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Practices and Policies of Academic Publishing:

The Effect on Scholarly Communication

Katherine Fleck
In the last decade, the widespan development of open-access institutional repositories

have provided an opportunity to change the nature of scholarly communication from one which

is largely isolated to those within a discipline to one that engages with the public, with other

fields, and with researchers from countries that have traditionally been limited from access to

information due to a lack of funding. For the institution, an open-access repository shapes

scholarly communication by speaking to the institutions quality. The institutional repository

provides visibility, prestige, and public value that all enhance the profile and help provide wider

dissemination of research and development output (Correia & Teixeira, 2009, p. 356). For

faculty, it has the potential to increase their academic profile because their research is more

widely disseminated, read and cited. The repository also allows grant-funding agencies to

maintain their commitment to the public by ensuring knowledge is freely available. Despite these

believed benefits of the online repository, institutions have had a difficult time attracting faculty

involvement. The majority of researchers have relied on publication in academic journals as their

main form of scholarly communication throughout their entire careers. Providing publications to

a repository has met obstacles both due to the policies of academic publishers and the practices

of researchers.

In Chapter 5 of Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the

Internet, Christine Borgman focuses on the discontinuities of the scholarly publication. Most

noticeably, she assesses some of the limitations that traditional models of scholarly publication

put on communication. Despite the emergence of new mediums and methods of dissemination,

the academic journal remains king. Proposing new methods of scholarly communication requires

the participation of various people with different interests and stakes in the world of academia,
publishing, and politics. As Borgman explains, the challenge lies in using information

technology to enhance essential aspects of scholarship while balancing the interests of the many

stakeholders in the scholarly communication system (2007, p. 76). These stakeholders include

academic journals, publishing companies, libraries, researchers, academic institutions, faculty

funding agencies, and the general public.

An essential question to the debate of scholarly communication is to what extent it relies

on publication. Clifford Lynch of the Coalition for Networked Information, a major proponent

for the use of institutional repositories, views scholarly communication in the broadest sense

looking beyond formal scholarly publication. Lynch argues that institutional repository

submission policies remedy the problem of faculty not opting to self-archive, ensure preservation

of research, enable more equitable access, and provide researchers with easier means of

accessing data and publications. Lynch argues that in particular, academic institutions have the

incentive and are in a position to address the issues involved in long-term preservation;

improving scholarly communication (Ware, 2004, p. 116). Institutions have a desire to collect

and disseminate their legacy in research, and the repository provides this while meeting the

needs of researchers and the public who desire access to information.

Although the advent of internet access has made scholarly communication faster and

often easier, it has not necessarily made it more equitable. In response, an open access initiative

has become popular as a means of creating a digital environment in which research can be

published and accessed by a audience in a more democratic model. Open access is a global

model addressing a local issue. Commercial publishers, who are responsible for the large

majority of academic journals, treat scholarly research as a commodity. Access is determined by

who can afford the subscription ratesa budgetary problem facing many libraries. This is
particularly true at smaller institutions and in developing or economically unstable countries.

These subscription rates serve to keep research out of the hands of all users. Open access is

touted as a socially responsible alternative. Well stated by Karen Albert, open access makes the

same knowledge and information available to scholars in wealthy, first-world nations, in

developing ex-communist, second-world nations, and in underdeveloped third-world nations

(Albert, 2006, p. 160) In the United States, open access ensures that researchers have equitable

access regardless of the budget of their institution. Additionally, because research is often

enabled through government funding, open access also provides those who pay for itthe

publicto reap the fruit of their tax dollar without paying an additional fee to publishers.

In the last several decades, research spending has increased exponentially while library

expenditures have not. This means that while there is more data and more publications being

generated each year than ever before, most libraries do not have the resources to access them.

Libraries do not have the purchasing power to maintain subscriptions for all of the academic

journals their researchers rely on (Mabe & Amin, 2002, p. 150). This issue has created two

outcomes: libraries are looking toward less expensive or free means of access and publishers are

instituting policies to limit that access in order to ensure their economic sustainability. This is not

a new problem. Within two decades, academic journal subscription costs increased at a rate four

times faster than inflation (Willinsky, 2006, p. xiii). Between 1986 and 2001, United States

library subscriptions to academic journals decreased by 5% as a reaction to the rising costs. This

decrease has been even more pronounced in countries such as South Africa and India (Correia &

Teixeira, 2009, p. 352). Institutions have in turn begun promoting or instituting an open-access

policy in which faculty submit their work to an institutional repository.

At the same time, some publishers have adjusted their policies to limit this initiative.

