Scholarly communication is the process by which scholars create, evaluate, and share the results of their research and creative work.
In recent years, traditional forms of scholarly communication have become less economically sustainable as access restrictions and the high price of journals present barriers to maintaining an open and cost-effective system.
Many groups, including libraries, research funders, academics and universities have been calling for changes to the ways scholarly communication takes place, particularly in light of the Internet creating new and low cost methods to disseminate research, while still maintaining a 'peer review' process to ensure the quality of research is maintained. Developments such as open access and institutional repositories at universities are seen as vehicles for changing or improving the scholarly communication process.
Why are things changing?
The traditional system for disseminating scholarship has reached a state of crisis, because:
- Journal costs have consistently risen above inflation.
- The high cost of journals coupled with the increasing numbers available have led to universities not being able to subscribe to the journals they require.
- University Libraries are not funded according to the rising cost of academic information.
- Funders and tax payers do not usually have access to the research they pay for.
- Those not associated with universities in wealthy countries have no access to current research, which acts as a barrier to entry to most of the world's population.
- There is a belief that by making research easier to access and more open, research itself will be more efficient, and that will increase the total research output.
- Producing a research paper may require years of work and require a lot of (often public) money, and then, scholars usually transfer copyright of their work to for-profit publishers.
Peer review is a process of self-regulation and a process of evaluation by scholars involving qualified individuals within the relevant field of study. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility. In academia, peer review is often used to determine an academic paper's suitability for publication. There exist many forms of peer review, and new models, such as open peer review, are also beginning to emerge.