Scholarly Communication and the Role of the Institutional Repository: An Overview

Scholarly communication is considered by many to be in a state of crisis. Rising journal prices, the increasing difficulty that faculty in some disciplines are having getting articles published, and growing lag times between article submission, acceptance and publication are causing many to look around for other options.

The traditional journal publication process has provided a structure for registration, certification, awareness, and archiving of scholarly information. This structure, however, has become extremely expensive and less viable for universities as more publishers become high profit-margin monopolies. The restructuring of scholarly communication requires a variety of complementary and alternative approaches. Scholars and librarians have collaborated in the last decade to develop alternative scholarly publishing initiatives. These efforts have resulted in projects that:

  • increase the competitiveness of scholarly association publications
  • produce new, less expensive journals
  • support scholar-led initiatives
  • create institutional repositories

The institutional repository is making a substantial difference by providing access to broader spectrum of scholarly communication, including works in progress, conference proceedings, and teaching materials. The IR movement is based on the highly successful electronic preprint archives in the sciences, and grassroots faculty practice of posting research on the web. It is consistent with the principle that the scholarly work produced by faculty should be part of the institution's intellectual memory. The university, through the Library, should not be obliged to spend large sums of money to "buy back" information created by the university community. The IR enables the university to provide a set of essential services to its community members for efficient management and dissemination of scholarly materials in digital format.

These services include:

  • registering the research
  • communicating the research to discipline peers and international scholars
  • digital preservation
  • creating a knowledge bank of the institution's intellectual life

Institutional repositories provide an added value to the university by organizing its research and teaching publications in a cost-effective, long-term, searchable archive. In addition to archiving traditional publications, it includes other rich scholarly work that has been historically excluded from the scholarly record: conferences, theses, terminal projects, graduate student research, and the ephemeral gray literature. The goal of institutional repositories will be ultimately to form an international network of indexed repositories searchable from a single interface.

Learn more about scholarly communication and open access from this Research Guide.

Questions? Contact or visit the Digital Scholarship Services.