With the advent of electronic publishing, the scholarly communication landscape at universities has become increasingly diverse. Multiple stakeholders including university presses, libraries, and central IT departments are challenged by the increasing volume and the rapidity of production of these new forms of publication in an environment of economic uncertainties. As a response to these increasing pressures, as well as the recent publication of important reports and papers on the topic, the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) convened a meeting of experts titled, The University as Publisher. The event was sponsored as part of the A.W. Mellon Foundation-funded Future of Scholarly Communication project at CSHE.
Our goal was to explore among stakeholders -- faculty, publishers, CIOs, librarians, and researchers -- the implications of the academic community, in some structure, taking over many, if not all, aspects of scholarly publishing. Two themes were the focus of the public panels: Institutional Roles in Evaluation, Quality Assessment, and Selection and Structuring and Budgeting Models for Publishing within the University Community. Our discussions included the importance of distinguishing between informal dissemination and formal publishing and the challenges that each presents to the university community. The harsh economic realities of high-quality formal scholarly publication, not least of which are managing peer review and editorial processes, were emphasized. Understanding disciplinary needs was cited as paramount throughout the discussions; the needs and traditions of scholars in the sciences and humanities, as well as among myriad disciplines, will likely demand different dissemination and publishing models and solutions. An additional theme that emerged was acknowledging the diverse forms electronic dissemination takes in the academy and the need to foster a spectrum of alternatives in publication forms, business models, and the peer review process. Budgetary and academic freedom concerns were explored as well. Regarding the expensive infrastructure required for electronic dissemination and publishing, it was agreed that there is enormous duplication among the university press, IT, and the library.