Speaking of Scholarly Communication: Interviews with Faculty

Last week staff from Reference & Instruction, Access Services, the Press, Digital Scholarship Center, Special Collections,  Digital Library Initiatives, and Library Administration gathered for a conversation to share findings from a series of interviews we librarians had this past spring. Annie Johnson, with Greg McKinney, Rebecca Lloyd, Steven Bell and Kristina DeVoe talked with 7 faculty members in the humanities and social sciences about their use of social media, how they view open access and new trends in scholarly communication.

In a separate project, as part of the Ithaka S+R disciplinary research, Fred Rowland, Rebecca Lloyd, Justin Hill and I interviewed 12 faculty from Temple’s Religion Department. Our interests were similar: How do faculty choose where to publish their scholarship? How do they view new forms of scholarly communication? Are they using Twitter or other social media to share their research?

Here is some of what we learned:

Choosing a Publisher

Faculty continue to select publication venues based on the prestige of the publisher and journal. While there is no codified “list”, it is common knowledge in a discipline. The benefit of publishing with traditional publishers continues beyond tenure and throughout a scholar’s professional career – as merit points are assigned based on this prestige factor. When seeking an outlet, faculty “do not take chances” – typically, smaller, more focused journals are not ranked as highly.

Faculty seek a press who will actively market their book. They favor those publications with an efficient turnaround time, particularly when they are on the tenure “clock”. This urge for expedited publication  means they tend not to pay much attention to copyright and license agreements when signing off on the rights to their work. And the journal subscription cost is not a particular concern.

Open Access

Faculty we spoke with, all from the humanities and social sciences, do not consider that open access journals have the degree of prestige they seek. Many feel their tweeting and blogging, serves the purpose of making their research widely accessible. This very public activity makes it less incumbent on them to publish in formally open access journals.

That said, there was a wide range of attitudes about open access – from one scholar who is an advocate and very deliberate about his choice of open scholarship, to those who understand this to be the equivalent of posting one’s scholarship on a “random web site.” Graduate students are interested in new models for disseminated their research, but put off by the idea of an Article Processing Charge. Although this business model is not used in the humanities, the mis-information persists.

Discussing the various business models for journals let to a lively discussion about the library’s role in this kind of work. Many libraries, and ours as well, have a fund to support these APC’s associated with publishing in an open access journal. Our cost for a subscription has turned into a different type of cost. Annie, our Scholarly Communication specialist, attests, “Library supports dissemination of research to the world’ and this is how it fits within the Library’s mission. This is an expansion of the library’s role in supporting the scholarly apparatus.

New Modes of Scholarly Communication

For some, Twitter has replaced academic conferences for learning of trends in the field. A faculty member referred to it as the “new water cooler”. We spoke with a faculty member who archives his tweets to use as a journal for tracking his scholarly path. Other scholars were wary of social media – as scholars thinking about sensitive topics in religion, they may feel vulnerable about posting on potentially controversial topics. The disciplines certainly have different cultures of social media use.

Research into  Practice

Many Library/Press staff already follow Temple faculty and Temple authors on Twitter. It’s a way of providing support, of staying attuned to news and trends. We discussed tools like, “If This Then That” and Hootsuite for managing social media in a more efficient way.

To better support faculty and their questions about publishing issues and in  particular, license agreements, we discussed a kind of KnowledgeBase or closed archives online that would provide Temple scholars with suggestions for alternative license language, particularly for areas that are negotiable. The tool, useful for librarians and faculty, could provide definitions for better understanding of pre-prints and post prints. While faculty have awareness of “better and worse” agreements, they have little free time to think about it.

Thanks to all who participated in the conversation. It was great to share our findings with colleagues and to discuss practical implications  based on the research. For those interested in hearing more of the Ithaka interviews with religious studies faculty, please take a look at our Final Report.

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