New alternatives for the dissemination of research and scholarship hold the promise of halting the trend of decreased access to essential research resources. If utilized, these innovations will yield new benefits to scholars, increase the breadth of dissemination, and more fully support the growth of knowledge.
Access to scholarly resources is declining. Rapidly escalating costs of journals from scholarly publishers — especially commercial science, technology, and medical journals — are limiting the University’s ability to maintain, much less increase the breadth and depth of the scholarly materials it makes available through its libraries. These rising costs, along with stagnant or diminishing budgets, create unsustainable situations for academic libraries.
Internet technologies have created new opportunities. While digital publication has not substantially decreased the cost of producing and reviewing scholarship, it has created efficiencies in those processes. Further, technology allows much greater dissemination at nearly zero marginal cost for additional readers. Digital platforms also enable quicker publication, access to supplementary or source materials, new forms of commentary and dialogue, and new ways to discover and aggregate scholarly resources.
Alternatives to traditional publishing are being thoroughly tested. Several new models for disseminating scholarship have emerged and are being deployed. The primary advantage of alternative forms of publishing is that they provide unrestricted (free) access to all potential readers, as compared to traditional subscription or purchase-based publications.
Most alternative forms of publishing also:
The primary alternatives are profiled in this table of the characteristics of scholarly publishing options. Alternatives include:
Open access journals that cover publication costs through alternatives to subscriptions or "toll gates," such as submission fees, publication fees, endowments, and sponsorships. An increasing number of publishers are in fact experimenting with a business model that charges for publication and makes access free worldwide. In two such cases, UC’s support of the Public Library of Science and BioMed Central provides a reduction of publication fees for UC authors. UC’s own publishing platform, eScholarship, also hosts dozens of open access journals from throughout the UC system. The Directory of Open Access Journals is an excellent resource for identifying the thousands more open access journals worldwide.
Publishers who are experimenting with alternative publishing models. Browse through news and issues to see announcements about experiments from a variety of other publishers, including Oxford University Press, Springer, and the National Academy of Sciences.
Direct deposit of digital research results into online publishing and dissemination services. Discipline-specific communities and institutions have created online repositories for research results, including ArXiv, CogPrints, PubMed Central, the Social Science Research Network, and more. Despite the success of these examples, however, many fields lack a centralized repository for the dissemination of their work. It is often the role of the sponsoring institution to make such services available. At UC, eScholarship provides not only deposit and dissemination services for postprints and working papers but also offers dynamic publication services for original, UC-affiliated journals, books, conference proceedings, and paper and seminar series.
Competitors to commercially published journals. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) exists to foster such competition. View a list of some SPARC-supported journals currently in publication.
Scholars are articulating their needs and expectations: Along with greater access to research, the quality, impact, and long-term care of research results top the list of scholars' concerns. UC organizations are ensuring that the necessary discussions take place about those concerns, and about the relationship of new forms of scholarly communication to faculty advancement and tenure. Such dialogues will inform individual faculty decisions as well as choices for University support of innovation in scholarly communication.
UC faculty wield enormous influence as authors and editors. Here’s what you can do to maximize the reach and impact of your research, reduce access barriers, and retain quality control of your scholarship: