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Scholarly Communication Toolkit: Scholarly Communication Scenarios - Suggested Responses

Conversation Hypotheticals for Librarians

Opportunities to raise scholarly communication issues come up in a variety of settings when interacting with faculty. Librarians can often take advantage of these opportunities to increase awareness of those issues and to share new developments in scholarly publishing. Discussions may result in a faculty member’s use of, and support for, new services created by the library’s scholarly communication initiatives. Some faculty may even become advocates for introducing changes in the institution’s strategies or policies for disseminating locally generated scholarly content. The following real life cases are just a few examples of how you can take the information from throughout the Toolkit to create change on your campus.

Scenario 1:
Professor Jameson was trying to get online access to a journal article for her research through the library, but the library did not provide access to it. So she asked her subject librarian why.

Response: The librarian could take the chance to talk about the access barrier and spiraling costs of journal subscriptions. She could also bring up the concept of open access and the publication of open access peer-reviewed journals. That would inform Professor Jameson of issues about commercial scholarly publishing and bring to her attention new scholarly publishing models. It would also be a prime opportunity to discuss what academic authors, editors, and reviewers can do to initiate change. 

Scenario 2:
Professor Tremblay and his colleagues recently founded a new research center on nanotechnology. They have not thought of a reliable channel to publish updates of their research activities and findings.

Response: The library can offer its, or a related, open access online publishing services to the research center. Such services will relieve researchers of worrying about access and maintenance issues while also introducing them to an alternative scholarly publishing avenue to disseminate their research findings and reach a broad readership in a cost-effective manner. The services will also illuminate the library’s changing role in the scholarly communication process.

Scenario 3: 
Professor Schulz teaches journalism at the graduate level. Her students have to conduct independent studies and write up reports based on their journalistic investigations. She wants to make the students’ reports widely available in order to highlight the value of journalism. So she asks the librarian for ideas.

Response: This is a great opportunity to call attention to both the institutional repository and the benefits to student authors, as copyright holders, of managing their own publishing rights. The local or shared repository provides dissemination and preservation services that enhance the visibility and accessibility of the institution’s intellectual output. It also advances scholarship by expediting communication between different academic communities.

Scenario 4:
Professor Grimes in Sociology calls to say she heard about the institutional repository from Professor Schulz and wanted to know if it would be appropriate to host survey data being collected by her students.

Response: This presents an opportunity to talk about the lifecycle of data and the potential benefits of open data creating the foundations for ongoing knowledge creation. The conversation could also lead to a discussion of the support the local institutional repository can provide. This particular scenario is also a natural opportunity to address the role of librarians in introducing or reinforcing concepts related to privacy protection of survey subjects and other issues of responsible conduct of research.

Scenario 5: 
Michele Jackson is preparing to submit her dissertation and calls you to say she is confused by the option of paying an additional fee to have her copyright registered.

Response: Not only is this a good time to explain some of the features of copyright law and the lack of a requirement to register a work for protection, it is also an opportunity to explain the importance of authors holding on to their copyrights in order to control the ways readers can find and use their works. Simple questions can often lead to broader topics. This technical question could well lead to a discussion of new models for publication beyond her dissertation that take advantage of her rights as an author.

Scenario 6:
While she is on the phone, Michele (from Case 5, above) adds that some of the chapters from her dissertation have already been published as journal articles. She doesn’t remember what her copyright agreements with the respective publishers were and wants to know if she really needs to get permission to include them in her dissertation.

Response: Once again this is an opportunity to address the importance of academic authors to preserve their rights. If she had maintained the relevant rights when she signed publishing agreements, she would have the necessary control over her own works to include them in any future works.

Scenario 7:
Professor Wilson from Biochemistry called saying he just heard from the NIH that his recent grant report didn’t comply with their Public Access Policy. They said he needed to include the PubMed Central ID Number for the articles he published as a result of the research his lab conducted under the grant. He asked if you could help him find the number and explain what this new bureaucracy was all about anyway.

Response: Working with researchers trying to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy gives librarians an opportunity to address a number of important issues. One natural starting point is to address the availability of government funded research findings to a wide readership, including taxpayers, health professionals, and other researchers. Broad readership increases impact. This conversation could also lead to a discussion of the business models of journal publishers that lead them to require authors to transfer copyright in their articles. This practice can require authors to make use of formal addenda to their publishing agreements in order control their rights sufficiently to be able to license NIH to make articles available in PubMed Central.

Scenario 8:
The Classics Department has decided to intensify the research component of its undergraduate program as a means to enhancing the quality of education. To encourage more students to conduct academic research, the department plans to create an undergraduate research journal.

Response: The library can make significant contribution to the creation and publishing of the journal. On the one hand, librarians can collaborate with faculty to educate students on plagiarism and academic writing. They can also take the opportunity to help both faculty and students develop a better understanding of the scholarly communication lifecycle and the stakeholders involved. On the other hand, the library can provide open access online publishing services to disseminate and archive the research outcomes. That will help illuminate access issues caused by relying on commercial publishers for the dissemination of knowledge. These collaborations will reinforce the library’s role as a crucial partner in supporting learning and advancing scholarship.

Scenario 9: 
The Dean of the College of Law has asked its faculty to make their papers publicly available in online archives because it will help increase the impact of their research and raise the College’s profile, which in turn will help the College achieve a higher position in the annual ranking of legal education. Professor Fong, who specializes in International Law, wonders what online archives are relevant to her subject areas and how to use them. She also wants to find out what she can do with her articles of which the copyright was transferred to journal publishers.

Response: The library should seize this opportunity to promote online resources such as Directory of Open Access Repositories and Registry of Open Access Repositories to help Professor Fong identify relevant online archives where she can deposit her articles. Another useful resource is SHERPA RoMEO, which provides a summary of journal publishers’ copyright policies and what authors can do with their manuscripts.If there is a copyright officer in the library, this is the best time to promote his/her expertise in reading and interpreting publishers’ copyright agreements for authors. Another step the library can take is to offer workshops for faculty and graduate students.

Scenario 10:
Dr. Akedoreva is a visiting scholar from a developing country. She is compiling a list of educational materials that are freely available online so that she can access and adapt them for local non-commercial use when she returns to her home country in three months. She plans to share the list with other educators there so that they all can benefit.

Response: Open educational resources sites such as MIT OpenCourseWareMERLOT Open Stax, and Open Textbook Library will suit Dr. Akedoreva’s needs. There is also the OER Commons Advanced Search. Promoting these sites will drive home the benefits of open access and help avoid duplicating educators’ effort of creating educational materials. A Creative Commons license is sometimes appended to an open educational resource to explicitly specify the terms and conditions under which reuse and customization of the resource are allowed by the copyright owner without needing to seek permission. Dr. Akedoreva should be advised to look for these licenses so that she will not infringe on the resource creator’s copyright.

Scenario 11:
Professor Balin, Chair of the English Department, has recently returned from a professional conference where he heard several conversations about diminishing sales of scholarly monographs. He is concerned about how this may impact the junior faculty in his department and the difficulties this could cause for their tenure cases. He called to ask about the library’s role in this trend.

Response: Such a call opens a window into wide ranging conversation about the current state of scholarly communication. It could start with a discussion of price pressures on libraries with rising inflation of journal subscriptions and flat or mostly flat collections budgets for several years. This could lead to sharing how many libraries have had to respond by cutting back on book purchases, including purchases specifically from university presses. But the conversation needn’t stop there. This is an excellent opportunity to then talk about what academic authors, editors, and reviewers can do to help address the situation.