Scholarly Communication, Author Rights & Digital Scholarship

Scholarly communication—the process used by scholars to share the results of their research — is becoming increasingly restrictive and economically unsustainable. The purposes of this Web page are:

  • to inform Cal Poly faculty of some of the key issues in scholarly communication
  • to suggest action that faculty might consider to support needed changes

Managing Your Copyright

The crisis in scholarly communication is best described in terms of access, ownership and compensation. When a scholar writes a paper and submits it to a peer-reviewed journal, the author and editors generally receive no compensation. When the paper is accepted, the academic publisher usually requires that the writer transfer copyright (ownership) of the paper to the publisher. Only the libraries and individuals who subscribe to the journal can then gain access to the article. Access is usually restrictive to ensure that publishers are compensated.

Crisis in Scholarly Publishing

The prices of scholarly publications, especially those of science and technology journals, have increased at a rate far above inflation and at a pace that outstrips library budgets. This is especially the case with many commercial academic publishers — and also with some of the publications produced by professional association and societies. Libraries cut subscriptions to manage budgets, providing users with access to fewer resources. Cornell University Library's website contains a fuller explanation of the hyperinflation in academic publishing, as well as some suggestions about actions scholars might take to reduce such pressures.

Pursuing Alternative Models

Institutional Repositories

Leading academic libraries in the U.S. and abroad have also been developing a range of alternatives to the current scholarly communication paradigm. At Cal Poly, the library has launched DigitalCommons@CalPoly, where faculty can deposit online copies of their published work and data. The Kennedy Library will assist faculty in locating, digitizing and requesting copyright for their publications. The Library also has the ability to assist faculty in starting their own online publications. Perhaps most importantly, the Kennedy Library is committed to the long-term preservation of electronic materials entrusted to their care.

Open Access Mandates

Government granting agencies have taken an active role in making their funded research openly accessible to all. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently mandated the deposit of publications arising from NIH-funded research into PubMed Central, a free archive of life sciences resources NIH has sponsored. If you are a recipient of an NIH-funded grant, you should be aware of the NIH mandate requirements. Contact the Cal Poly Grants Development Office or Sponsored Programs Office for more information.

Author Rights

Another approach to making scholarly information more broadly accessible is for scholars to retain more control over the ownership of their own publications. When submitting materials for publication, we recommend including an author addendum which makes adjustments to publisher copyright agreements. The author addendum permits the work to be published in the academic journal, but alters the agreement enabling authors to keep key copyrights so they can distribute and share their work in other ways.

Learn more about retaining your copyright by visiting the Create Change Web site. Create Change is an advocacy and education campaign cosponsored with the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries to engage the academic community in reclaiming faculty copyright. They have produced a brief informational presentation on how you can retain your Author's Rights.