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What's at Stake in Scholarly Communications?

Scholarly communication is at the core of academic inquiry. For scholars to conduct their research they need reasonable access to authoritative publications where knowledge within a given field is circulated. In turn, scholars need to be able to publish their own work in such a way that it contributes in a timely and authoritative way to the academic conversations within their fields.

Ironically, at a time when information technology and Internet tools are greatly expanding possibilities for scholarship, there exists a crisis in scholarly communication, a breakdowm in the productive exchange of academic knowledge. This crisis is due to the escalating costs of academic journals (especially in the sciences), diminishing support for academic presses, and the lack of clear standards for structuring, accessing, protecting, and evaluating emerging modes of digital scholarship.

What is at stake?

Scholarly research
Universities are finding themselves unable to afford the journals or databases needed by researchers to perform their scholarship. Research is also threatened by the impermanence of electronic resources, either on the Internet or within an institution which may at some point discontinue subscription to a given electronic resource (see Economic Issues).

Scholarly Publishing
Academic presses are closing or printing fewer scholarly monographs, reducing publishing outlets for scholars. At the same time, electronic publishing remains an unestablished alternative, deepening the problem. (See Alternative Publishing Models)

Scholarly Property
Intellectual property is being reinvented in the digital age, centering around the issue of who retains control of scholarly works, especially if these are repurposed into or rely upon electronic forms. Will copyright or contract law regulate digital scholarly works? As scholars collaborate more and begin hosting their work in institutional repositories, who will own or control scholarly property?. (See Intellectual Property Issues).

Scholarly reputations
Scholars' reputations and careers are at risk if they are unable to publish, or if their publications within new modes of electronic scholarship are not properly reviewed by peers or appropriately evaluated and rewarded within tenure and promotion. Similarly, academic institutions endanger accreditation and recruitment of faculty or students if their faculty are unable to publish or to have their electronic publications recognized. (See Evaluation issues)

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