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What Is Scholarly Communication?

Scholarly communication is the system scholars and researchers employ to create, distribute, use, and preserve their work.

Central to discussions about the scholarly communication system are concerns about the state of publishing in academia. Though technology has improved the availability of mechanisms for sharing new knowledge and has increased the potential audience for scholarly work, the cost of access and legal restrictions on sharing and other uses have actually decreased the readership of many scholarly publications. For the most part, a few commercial publishers dominate the market, especially for science and medical journals. Publishers charge high subscription fees that strain library acquisition budgets. This reduces libraries’ ability to purchase humanities monographs, discipline-focused journals, and crucial domain-specific databases. For many libraries, the current publishing/purchasing framework is economically unsustainable. For some time, librarians at institutions of higher education around the world have been leading the effort to improve the system of scholarly publishing by advocating for open access, educating faculty authors on intellectual property rights, and negotiating with publishers for more library-friendly subscription models.

As critical examinations of the economics of scholarly publishing continue, other scholarly communication issues are receiving increased attention. These include creating the cyberinfrastructure necessary for world-class research and scholarship, preservation and ongoing availability of digital materials, quality control, open access to and reuse of data and publications, funder publishing mandates, the acceptance of digital scholarship by tenure committees, and the increased adoption of online social networking tools.

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Karla Hahn, director of the Association of Research Libraries' Office of Scholarly Communications, outlines the state of discussions about scholarly communication issues in her article "Talk about Talking About New Models of Scholarly Communication" in the Winter 2008 issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing.

The Scholarly Communication Program at Columbia University brought together scholars to discuss changes in scholarly communication and the development in the Open Access movement. You can view The Harvard Open Access Intititatives below:

This work was originally created by Columbia University Libraries/Information Services Scholarly Communication Program and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

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