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Scholarly Communication

New! UCL Open Access Guide


Help and advice for all researchers on types of open access, funders’ requirements and deposit in UCL Discovery.

Contact open-access-funding@ucl.ac.uk or discovery@ucl.ac.uk for more information.


UCL Library Services offers its users a range of services based upon traditional print publications and new electronic resources.

Scholarly Communication is the method and route by which academic information is passed from author to reader, via various intermediaries such as libraries and publishers.

Creating change

This section of the UCL Library web-site describes the changes taking place to improve the flow of academic information from author to reader.

The need for change

The flow of information from academic author to reader has been impaired in recent years by the increase in the price of journals well above inflation, by restrictive licensing terms for electronic products, and by the introduction of technical protection measures to control access. The effect of these factors hindering scholarly communication is seen in cancellations of journal titles by research libraries such as UCL Library and restrictions upon the number of scholarly monographs that may be purchased. In response to this situation libraries are combining to use their collective purchasing power to obtain better pricing and licensing terms. In the UK, Research Libraries UK works to achieve better deals, collaborating with JISC in the national licensing of journals, e-books and datasets. The JISC participates in the International Coalition of Library Consortia, an organisation which sets user-friendly standards for the licensing of electronic products. Action by libraries on their own is not sufficient to improve access to academic content, and authors and funding agencies are combining with librarians to look at the way in which scholarly publishing takes place.

Copyright management

If you write a journal article or a book, and a publisher agrees to publish it, who owns the copyright? The answer to this question will be important if you want to place a copy of your work on your web-site, send an electronic copy to your colleagues, or make multiple copies for teaching. The legal position is that you retain copyright unless you sign away your rights to a publisher. Whoever owns copyright, the use of electronic formats is leading to changes in the way authors and publishers manage copyright, identifying particular rights which an author or publisher may consider important. Your employer may wish you retain some rights to ensure that your work for the employer is not restricted by your agreement with the publisher. If you do agree to assign copyright to a publisher any rights you or your employer wish you to retain - e.g. the right to place a copy on an open web-site - can be incorporated into the copyright agreement you sign.

New publishing outlets

The use of computers to prepare academic work and make it available over the networks is creating change in the way academic publishing takes place. Traditional journal and book-publishing still carries considerable academic prestige, but the need for users or their libraries to pay a high-cost subscription is leading to the creation of new publishing outlets, some of which carry as much prestige as the traditional publications.
Some of these new publishing outlets have been created to provide direct competition for high-priced journals while still using a subscription-based economic model. Examples are the journals established by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. Other new publishing outlets have been established under a different economic model which makes peer-reviewed journal content available without charge to users on the basis of a publication payment by the author or the author's grant-awarding body. Two examples of these new publishers are the Public Library of Science and BioMedCentral. Some grant-awarding bodies - e.g. the Wellcome Trust - support the payment of these “open access” publication payments by authors from their research grants. The advantage to authors of this form of publication is the wider readership their work receives, through “toll-free” access over the Internet. Many authors are also making their work available to a wider audience by depositing their work in a university web-site. This may often be done with the agreement of traditional publishers.

  • A list of peer-reviewed “open access” journals can be found at www.doaj.org.
  • Information on university web-sites which act as repositories for academic publications can be found at www.sparceurope.org.
  • A range of projects funded by JISC under the FAIR Programme - including UCL Library's involvement in the SHERPA Project - is described at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/ .
  • For a description of strategies being adopted in moving to “open access” publication see the Budapest Open Access Initiative (www.soros.org/openaccess/).

The information on this page has been compiled by Frederick Friend, Honorary Director Scholarly Communication, UCL (e-mail f.friend@ucl.ac.uk).

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Last modified 5 June 2013

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