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Scholarly Communications

A brief guide on what's new in Scholarly Communication.

Scholarly Communications

Scholarly communications is a blanket term that covers factors governing the creation of scholarly artifacts, their validation by disciplinary experts, and their dissemination and preservation in relation to the values of the academy and the various fields and disciplines within it. In addition to issues of academic freedom and academic integrity, growing numbers of scholars and researchers add another ethical imperative to scholarly communications: that it should contribute to a common societal good by making information as freely available as possible. This is often done through open access publication, the creation by the academy of an “information commons.”  Economic, technological, and cultural models that can sustain the reality of an information commons are very much works in progress. JMU, like every other progressive institution of higher learning, is in the crucible of this experiment.

The Landscape

Scholarly artifacts have been long understood to include items like monographs, edited volumes, and journal articles. In addition, many disciplines are expanding their consideration of scholarly artifacts to include new and emerging media. These remain validated for quality by the peer review of relevant experts and measures defined by institutions and scholarly disciplines. Other considerations have traditionally included authorial affiliation with a university or research institution and the credibility and scholar-recognized quality of the publication agencies themselves. 

New technologies and changes in the research and dissemination landscape for scholarly artifacts come with a host of challenges for scholars: 

  • complex intellectual property rights, including copyright and licensing, open access, and the fair use of scholarly resources;
  • how to choose an appropriate publication platform, and avoid “predatory” publishers;
  • funding sources for sharing research more openly and subventing the costs of publication;
  • long-term preservation of non-print scholarly artifacts, particularly those rendered through "new media" technologies;
  • the authorial definition of highly collaborative artifacts, like a website created with participants in an academic course, or a partially crowdsourced research project;
  • legitimation of non-print scholarly artifacts in the eyes of academic peers, notably but by no means limited to the digital humanities;
  • evolving policies at academic presses, and possibilities for publication in institutional and disciplinary repositories;
  • the economics of the dissemination of scholarship through unsustainable subscription-based models that place pressures on libraries and scholarly presses;
  • the importance of altmetrics and journal impact factors for particular fields of research