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February 19, 2009


A large-scale, well developed and functioning system for scholarly publication is something that many of us take for granted. We worry more about the content of our research than about the means of dissemination. But because this system is in a period of turmoil and change, it is a good time to consider recent trends and their implications for the near- and long-term future.

The economics of the publishing industry have made some forms of print publication unaffordable for increasing numbers of institutions. Many in the humanities and social science fields that traditionally have required publication of monographs for tenure worry about the increasing difficulty of publishing. New initiatives for open access (such as the National Institutes of Health requirement to submit federally funded research results for inclusion in a public database) have raised questions about the viability of old models of for-profit and not-for-profit publication.

The University Senate spring plenary session, coordinated by the Senate’s library committee, will focus on the current state of academic publishing with “Scholarly Publishing: Today and Tomorrow: What You Need to Know.” The plenary session will be held on Tuesday, March 3, beginning with a complimentary buffet lunch at 12:15 p.m.; the session will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room.

Keynote speaker will be David Shulenburger, vice president for academic affairs, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. His lecture, “University Research Distribution: From Option to Necessity,” will be followed by a roundtable response from four Pitt experts: Steven L. Kanter of the School of Medicine, editor of a scholarly journal; Michael J. Madison of the School of Law, an expert on intellectual property; Cynthia Miller, director of the University Press, and John D. Norton, of history and philosophy of science, co-founder of an online repository of papers on philosophy of science.

Since we recognize that researchers in different disciplines may have different concerns about the future of scholarly publication, we also have planned four breakout sessions on different aspects of the topic. These sessions will take place after the keynote lecture and roundtable, with discussions led by the panelists and by Rush G. Miller and Barbara A. Epstein, directors of the University and Health Sciences library systems respectively, and Cynthia C. Moore of the General Counsel’s office.

Breakout sessions will be held on the following topics:

• “The Future of Scholarly Journals”;

• “The Role of Institutional Repositories”;

• “Authors’ Rights in the New Environment,” and

• “The Future of the University Press.”

This plenary session is important for all members of the University who value and contribute to the knowledge of their respective disciplines. Faculty, postdocs, staff, librarians and students, both graduate and undergraduate, will gain valuable information related to scholarly publication in the 21st century. We encourage you to attend the plenary session and especially urge participation in a breakout session in your particular area of concern. We hope to spark a campus-wide discussion of these issues that will contribute to the formation of University policy; at the same time, this plenary session should offer every participant practical information in the pursuit of the goal of every researcher: publication of his or her findings.

—Rose Hoffmann & Adam Shear

Rose Hoffmann, School of Nursing, and Adam Shear, Department of Religious Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, are co-chairs of the University Senate library committee.

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