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PH 570: Introduction to Health Informatics

What is Scholarly Publishing?

Scholarly publishing includes the process of creating and evaluating scholarly content, disseminating it to the scholarly community, and preserving it for future use. One of the fundamental purposes of scholarly publishing is to facilitate inquiry and the creation of new knowledge. The majority of scholars pursue their research and disseminate the results with little or no expectation of direct financial reward.

Roles in Scholarly Publishing


  • Scholars create the work that is published. What is most important to scholars is the prestige of the journal, the efficiency and fairness of the review process, the timeliness of publication, and their out-of-pocket publication costs.

Editors and Peer Reviewers

  • Editors and peer reviewers provide quality control for the content, including screening submissions, reviewing manuscripts, suggesting revisions, corresponding with authors, and overseeing the final copy. Their main concern is advancing knowledge in their field, creating a prestigious journal, increasing the potential impact of the journal, and obtaining the support of the publisher.


  • Publishers (usually commercial publishers or professional societies) are responsible for getting the journal into the marketplace. What drives publishers is making a profit (or for professional societies, at least breaking even) on the publication. They are concerned about holding costs down and raising subscription rates to create a healthy profit margin.


  • Subscribers, mostly institutions and libraries, purchase the journals and provide access to the scholars in their community. They are concerned about their budgets and are deeply affected by increases in the price of journal subscriptions. They also want to provide access to the most prestigious journals for their faculty and students.

Conflicts & Big Picture Concerns

  • Increasing Volume of Scientific Research.  It has been estimated that knowledge doubles every 15 years, and the volume of new research produced and submitted for publication, especially in technical, scientific and medical fields, has increased substantially (Miller & Harris, 2004). This has led to an increase in the number of pages per journal, more new scholarly journal titles, and increased pressure on the existing peer review system.
  • Publishing Monopolies. Since the mid-1980s, commercial publishers have grown larger through mergers and acquisitions, leading to virtual monopolies in some disciplinary fields.
  • Rising Journal Subscription Costs. Subscription costs for journals have risen dramatically. Association of Research Libraries (ARL) data shows that during the period from 1990 to 2000, the average subscription price increased by more than 10% a year, and average profit margins for commercial publishers grew by 20 to 40 percent per year (Yiotis, 2005). Serial unit costs have risen 3.5 times faster than increases in the consumer price index (Miller & Harris, 2004).
  • Strained Library Subscription Budgets. The subscription budgets for libraries have been strained to the breaking point by spiraling publisher price increases, forcing libraries to cancel journal subscriptions and reduce spending on other materials. In addition, libraries must often pay a surcharge for accessing publishers’ content online, increasing the burden on already tight budgets.
  • Migration to Online Publishing. The advent of electronic communication has put pressure on publishers to explore new methods of providing access to their content online and new pricing models that tie print subscriptions to online access.
  • Scholars have lost control of the process. Publishing in peer-reviewed academic journals should foster shared scholarship, establish priority in making discoveries, and initiate conversations among scholars. Such publication has also become a tenure requirement for faculty in most disciplines, especially at institutions focused on research. Publishing represents one of the most effective paths to getting recognized and building a professional reputation. Because of the pressures to publish, coupled with long-standing traditions, faculty often sign away all rights to their scholarly work to publishers in exchange for publication. Scholars who sign away rights can find themselves needing to request permission from publishers to place their own articles on a personal web site, in a course pack or institutional repository, or to distribute copies to colleagues.

Open Access

In response to increasing journal and textbook prices, new ways of disseminating scholarly information are emerging that employ Internet technologies and alternative business models. Open Access (OA) refers to scholarly literature that is freely available on the Internet and offers generous rights for educational use. OA publishing includes peer-reviewed literature, as well as author pre- and post-prints and other materials placed in digital repositories. The NIH Public Access Policy is a well-known mandate that requires open access publishing of NIH funded research. Several universities (HarvardMIT, Duke, Princeton and Kansas among others) have passed institutional open access mandates that require all faculty journal articles to be deposited in their institutional repository unless a waiver is sought. 

Institutional Repositories

“a university-based institutional repository is a set of services that a university offers to the members of its community for the management and dissemination of digital materials created by the institution and its community members. It is most essentially an organizational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organization and access or distribution.” (2003; ARL)