Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2010

Scholarly Communication: Greater Reach for Research!

Scholarly communication, the process by which ideas are researched, developed, shared, published, accessed and preserved, is a hot topic on university campuses everywhere. Librarians, as natural allies of researchers and authors, are often asked to provide answers to questions that crop up in the scholarly communication workflow.

Some of the questions are familiar and perennial:

  • Where should I publish?
  • Do I need permission to use that photograph in my work?


Others signal a revolution in scholarly publishing:

  • Should I retain rights to my published works?
  • Should I make my work openly accessible?


The Boston College Libraries have charged a team of librarians to focus on these issues. This Scholarly Communication Committee has recently released a new guide to copyright and scholarship.  It is intended to be a resource for answering questions about copyright and scholarly communication; a one-stop-shop for basic information and a gateway to other reliable in-depth sources. Separate sections of the guide deal with key concepts: Copyright, Public Domain, Fair Use, Author Rights and Open Access; processes: Getting Copyright, Getting Permission and Course Reserves & Classroom Teaching; and types of content: Electronic Theses & Dissertations, Music & Images and Film & Video. The guide has been reviewed by Associate University Counsel, Nora Field.

copyrightCopyright and fair use questions arise frequently in scholarly work.  Authors, as producers and consumers of information, are concerned about protecting their own intellectual property and using the works of others without infringing their rights. The issues can be complex, but the guide provides strategies for analyses and actions that preserve fair use and minimize risk to authors and the university.

Two important pages in the guide deal with author rights and open access. Academic authors are becoming savvy about managing their intellectual property. Traditionally an author, thrilled to have her article accepted in the prestigious journal in her field, signed the publisher’s contract immediately, only to discover that the publisher now retained all rights to her work, limiting her ability to repurpose it and disseminate it to students and colleagues.

The Boston College Libraries offer student and faculty authors opportunities to archive and showcase their work in the eScholarship@BC repository. Retaining the right to do so at the time of publication is essential.  The guide provides links to standard publisher contract addenda that can help authors retain the rights required to make their work available in open access repositories.

Many publishers anticipate this legitimate need and no longer require exclusive rights to publication. Some publishers balance their interest in recouping publishing costs with the author’s desire to disseminate their ideas broadly, placing a short-term embargo on the open access archiving of the work. One website, Sherpa/RoMEO, keeps track of these policies and enables authors to research publishers’ practices in advance, eliminating the element of surprise upon receipt of the publisher’s contract. This site is featured in the guide.

The open access movement has been gaining momentum at an accelerating pace. The Directory of Open Access Journals  lists 5514 journals and the Boston College Libraries currently host five open journal titles: Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations; Cities and the Environment; Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment (JTLA); Teaching Exceptional Children Plus; Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice. Open access publishing allows broader and faster dissemination of ideas. It equalizes access to knowledge by eliminating economic barriers and provides authors with the satisfaction of higher citation rates. Many universities have institutionalized support for open access by adopting one of the many models of open access policies for faculty publications or student theses (184, at last count by ROARMAP). Harvard, MIT and Boston University have all led the way in these efforts, usually begun as grass-roots faculty initiatives.  


In most cases the term “mandate” is misleading as a label for these policies. The university claims a non-exclusive license in the work, allowing it to archive and showcase the intellectual output of the institution, while leaving the author free to publish and use his own scholarship as he sees fit. Most allow authors to opt-out or delay deposit of their work if circumstances require it. Boston College has not adopted an open access policy, but its intellectual property policy is linked from the guide.

When federal funding is used in producing publications, mandates may be more stringent. The NIH requires that articles resulting from grant-funded research be deposited in PubMed within one year of publication, and be made openly accessible. Pending legislation (the Federal Research Public Access Act) would require that results of research funded by grants from many federal agencies be made publically available. Authors receiving grant money must manage their intellectual property in a deliberate and informed way to comply with these mandates.

Technologies that allow open access publishing have changed the game for authors, publishers and researchers. Opportunities to self-archive can be extremely beneficial to authors and to their institutions, but a new awareness of intellectual property stewardship is essential.  The Copyright and Scholarship guide is one resource that can help Boston College authors navigate the new environment.  Subject liaison librarians, assigned to each department, can field basic questions and point to resources in the guide that may help.  Discussing work in progress with your subject liaison can ensure that a student or faculty author’s work will receive the attention it deserves and will be preserved through changes in formats and technologies.

Please take a look at the guide and think about how you might use it. If you have questions or suggestions for additional content, please e-mail the Scholarly Communication Committee.


Jane MorrisJane Morris
Head, Social Work Library







Learn more about the Benefits of Open Access from BioMedCentral faculty who value greater reach for research: