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Scholarly Communication: Issues for Health Sciences Libraries in Clinical Settings

Issues related to scholarly communication receive much attention at large academic and research institutions. This web page defines issues and offers suggestions for smaller health sciences libraries, librarians, and the clients they serve.

What are the issues?

  • Journal Costs: Price increases of scholarly journals are limiting access to important new medical research.
  • Paying Twice for Access to Research: Taxpayers support publicly-funded research and then buy back the results of that research from publishers who own copyright on the journal articles.
  • Authors' Rights: Researchers and health professionals need to be aware of their options for retaining intellectual property rights to articles they submit for publication.
  • Increased Impact: Studies show that publishing in open access journals enlarges an article's audience and citation impact.
  • Effect on Library Budgets: While open access journals and public archives are free to the reader, libraries still need to subscribe to many print and electronic resources.

What Can You Do?

Educate hospital administrators and library users

  • Be ready to discuss the extent and limitations of open access journals and public archives such as PubMed Central from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Encourage those with memberships in scholarly associations to encourage reasonable publication pricing.
  • Promote your value as an information professional.

Advise the authors within your institution

Protect author rights

  • Encourage use of Creative Commons license tools, which allow authors to maintain intellectual property rights while inviting use of their work.
  • Encourage use of the SPARC Author Addendum to secure author rights in negotiations with publishers.

Choose journals in which to publish

  • Ask authors to consider publishing in open access journals.
  • Check journals' copyright policies by searching the SHERPA/RoMEO database by journal title, ISSN, or publisher.

Support NIH-funded authors

  • Use the following sample language that modifies a publisher's copyright agreement to follow the NIH Public Access Policy:

    "Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to provide a copy of the final manuscript to the NIH upon acceptance for Journal publication for public archiving in PubMed Central as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication by Journal."
  • Become familiar with and help to facilitate the PubMed Central submission process.

Plan ahead

  • Think about how changes in scholarly communication will affect your library's role as provider of subscription-based information resources.
  • Keep in mind that embargo periods for public access journals can be up to twelve months long. Discuss with clinicians and administrators what would be an acceptable waiting period for primary research literature.
  • Look for opportunities to extend your library's resources and services if developments in open access and public access make it possible to reduce journal subscriptions.

Other Resources

MLA Scholarly Communications Issues

MLA Open Access

SPARC ®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition

Scholarly Communication Toolkit (AAHSL)