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Message from the University Librarian:
Changing the Scholarly Communication Process

The scholarly communication process must change to better serve the needs of scholars and society in general by enabling greater access to the world’s scholarship and knowledge by faculty, students, and educated citizens. Scholars must be able to both make the results of their research and scholarship widely available and use the work of other scholars, as well as their own work, to begin again and continue the cycle of creation of new knowledge. We in the academy, especially librarians and faculty, must exercise more influence and control over the scholarly communication process to achieve these ends.

Challenges in Scholarly Communication

The UC libraries recently concluded difficult negotiations with Elsevier that resulted in a new five-year contract for online access to over 1,200 science and technology journals. The contract is a significant improvement for the Libraries in that we avoided the need to significantly reduce needed journals; we added important new journals, particularly titles from Cell Press for the first time; and we realized significant price reductions for the entire contract.

We were able to achieve such significant results because of the support of the faculty, the Academic Council, the Systemwide Senate leadership, and the Councils of Chancellors and Vice Chancellors, which allowed us to negotiate from a position of strength. It is the normal course of business for the Libraries to negotiate contracts and subscriptions for library materials in all disciplines on a regular basis. Elsevier is only the first contract (albeit the largest) that reflects our broader strategy to build more economically sustainable relationships with publishers in all disciplines, notably by reducing expenditure on content while maintaining, if not increasing, faculty access. We will keep you informed of our progress as publisher contracts come due for renewal and are negotiated.

However, we must also address deeper structural problems in scholarly communication that threaten the creation, dissemination, and further use of new knowledge in fundamental ways. The economics and dynamics of scholarly publishing are unusual because the academy is both the principal producer and the principal purchaser and user of the product. A severe imbalance exists between the significant and essential contributions of faculty, the work the publishers perform, and the prices charged by publishers.

Consequently, we must do much more than negotiate favorable publishers contracts. The UCI Libraries, the UC libraries, and the Academic Senate are working together to address fundamental problems in a scholarly communication process that must better serve the academy and society.

Next Steps

To address these issues at Irvine, the UCI Libraries have established SCAMP, the Scholarly Communication and Management Program, which is bringing faculty, librarians, and administrators together as colleagues to address problems in scholarly communication; and explore alternative means for publishing scholarly materials that make high-quality peer-reviewed work widely available at a reasonable price. More information is available from the Libraries’ home page or from
www.lib.uci.edu/scamp/home.html.

A recent SCAMP program addressed the role of new forms of scholarly publishing in the academic review and tenure process (see page 1 in this issue of Update). SCAMP will next host a workshop for faculty on improving author control of copyright through publishers’ contracts. We welcome your ideas for other SCAMP programs that focus on aspects of scholarly publishing.

Working Together

We will also be working closely with UCI’s Academic Senate leadership and its Council on Research, Computing, and Library Resources (CORCLR); the University Committee on Libraries (UCOL); and Systemwide Library and Scholarly Information Advisory Committee (SLASIAC). An important player will be the Academic Council’s new Special Committee on Scholarly Communication (SCSC), which will begin a careful analysis of alternative publications methods for both scholarly periodicals and monographs; methods of evaluating and ensuring high-quality publications that can be used in academic promotion and tenure; the most appropriate business model(s) for publications; and possible effects on scholarly societies of different publication methods
(www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/news/source/source2_2.pdf).

Together we can systematically and significantly change the process. The Libraries can provide organization, leadership, and focus, but the faculty must be closely involved, for the power to change the dynamics and economics of scholarly publishing lies with those who produce its intellectual content. Our collaborative efforts at Irvine will strengthen the University’s initiatives and lead to better sharing and use of new knowledge.

Gerald J. Munoff
University Librarian

 

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