for recognition in their discipline. While they are compensated for conducting research they are not compensated for the articles they write pertaining to the research. Scholars most often lose rights as a result of traditional publishing. The extent of this is dependent on the publishing companies' policies

  • Some publishers request all rights to the research work when publishing it. Authors sign a Copyright Transfer Agreement that outlines the terms of the agreement. More commonly, publishers retain most rights under copyright law and license back partial rights such as use of the work for teaching, presenting, or re-publishing a percentage of the original work.
  • Publishing research articles in the most prestigious journals has become the quintessential mark of research impact. Commercial publishing has traditionally been the way to gain this recognition. Thus, scholars may feel pressured into signing away rights.

Most publishers charge money or place restrictions for access to this research. Inherent problems include:

  • The cost of accessing the research is too great. Libraries and other users cannot afford to purchase all research.
  • Fewer people benefit from the research due to expense and access.
  • Failure to maximize return on research investment.
  • Scholars sometimes lose the ability to reuse their own research work for books, websites, teaching, etc. This has become less common.

Tenure and Promotion Models

In academia, scholars are rewarded based on the quantity, quality, and impact of their research. A variety of performance metrics have been created to assist with the measurement of these criteria. Most fall short of being a comprehensive measuring tool.

Tenure and promotion committees consider metrics when evaluating faculty. Thus, faculty attempt to publish in high impact factor journals. Many of these journals are issued by large for-profit publishers charging users exorbitant fees.

Scholars may be reluctant to publish through alternative publishers for fear that their work may not get the same recognition from tenure and promotion committees. It may take years for Open Access journals to get an impact factor and be recognized. The established journals have the advantage of time and marketing.

Alternative Publishing Models

The Internet provides a means for new models and tools for scholarly communication, particularly dissemination. These models use Internet websites or content management systems to organize and distribute research content. These digital platforms take the form of digital journals and repositories.

Benefits to publishing in alternative formats include:

  • Lower cost of production
  • Faster dissemination of research
  • Opportunity for a broader audience
  • Fewer barriers to access