Scholarly Communication is an emerging discipline that addresses many interconnected issues in the creation and dissemination of scholarly research. Generally speaking, Scholarly Communication focuses on four issues: copyright for faculty publications, the growing crisis in scholarly publication pricing, alternative publication models, and open access to scholarly information.
Scholarly Communication first entered our professional consciousness in the 1990s and was centered on the topic of rising serials' prices and their impact on libraries' budgets. A number of faculty and administrators became outraged and engaged in solving this problem and it led to some success in that struggle, but many librarians also told us the system works just fine for them. Publishers told regulators that the real problem is the under funding of universities. To achieve a marked, sustained impact on Scholarly Communication, librarians must be in a position to educate and advocate for faculty and administrative action. Scholars must be the new face of this effort and focus on how the present system restricts access to their scholarship. Several years experience working in this arena has led to a more informed, broader perspective - part of a natural evolutionary process. Scholarly Communication not only focuses on a single issue of serials prices, but now includes issues such as open access and the issues surrounding mass digitization, copyright ownership and intellectual property rights, and the shifting landscape of fair use.
As librarians, we are uniquely positioned to serve as these needed educators and advocates for influencing the development of new forms of Scholarly Communication. Our expertise with traditional publishing, digital technologies, and intellectual property, coupled with our liaison model makes us well situated to provide leadership for reshaping scholarly communication.
We still recognize that there are access problems caused by continued high subscription costs, changing copyright laws, and the licensing of access. Current publishing models are still not economically sustainable. But there is a growing awareness of new opportunities for more sustainable models through ongoing advances in technology. There is genuine hope that the the previously tense and antagonistic relationship between higher education institutions, scholarly societies, and commercial publishers, which could previously be characterized as tense and antagonistic, will realize more cooperative and beneficial partnerships in the future. Even as we envision a future where productive partnerships are the norm, we know that these goals will not be reached immediately. We are trying to change systems that are largely out of the control of any one campus. Current political and legal battles, such as the Google Book settlement and the National Institute of Health's open access policies will force our nation to define how Scholarly Communication will occur in the future. Our goal is to develop collective action in arenas such as e-resource licensing and educating faculty on author's rights. While acting locally is an important component, we must also spend some energy on more widespread advocacy. Through the cumulative effect of our actions we can accomplish infinitely more than we could alone.
The Libraries at the University of North Carolina are committed to offering practices and guidelines that keep the university at the cutting edge of these emerging issues. Carolina has been a leader in developing policies that balance the ability of scholars to disseminate and use information. We are committed to providing resources that assure scholars broad access to information in compliance with existing legal and ethical guidelines. The resources on this page supplemented by consultations with our Digital Copyright Specialist offers the university community important guidance in these murky and quickly-developing areas. The Library's Scholarly Communications Committee provides leadership as the university moves forward.