Michigan State University

The Crisis in Scholarly Communication - Solutions

What can individual scholars do about the problem?

Try to retain copyright and control of your own scholarship

The ownership of your work is a key factor in the ability of some commercial publishers to charge high prices, thereby restricting the number of people who can see and cite your work. It is very common for publishers to request a transfer of copyright when you publish. Then you may be required to ask permission or even pay a royalty to post your own work, distribute copies to colleagues or to classes, or even to update an earlier version of your work.

  • When you choose a journal in which to publish, look closely at their policies on self-archiving, posting on a web site and other uses of your work. Use the SHERPA-RoMEO web site to look up the policies for individual journals or publishers. Archiving policies are given a color of green, blue, yellow, or white. The meaning of each color is explained.
  • As an author, reviewer, or editor, try to modify your contract with a publisher to ensure your right to use your work as you see fit. Increasingly, universities are encouraging faculty to do this. In 2006, the Provosts of the CIC universities, and in 2007, the Faculty and Academic Councils of MSU unanimously endorsed a statement on publishing agreements along with an addendum that faculty can use for negotiating rights with publishers.
  • Consider publishing in an open access journal or paying the extra fee for open access to a regular journal that allows that option. (Many traditional journals have now adopted a policy whereby authors can choose to pay a fee to retain their own copyright and make their article accessible to the world). See Alternative Publishing Models.
  • If you have retained the right to do so, self-archive your work on your own or a university web site to make it more available to a wider audience.

Refuse to submit papers to, review papers for, or be on editorial boards for unreasonably expensive journals or journals with unreasonable restrictions on use and dissemination.

  • Examine the pricing of any journal that you contribute to or edit. Ask your subject specialist librarian about the reputation of various publishers for expense and licensing restrictions and check the SHERPA-RoMEO site discussed above for more information about individual journals.
  • If you are an editor of a costly commercial journal, consider moving your journal to a non-profit, reasonably priced, or open access publisher.
  • Encourage your scholarly association to maintain reasonable journal prices for libraries, to explore alternatives to contracting with commercial publishers, and to engage in scholarship-friendly practices such as making articles freely available after 6 months.
  • Learn about alternative publishing models and consider publishing with an alternative.

Support discussions and action around these topics on campus

  • Support the MSU Libraries' cancellation of some high-cost journals.
  • Discuss departmental promotion and tenure expectations to envision changes that reward quality publication in venues that allow for the widest dissemination rather than rewarding a published article as an end in itself.

Dialog with your MSU Libraries

Are you involved in any way in projects that seek solutions to the scholarly communication crisis? Do you want to talk about these issues further? At the MSU Libraries we would love to hear from you about these topics. Please contact Susan Kendall, Health Sciences Librarian.