University Publishing in a Digital Age

Ithaka has released University Publishing in a Digital Age by Laura Brown, Rebecca Griffiths, and Matthew Rascoff (preface by Kevin Guthrie).

Here's an excerpt from the "Introduction":

This paper has four purposes: First, we hope to make the case that universities should become more actively involved in publishing scholarship. It may not be obvious to many administrators that they should be in this “business” at all. . . . We will argue, however, that universities give up too much by withdrawing from publishing. They give up the opportunity to enhance institutional reputation and prestige. They reduce their ability to influence what gets published—and, therefore, not only what gets read but also who gets hired or promoted. They give up an opportunity to enhance the quality of what is published through the rich dialogue that is enabled by bringing editors into the fabric of relationships among scholars. And, as is often decried by open access advocates, universities sometimes must pay excessively high prices to gain access to published scholarship. . . .

Our second purpose is to galvanize action and investment to support revitalization of university publishing. . . . In some cases, that may mean making major structural and strategic changes to an existing press. In other cases it may mean forming new collaborations between different entities on campus or even across institutions, or disaggregating and recombining publishing related activities across multiple campus entities. It will no doubt require new infusions of capital, but this investment can create economies of scale that could help, in the end, to lower the costs and extend the reach of scholarly publishing. . . .

Third, we wish to explore some of the challenges and opportunities specific to university presses, as we believe that they can remain a vibrant part of the scholarly system if they are able to adapt quickly to the new electronic environment. . . . We concentrated primarily on exploring how the presses see themselves, how they are seen by others in the university community, and what unique strengths presses have to offer, with an eye towards identifying opportunities for them to translate their skills and assets to the future needs of the academy. We have also sought to understand the factors that have impeded their transition to electronic media, especially in monograph programs, in an effort to identify realistic measures going forward.

Fourth, and finally, we aim to start a conversation and gauge interest in a possible collective investment in a technological platform to support innovation in university-based, mission-driven publishing. . . . Our discussions with administrators, publishers, faculty, and librarians revealed real enthusiasm for the concept of a service that could aggregate published university content online, create a dynamic, efficient space for the tools of scholarship developed within universities, and spread the costs of investment among multiple institutions. We would now like to expand this conversation to the wider community, to test and refine the idea, and determine whether it may merit further exploration and possible investment.

The study was sponsored by JSTOR and Ithaka and was led by Laura Brown, former president of Oxford University Press USA, in collaboration with Ithaka’s Strategic Services group. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Peter Givler of the American Association of University Presses in distributing the survey to university press directors and encouraging their participation.

You can find further information about the report in the Inside Higher Ed article "Ideas to Shake Up Publishing."

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