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Scholarly Communication 101: Overview & Issues

What is scholarly communication and why does it matter? Find out and learn about tools to guide you in all your communication endeavors.

What is scholarly communication?

Scholarly communication is the means by which individuals engage in academic research and creative endeavor to inform their peers, formally or informally, of the work they are engaged in or have accomplished. Broadly defined, the process not only includes the creation and dissemination of scholarly works:

  • articles,
  • books,
  • popular articles,
  • commissioned articles,
  • fiction and poetry,
  • encyclopedia entries,
  • ephemeral writings (i.e. blogs, discussion lists),
  • lecture notes and videos,
  • and other copyrighted works,

but also includes evaluation of quality (peer or editorial review) and preservation for future use. 

Current issues in scholarly communication

This video does a nice job of laying out the current issues in scholarly communication in quick order before going on to advocate for open access and author rights. For more information on the issues brought up in this video, see the rest of this page and the other pages in this guide for more details and resources. If you have any questions, options to Ask a Librarian or request a Research Appointment are available on the right side of each page.

Open Access 101, from SPARC from Karen Rustad on Vimeo.

Open Access

Open Access (OA) means access without barriers for the reader, who can be the author, a student, a colleague or the public. OA operates under a different financial model than traditional publishing with a goal of wide, unrestricted access to intellectual and creative discoveries and showcases. OA also allows creators to have greater flexibility in designating what rights are available to the receiver through legal tools such as Creative Commons licenses.


Copyright is automatic, and intended by the Constitution to benefit creators, lasting for the life of the author plus 70 years. In journal publishing; however, publishers have had authors sign away all copyright considerations, when only the right of first sale is all that is needed. As a result, authors lose rights to distribute and reuse their works.


Authors wishing to have their article published in a scholarly journal face more challenges than authors wishing to have a book published as journal publishers are much more restrictive. Scholarly journal publishers have traditionally insisted that the authors only submit the article to their journal, required authors to sign all rights over, and in many disciplines, required hefty publication fees. Also, in scholarly journal publishing, authors do not receive any monetary compensation. Authors submitting their book for publication have more advantages, such as the ability to send manuscripts to several publishers for the best offer and collect royalties. However, even authors of books still need to think about which rights they should keep for distribution and re-use.

10 Things You Should Know About Scholarly Communication

The Scholarly Kitchen

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