The Basics

The Basics

Scholarly Communication Basics

The term "scholarly communication" is a general term that covers research, scholarship, and many different areas of academia. A good, general definition comes from the Association of College and Research Libraries

Scholarly communication is the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs. This document addresses issues related primarily to the formal system of scholarly communication.

One of the fundamental characteristics of scholarly research is that it is created as a public good to facilitate inquiry and knowledge. A substantial portion of such research is publicly supported, either directly through federally-funded research projects or indirectly through state support of researchers at state higher-education institutions. In addition, the vast majority of scholars develop and disseminate their research with no expectation of direct financial reward.

The Association of College and Research Libraries has complied a Scholarly Communication Toolkit that includes an information on new models of scholarship and publishing.

This guide will help to explain some of the different areas of Scholarly Communication and provide guidance. Many areas of SC are evolving and changing rapidly, particularly the areas of Open Access and Data Management. Confused? Not sure of what to check out first? Contact Carmen Mitchell

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Open Access

Open Access

Open Access

What is Open Access?

According to Peter Suber, the Director of the Harvard Open Access Project

  • Open-access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
  • Open Access removes price barriers (subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees) and permission barriers (most copyright and licensing restrictions). The Public Library of Science shorthand definition —"free availability and unrestricted use"— succinctly captures both elements.
  • There is some flexibility about which permission barriers to remove. For example, some Open Access providers permit commercial re-use and some do not. Some permit derivative works and some do not. But all of the major public definitions of Open Access agree that merely removing price barriers, or limiting permissible uses to "fair use" ("fair dealing" in the UK), is not enough. 

Some grant and funding organizations have Open Access requirements for their recipients, requiring them to place their research into publicly accessible repositories like PubMed Central. The National Institutes of Health has had an Open Access requirement for grantees since 2008, and recently announced that they will begin holding back funding from researchers that do not comply with this requirement. 

Learn about Open Access from PHD Comics and their "Things Explained" series. 

Animation by Jorge Cham, Narration by Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen, Transcription by Noel Dilworth

Produced in partnership with the Right to Research Coalition, the Scholarly Publishing and Resources Coalition and the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students

Animation by Jorge Cham
Narration by Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen
Transcription by Noel Dilworth
Produced in partnership with the Right to Research Coalition, the Scholarly Publishing and Resources Coalition and the National Association of Graduate-Professional S

SPARC: The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Publishing Coalition has a wealth of information about scholarly communications, author rights, as well as Open Access and Open Educational Resources listed on their "Resources" website.

OpenDOAR  The Directory of Open Access Repositories, lists over 2,000 repositories around the world where research and scholarship is available.

Several colleges and universities are adopting Open Access Policies for their campuses. Some of these organizations even voted the policy in with unanimous faculty votes. For organizations that are considering adopting an Open Access Policy, Columbia University Libraries Scholarly Communication Program has put together a template that can be downloaded and adapted for use elsewhere. 

There are some people trying to capitalize on the Open Access movement by charging authors and researchers high publishing fees to be published in journals that may look scholarly - but they are really more just to generate money. Scepticemia has a fantastic blog post that explains "predatory open acccess." It's not always easy to tell what is a predatory journal.

The Association of College and Research Libraries blog (ACRLog) explored "predatory publishing" in April, 2013. Included in their post is information about how to evaluate sources and how to determine if a publication could be considered "predatory." The site Think, Check, Submit can help authors to think about how to find the right publisher for their research.

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright and Fair Use

Authors Rights

Authors Rights

Authors Rights

Publishing is important to many disciplines. Before you sign a contract with a publisher, you must make sure that you understand the terms of the contract and that they will allow you to use your work in your pedagogy. Publishing your research requires some thought about copyright and an author's responsibility. What are your rights as the creator of the content? Do you have rights to the intellectual property? What are those rights? If you give your copyright to a publisher, you will be limited by "Fair Use" when using your work in the future. 

Traditionally, academic publishers have required that authors transfer copyright to them, but this is changing. More and more campuses are creating Open Access mandates that require authors to retain some rights to their work. The assignment of "non-exclusive" rights is becoming much more common. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition has information for authors on retaining certain rights, including an Author Addendum  generator.  Science Commons also has the The Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine. These sites will help you generate a PDF form that you can attach to a journal publisher's copyright agreement to ensure that you retain certain rights. You can use this form to negotiate to retain the copyright to your work, or to include it in ScholarWorks, the CSUSM Institutional Repository. If you would like assistance in negotiating to retain your copyright, license your research with a Creative Comons license, or to explore other options, please contact Carmen Mitchell.

CSUSM has an Intellectual Property Policy that faculty, staff, and students can refer to for more information on the campus. The first purpose of this intellectual property policy is to provide the necessary protections and incentives to encourage both the discovery and development of new knowledge, its transfer for the public benefit and its use for development of the economy. 

Data Management

Data Management

Data Management

If you are in the process of applying for a grant, or a preparing to apply for a grant, you already know that a number of U.S. funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health require researchers to supply detailed, cost-effective plans for managing research data, called Data Management Plans. The CSUSM Library has gathered some tools and resources to assist with this process. 

DMP Tool:

A group of several universities and organizations worked together to develop the DMPTool. This website will help researchers meet these new requirements. In specific, the DMPTool will help you to:

  • Create ready-to-use data management plans for specific funding agencies
  • Meet requirements for data management plans
  • Get step-by-step instructions and guidance for data management plan
  • Learn about resources and services available at your institution to fulfill the data management requirements of their grants

Cal State San Marcos is a partner organization in the DMPTool. To get started, go to: and click on the “get started” or the “log in” buttons. Select California State University, San Marcos from the pull-down menu and select “new user” (first time only). You will then be able to log in to the web site using your CSUSM user name and password. If you need help with getting started, please visit their Help Page. Setting up a Data Management Plan is only the beginning part of the process. Carly Strasser from the California Digital Library has written a very helpful blog post about Data Management, including suggestions for reviewing and revising your DMP as you work. 

DataUp is an open source tool that can assist researchers document, manage, and archive their tabular data. DataUp assists with:

  1. Checking for Best Practices
  2. Creating Metadata
  3. Asssigning identifiers
  4. Archive and share your data. 

Several journals are now requiring authors to share their data as a condition of being published. Some of the journals with this requirement are PLoS, BMJ, and Ecology. More journals and information can be found in Carly Strasser's blog post for Data Pub from November, 2012

ScholarWorks at CSUSM

ScholarWorks at CSUSM

ScholarWorks at CSUSM

ScholarWorks is the institutional repository for Cal State San Marcos. But what is an institutional repository?

  • A digital repository for the scholarship, research, and creative works created by the faculty, researchers, and students of CSUSM.
  • Provide Open Access to scholarly output by self-archiving it.
  • One central location for content from the campus.
  • Make research and scholarly output available to anyone with access to a computer and the internet. 
  • An IR can help increase the visibility of sometimes hidden work like technical reports, theses and dissertations. 

Need Help?

Carmen Mitchell

Scholarly Communication Librarian

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