Scholarly or academic publishing (now)

John Bond does a good job of introducing the topic…


Scholarship and scholarly practice are important functions of higher educational institutions. In Boyer’s (1990) widely acknowledged description of scholarship, he proclaims the first facet, namely scholarship of discovery, or research, as central to the work of higher learning and at the heart of academic life.

Research, then, is understood to be the formal, systematic and intentional process undertaken to increase understanding of a phenomena of interest, with the implicit intent to communicate findings of the investigation (Leedy, Ormrod, & Johnson, 2019). For Boyer’s (1990) further facets of scholarship, namely integration, application and teaching to occur (pp. 17-18), it is imperative that the results of research be produced in a reliable format and disseminated in a way that allows critical interpretation and analyses as well as assimilation into the body of knowledge about the subject.

Over more than three centuries, the dissemination of research findings have consolidated into the formalised structures of journal articles and monographs, where scholarly journal articles are short written pieces that report on research projects, and monographs are longer and more comprehensive in their cover of a topic. Excellent review of the development of academic publishing as we know it in this article by Larivière, Haustein and Mongeon.

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Image by <a href="">DarkWorkX</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>

The scholarly journal is an important type of formal scholarly communication that not only serves to communicate peer-reviewed research results but enables authors to establish ownership of ideas and establish precedence, build personal reputations and further careers, and potentially obtain future funding. In 2018 the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers published The STM Report (STM), an excellent (if publisher biased) overview of scientific and scholarly publishing (authored by Johnson, Watkinson, & Mabe). Peer review, the process whereby articles are scrutenised by other experts prior to publication, is fundamental to scholarly journals, as this process assesses originality, significance and soundness of the research as well as validity of findings and conclusions (STM pp. 47-49). Reviewers of articles typically receive no remuneration for their services. I thought time = money, no?

Journals are typically published by commercial publishers or learned society publishers (more in STM p. 43), who either sell article content or subscribed access to content. It is standard procedure that an author transfers intellectual property (IP) rights to journal publishers for no fee, allowing the publisher to explore commercial rights. The STM Report argues that this should not be viewed as a “giving away” of rights, but an exchanges for services such as copy editing, tagging and other semantic enrichment and dissemination of their work (STM p. 14).

The development of digital technology has/is changing traditional scholarly publication significantly, but is also disrupting this process through the affordances of new participatory, open, social media.