Scholarly Publishing Crisis

Publishing opportunities for many faculty are becoming more complicated and even limited. The declining influence of academic presses has resulted in fewer publishers for scholarly books. The escalation of journal subscription prices and the growing importance of online distribution impacts the acceptance of journal articles.

Lee Van Orsdel's presentation at the November 2008 Town Hall meeting discussed "Scholarly Publishing: a System in Crisis." This mediasite presentation provides a good overview of the issues facing faculty wishing to publish in the current environment. At the bottom of this page are more articles about the crisis in academic publishing and copyright.

Basically, there are three options for faculty who wish to take control of their rights and improve the scholarly publishing environment:

  1. Amend standard publisher contract to protect your copyrights.
  2. Create your own copyright documents, often expanding access to your work.
  3. Publish in open access journals, which protects copyright, expands access and facilitates the rapid dissemination of research.

1. Amend the publisher contract

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has taken the initiative in protecting author's rights. Typical publication agreements prevent broad distribution of your work because the journal or other publisher is assigned the copyright. This can prevent you from including sections of your article in later works or giving copies to your class or colleagues.It is particularly important for author's to retain their rights in the digital environment, now that technology makes it possible for authors to make their journal articles available in electronic format on their webpages and in digital repositories.

Fortunately, there is something you can do -- you can make sure you retain copyright.

SPARC Resources for Authors: SPARC provides an easy to use addendum that you can include with your publisher's copyright agreement to help secure your rights as an author.

Scholarly Communication and Publishing: Managing your copyright

Retaining Copyrights to Increase Research Impact: Online Tutorial

2. Create your own copyright documentation

Creative Commons is another approach to retaining copyright of your work. With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit. Rather just providing an addendum to a standard publisher's contract, you create your own license/copyright language. The initiative provides free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof.

3. Open Access Publishing

Open access publishing provides free online access to articles that have traditionally been published in scholarly journals. Open access ranges from depositories to journals. Open access depositories are often operated by the faculty member's local university but there are some operated by organizations with mutual interests, such as the Social Science Research Network.

Open access journals are often considered the gold standard, in part because they usually include peer review, a critical element to academic scholarship. Open access journals developed in part to answer the question, why should the public have to pay to read about research funded by public dollars?  Reasons to publish in open access journals include:

  • Your article will obtain more citations.
  • You own the copyright to your article.
  • Your article will be peer-reviewed and published very fast.
  • All interested readers can read, download, and/or print open access articles at no cost!
  • Your article can be read by potentially millions of readers compared to publishing in a traditional subscription journal.
  • Open Access journals are FREE to view! 

Open Access Overview

Open Access Directory

Directory of Open Access Journals

Data Repositories listed by discipline

Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR)

Directory of Open Access Repositories (Open DOAR)

Public Library of Science

To find out more about copyright and scholarly publishing:

Copyright Contradictions in Scholarly Publishing

Copyrights and the Paradox of Scholarly Publishing

Create Change

National Public Radio program Publicly Funded Research for a Price.

Journal of Scholarly Publishing articles on open access