Skip main navigation

Introduction to scholarly communication

In this article, you can read more about scholarly communication and how it is defined.
A photograph of library bookshelves to represent books as a traditional form of scholarly communication.
© University of Hull, ACRL, Molly Keener, Joy Kirchner, Sarah Shreeves and Lee Van Orsdel.

Scholarly communication is one of the overarching themes of this course. The ACRL (2003) define scholarly communication as

“the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs.”

As the ACRL definition shows, scholarly communication focuses on the entire research cycle – from creation and publication to the dissemination and discovery of academic research. In supporting your development as a digital researcher, this course will promote aspects of the entire scholarly communication lifecycle:

Scholarly communication starts with the discovery of existing literature, moving towards conducting new research through data collection and analysis. After authoring papers, they are peer-reviewed and, if successful, are published. Published works are then disseminated, promoted and eventually discovered by others. And so the cycle repeats.

Six things you need to know about scholarly communication (Adapted from Keener et a., 2009)

  1. The Scholarly Communication system incorporates and expands on the more familiar concept of scholarly publishing, and includes both informal and formal networks used by scholars to develop ideas, exchange information, build and mine data, certify research, publish findings, disseminate results, and preserve outputs. This vast and changing system is central to the academic enterprise.
  2. The traditional system of scholarly publishing is collapsing under the weight of an unsustainable business model that insists on costly artificial barriers to control access to information. Scholars, publishers, and foundations around the world are experimenting with business models in which the costs of publication and dissemination are funded by the knowledge producer or his sponsors.
  3. There is a growing focus on Open access (OA) material, with many funders requiring this publication route. OA resources are online, free of charge, and available two ways: publishing and archiving. OA publishing generally refers to journals and other published material that are freely available online; open repositories generally house materials that may have been published in subscription based journals but made openly available via an institutional or discipline-based repository or on a website. Both models are supported by a range of business models and are fully compatible with copyright, peer review, and tenure and promotion processes.
  4. Open source, open access, open education, open data, open science: all of these movements share a commitment to the removal of barriers to access and restrictions for use. Open sharing allows for the free flow of knowledge and information as well as the use and re-use of research, and can be supported by a range of business models. While most librarians have heard of open source and open access, the latter three movements included above are also fast gaining momentum.
  5. Notions of authorship and scholarly publishing are rapidly evolving in the digital age. We are seeing an emergence of new models of scholarship in every discipline that include new forms of presentation, new modes of interaction, new styles of peer review, new business models and distribution models, and a growing trend toward models that encourage a free flow of information and data exchange through a variety of open access models.

Scholarly communication is essential for digital research practices

Over the course of the next two weeks, this course will introduce you to many aspects of scholarly communication to highlight the tools and techniques you will need to be an effective digital researcher.

© University of Hull, ACRL, Molly Keener, Joy Kirchner, Sarah Shreeves and Lee Van Orsdel.
This article is from the free online

Being a Digital Researcher: Digital Skills for Effective Research

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education