Academic journal publication is largely a profitable enterprise, particularly for science and

technology journals. According to Karen Albert, Global science, technology, and medicine

(STM) publishing is a $7 billion industry, and, in 2002, scientific journals were the fastest-

growing media subsector of the prior 15 years (2006, p. 254) Whether real or perceived, open

access is a threat to the profitability of publishers, and in turn, potentially serves to uproot the

system of scholarly communication that has been accepted as the standard for over a century. To

thwart this upheaval, academic publishers have sought means of limiting their loss of control

over scholarly publication. Largely, this comes in the form of embargos which prevent a

researcher from providing their work to an open-access repository until a certain length of time

has passed. This allows the publisher to maintain exclusive content rights to new research while

still allowing researchers to later provide it to the public freely. This practice has become popular

among publishers. However, in most fields, particularly in the STEM disciplines, researchers are

largely interacting with as recent research as possible. These means that scholarly

communication, particularly on a global-scale, is negatively affected by the embargo policies that

keep new data out of the hands of some researchers for a set period of time. In an increasingly

global scholarly community, this seems counterintuitive to the goals of researchers who want

their work to be as impactful within the field as possible.

Academic journal publication is important because for most disciplines, it serves as the

prime indicator of professional standing (Correia & Teixeira, 2009, p. 351) However, the

academic journal also has limitations: the peer review process that legitimizes publications also

slows them down, copyright transfer policies limit research promotion and dissemination by

authors, subscription costs keep research out of the hands of all, and biases within the review
process favor research from more prestigious institutions and limit opportunities for other

research to impact the field. Given these problems, the advent of internet access and digital

publication has led many institutions to consider alternative models for publishing research.

Therefore, it makes seems to make sense that academic journals feel threatened by new models

of scholarly communication. In order to maintain a stronghold over academia, publishers develop

means of controlling their content.

Although a tension may exist between the content-controlling policies of publishers and

an authors desire to have the work easily and widely accessible, it appears that this tension goes

unnoticed by most authors. Based on a 2005 study of self-archiving practices across 6 social

science disciplines, there appears to be no real relationship between publisher policy and

archiving practices of researchers. Instead, self-archiving habits are determined by the perceived

value within a particular discipline. Kristin Antelman, in her assessment of these findings, argues

that self-archiving adoption by researchers or a lack thereof also does not speak to the adoption

of advocacy of open-access policies or a rejection of them in favor of compliance with traditional

journal publication. Instead, she posits that self-archiving is largely utilized in disciplines where

it is seen as a valid extension of scholarly communication and underutilized in academic fields in

which self-archiving is not popular. Antelman argues that it is discipline-based norms and

practices that shape self-archiving behavior, not the terms of copyright transfer agreements

(Antelman, 2006, p. 93).

This assessment is in line with Denise Troll Coveys 2009 assessment of self-archiving

practices among faculty at Carnegie Mellon in which she concluded that faculty are largely

ignorant of both copyright law and publisher policy. A 2007 and 2008 study was conducted to

look at the publications on faculty web pages in order to determine self-archiving practices
across disciplines and the extent to which they were in line with publisher policy. According to

their findings, only half of the publications available for open access were in compliance with

publisher policy. 38% were definitely not aligned with publisher policy, either in terms of either

where the document was published (institutional repository, personal website, etc.) or the type of

publication (pre-print, authors manuscript, or publishers publication) (Covey, 2009, p. 240).

These findings, along with Kristin Antelmans earlier research, speak to a relative ignorance or

lack of interest in the contract between author and journal. These studies also have several

implications for libraries in addressing the issue of faculty self-archiving into institutional

repositories or other open access outlets. In order to bolster scholarly communication by

providing outlets for wider dissemination of research while avoiding legal conflict with

publishers, libraries must follow publisher policy even if authors are not.

Additionally, Antelman and Coveys research points to another major obstacle for

widening scholarly communicationmotivation amongst researchers to provide their work to

open-access repositories. Coveys study at Carnegie Mellon showed that there was a significant

gap between self-archiving opportunity and practice among faculty. The majority of

departments, in looking at what publications could be offered for open-access based on publisher

policy versus what was actually available, had a gap of access of more than 70% (Covey, 2009,

p. 238). Some publisher embargos do not prevent faculty from voluntarily submitting to an open

access repository, largely because history has shown that most researchers do not tend to do so.

Conversely, institutions that require faculty submission are subject to longer or stricter embargos.

In these cases, institutions that recognized that voluntary submission of faculty research was not

being taken advantage of and adopted required open access submission of its facultys research

are now unable to collect publications until months or years after the fact due to publisher policy.
In order to combat an issue of access, institutions needs to work directly with faculty to

determine what motivates their scholarly communication, who they view as their audience, and

how open-access could be made a disciplinary.

Publishing in an academic journal has significant effects on the career of researchers

while providing publications or data to an institutional repository does not provide the same

extent of career benefits. For instance, reviewers of grant proposals look at an applicants

publication history, but rarely consider their data-sharing habits (Borgman, 2007, p. 124) While

these funding agencies are increasingly requiring researchers to provide their work for open

online access as a means of reaffirming their commitment to donors or the tax-paying public,

they are not necessarily taking that into account when selecting researchers, nor are they often

monitoring with whom the selected researcher signs a publishing agreement (Borgman, 2007, p.

