Campus News - March 12, 2001

Scholarly communication issues studied by provost, library dean

By Carolyn Gonzales

Library deans and provosts from colleges and universities in the Big 12 Plus Libraries Consortium gathered recently in Tempe, AZ, to discuss issues surrounding scholarly communication. The aim of the conference was to identify the issues – skyrocketing journal prices, ownership of scholarly works produced by those in academics who then, in turn, purchase back the information in the form of journals, interdisciplinary research, the use of the digital environment as a publishing tool and archival repository, and more.

“The scholarly communication system is breaking down due to high journal prices. We, in libraries, can’t buy subscriptions or licensing agreements. This prevents students and scholars from gaining access. The irony is that those in academia are the ones who produce most new knowledge in the world. Professors research and publishers publish and take the copyright. It should be better owned by the academy, those entities producing the knowledge,” says Dean of the Libraries Robert Migneault.

Provost Brian Foster says that scholarly communication issues have been on the agenda of AAU (American Association of Universities) deans and others for some time and that implications surrounding scholarly productivity have a ripple effect.

“Promotion and tenure decisions are based, in part, on scholarly productivity,” says Foster, who adds that evaluations of grant proposals are also dependent upon that kind of activity.

Foster says that a key question is, “What is the function of scholarly publishing?” He says that those whose work is on the cutting edge in any given field are generally privy to research and information well before it is printed in a journal. “As consumers of the information, these researchers aren’t reliant upon the published journal, but graduate students and those whose work is ancillary to the original work are reliant on the printed piece,” says Foster. “We need to have a meeting at UNM with people from ARL [Association of Research Libraries], Big 12 Plus, journal editors, presidents of professional associations, our library people and others from the schools and colleges across campus each with specialized expertise that they can bring to the discussion,” says Foster, who adds that technological advances make it possible to find solutions to the communication crisis that weren’t available even just a few years ago.

The deans and provosts agreed to the Tempe Principles, which provided, in part, electronic access to scholarship with cost containment. Another principle stressed that faculty evaluations should place greater emphasis on quality rather than quantity in publishing to reduce proliferation of publications.

“There are academic and policy issues as well as acquisition and library related issues at stake here,” Foster says, adding that nationally and at UNM the provosts must work with the library deans to help address the issues.

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