Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Are Faculty Loyal to Current Scholarly Communications Peer-Review System?

It appears so.

The University of California Office of Scholarly Communications just released “Faculty Attitudes and Behaviors Regarding Scholarly Communication: Survey Findings from the University Of California.” The report analyzes over 1,100 survey responses covering a range of scholarly communication issues from faculty in all disciplines and all tenure-track ranks. The report provides summary and detailed evidence of a UC community of scholars that:

  • There is limited but significant use of alternative forms of scholarship, with 21% of faculty having published in open-access journals, and 14% having posted peer-reviewed articles in institutional repositories or disciplinary repositories. Such publishing is seen as supplementing rather than substituting for traditional forms of publication.

  • Faculty appear unwilling to undertake activities, such as forcing changes on publishers, that might undermine the viability of the system or threaten their personal success as traditionally evaluated.

  • Many respondents voiced concerns that new forms of scholarly communication, such as open access journals or repositories, might produce a flood of low-quality output. Faculty showed broad and strong loyalty to the current peer-review system as the primary means of ensuring the quality of published works now and in the future, regardless of form or venue.

  • On matters of tenure and promotion Assistant Professors show consistently more skepticism about the ability of tenure and promotion processes to keep pace with or foster new forms of scholarly communication.

  • The survey results overall suggest that senior faculty may actually be more open to innovation than younger faculty. Senior faculty are free from tenure concerns, and although many are still driven by a desire for promotion, they appear more willing to experiment, more willing to change behavior, and more willing to participate in new initiatives. Therefore, senior faculty may well serve as one starting point for fostering change. Furthermore, because senior faculty are both involved in making academic policy and serving as role models for junior faculty, their efforts at innovation are likely to have broader influence within their departments.
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