77). This often leads to researchers or the funding agency having to pay to circumvent a lengthy

embargo, or the research being unavailable to the public for months to years after it is first


In order to make an impact on faculty publishing practices, institutions must combat what

John Willinsky refers to as a vanity factor. Willinsky posits that to have an article accepted by

one of these high-priced journals, or to be asked to sit on its board, or perhaps even to serve as an

editor, can easily blind a faculty member to what can seem to be the librarians issue over the

journals pricing (2006, p. 21) Referring to these practices as vanity may not be a fair

assessment. In reality, careers are dramatically affected by researchers rates of publication, the

prestige of the journals they work with, and their commitment to the betterment of the field such

as through acting as a peer reviewer. According to study, for all scholars, the only motivation to

publish and disseminate their research through formal channels is to improve their academic
career (Shehata, A., et al., 2015, p. 1151). Given this viewpoint, it may be difficult to sell the

practice of depositing work into the institutional repository as a means of democratizing

knowledge or as a form of social justice. Instead, institutions need to find a way to incentivize or

justify this practice in a way that meets the desires of the majority of its researchers.

Those working toward the development of alternative means of scholarly communication

have cited the the lack of willingness of the faculty to change as a key barrier to success (King,

et al, 2006, p. 2). Since their advent, means other than traditional academic journals have been

viewed by faculty as some sort of alternative or illegitimate form of publishing. This is

understandable given the dependency on peer review as a standard of quality. According to

survey across institutions and disciplines, peer review was cited as the essential factor when

faculty were asked about: (1) their perceptions of both standard and newer forms of publication,

(2) disadvantages of newer forms of publication, (3) where one should publish to make a name

for oneself (King, et al, 2006, p. 4) Even free online journals that have adopted relatively

identical practices to traditional academic publishers have not been taken seriously. Researchers,

not necessarily because of the own viewpoint or lack of knowledge, but likely due to the

standards of their field, are choosing to stick to the means of publication that have been popular

for the last century, rather than adopting new innovation. Scholars are even wary of informal

publishing because of a concern about intellectual property and the possibility of losing it

because of informal dissemination (Shehata, A., et al., 2015, p. 1152). If there is hope for

scholarly communication to be dramatically improved through open-access, it will likely need to

be through the utilization of formal publications rather than informal manuscripts or data sets.

In many ways, the view of librarians and other open access advocates, and the views of

faculty and researchers are not in line. While many libraries believe that we are in the midst of a
crisis of scholarly communication, most faculty members do not perceive that to be the case. It

appears that in order to first change the mindset of faculty, an institution must first educate them

on the economic problems facing the library, the way in which costly subscription access

provided by the library is at risk, how copyright law effects researchers and institutions, and the

impact of open access availability on research use within the field.

Libraries may be able to endear open access publication to faculty sensibility through the

process of their research. According to the Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey 2012, faculty

indicated that the most important role of their institutions library was that it pays for resources

I need, from academic journals to books to electronic databases (Houseright, R., et al., 2013, p.

66). A majority of faculty also indicated that they often would like to use journal articles that

are not in my librarys print or digital collections (Houseright, R., et al., 2013, p. 35). Given

these responses, it is clear that faculty is aware of the role the library plays at least in terms of

their own personal access, while also recognizing that the library cannot provide them with every

piece of material they would like access to. Here is where the library needs to build a bridge of

understanding between the institution and its faculty members about the economic strain on

library resources and how they can make a difference by providing open access to their own


Additionally, looking at faculty research behaviors points to the importance of

accessibility in developing a research legacy. The more accessible a publication is, the more

likely it is to be cited in another work. When asked during the Ithaka Survey, faculty indicated

that when they do not have access to a material through their institutions library subscriptions,

they often or occasionally simply give up and look for a more easily accessed resource

(Houseright, R., et al., 2013, p. 36) In the same way that institutional repositories seek to
preserve an institutions research legacy, it contributes to the careers of individual researchers by

potentially increasing the use of their work within the field. If institutions are able to further

incentivize the use of the repository, such as by making submission a considered element of

tenure applications, they could potentially engage with those that have largely ignored post-

publication dissemination of their work.

Institutions will have to continue to work alongside both publishers and researchers to

ensure that institutional repositories and open access networks can function alongside traditional

academic publication. Although new researchers entering the field are working more and more

with alternative networks of scholarly communication, they are still held to the traditions of their

discipline, which often require academic publication in journals that may be averse to providing

open access to their volumes. The role of the librarian, in addressing this issue of scholarly

communication, is to work more directly with faculty not only during the research process, but

through the publication process. Institutions, if they wish to change the current culture of

scholarly communication, must take a more direct approach to educating faculty about their

authorial rights, guiding them through the publication contract process, and working with

publishing companies to develop favorable open access agreements.

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