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Scholarly Communication: Overview



What is Scholarly Communication?

Scholarly communication is the process by which academics, scholars, and researchers publish and disseminate their research. 

According to the website of the Bernard Becker Medical Library of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, scholarly communication is best defined as "the creation, transformation, dissemination and preservation of knowledge related to teaching, research and scholarly endeavors."

Scholarly communication issues include the economics of scholarly book and journal publication, author rights, new models of publishing such as open access, institutional repositories, rights associated with access to federally funded research, and the preservation of our intellectual assets.

Faculty Open Access Resolution

 Libraries' Faculty Open Access to their Scholarly Articles

On March 4, 2010, the faculties of both Academic Library Services and Laupus Health Sciences Library voted to endorse a resolution indicating our commitment to share our research as broadly as possible. To that end, the resolution below encourages library faculty to seek out open access publishing opportunities whenever possible, and to archive permissible versions of our publications in The ScholarShip, East Carolina University’s institutional repository. Through The ScholarShip, ECU’s research output can be collected and archived in one home space, and made freely available to anyone, any time. Our hope is that other units on the ECU campus will consider similar resolutions as the open access movement evolves. The full resolution is as follows:

We, the faculty of Academic Library Services and William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library of East Carolina University, resolve the following:

1.    To disseminate our scholarship as broadly as possible.  We endeavor to make our scholarly work openly accessible in conformance with open access principles.  Whenever possible, we make our scholarship available in digital format, online, free of charge, and seek copyright and licensing options that will permit us to do so. 

2.    To deposit our scholarly work in our institutional repository, The ScholarShip, at the earliest possible opportunity.

3.    To seek publishers whose policies allow us to make our research freely available online.  When a publisher’s policies do not allow us to make our research freely available online, we resolve to engage in good faith negotiations with the publisher to allow deposit of peer-reviewed, pre- or post-print versions of our scholarly work in The ScholarShip

4.    This resolution, however, gives us the latitude and individual discretion to publish where we deem necessary, given our career goals, intended audience, and other reasonable factors. 

The resolution applies to the scholarly works authored and co-authored while faculty are employed at Academic Library Services and William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library, beginning with works published or submitted for publication after March 15, 2010.

Resolutions such as the one above are not new: a recent search uncovered similar resolutions adopted by faculties at the Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oberlin College, University of Kansas, University of Virginia, and most recently, Duke University.

Campus authors interested in archiving their papers in The ScholarShip may visit our website or contact Joseph Thomas (Academic Library Services) or Beth Ketterman (Laupus Health Sciences Library).



Journal Publishing and Faculty Authors


The business of publishing journals relates directly to what content faculty researchers and authors have available to them. Recently, mathematician Timothy Gowers’ call for a boycott of Elsevier caught the attention not only of fellow professors in multiple disciplines, but also that of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, Wired, and Forbes. Gowers’ complaints focused on the following business practices of the publishing giant: 1, its “exorbitant high prices;” 2, its bundling of journals into “Big Deals” that have a deleterious effect on library budgets, and 3, Elsevier’s support of SOPA, PIPA and the Research Works Act, all of which Gower maintains will unnecessarily restrict access to information. His boycott was triggered in part by Elsevier’s $1.6B in profits for 2010, on an operating profit margin of 36%. In response to concerns expressed by researchers, Elsevier withdrew its support for the Research Works Act on February 27.

News of the boycott, though, has also been picked up by other news outlets and is generating scholarly debates. What are some of the underlying issues from Gowers’ boycott, how are they related to other publishers, and what do they mean for individual faculty members who need to conduct their research and publish it?

A discussion session was held to explore the following:

  • Accusations of predatory pricing, especially by large commercial publishers
  • Journal bundling, aka the “Big Deals,” and their effects on library collections
  • Have the literatures of the disciplines changed their publishing practices over recent years?
  • How do professors select a publisher for their work?  


Speakers included:

  • Salman Abdulali, Professor, Mathematics, East Carolina University
  • Laura Gantt, Assistant Professor, Nursing, East Carolina University
  • Burrell Montz, Professor and Chair,  Geography, East Carolina University
  • Mark Sprague, Associate Professor, Physics, East Carolina University


The session was held from 12 – 2 pm, Monday, March 19, 2012


244 Mendenhall, East Carolina University

Refreshments/light lunch were served.


The Elsevier Petition

This petition has gained momentum recently. It was created by a number of researchers concerned about the rise in journal prices. However, the issue is not a new one.  Each researcher will make a personal decision about how to participate in the publishing process.  The information on this page may be helpful in thinking about the issues involved.

UPDATE --  (Monday Feb. 27, 2012, Chronicle of Higher Education) Elsevier pulls its support from the controversial Research Works Act

Journal Pricing

The Traditional Model

The traditional model of scholarly communication involves submission of a work for review and approval.  Once published, institutions, particularly libraries, then purchase the published works from commercial publishers and provide access to their patrons.

Alternative Models

Due to increasing costs of works from commercial publishers, libraries have had to consider new models for the acquisition and dissemination of scholarly research. This process of ever-increasing journal costs and the library response is often referred to as the "journals crisis" but it is a phenonema that has been developing for some time.

Further Reading

A good bit of data has been assembled around this issue.  Here are some links for further information about journal pricing and how this affects scholarly communication: